5 Practices From Michelle Obama For Staying Hopeful During Uncertain Times
If there is one person we can count on to lift us up in 2023, it's former first lady Michelle Obama. Her new book The Light We Carry is full of inspiring confidence and optimism. Within these pages, Michelle Obama shares practical wisdom and valuable strategies for staying hopeful and balanced in uncertain times. Through her stories and reflections, we're one step closer to overcoming obstacles and making real progress. From starting your day with kindness to creating a "kitchen table" of close friends, consider The Light We Carry your guide to creating change and staying positive this year and beyond.
Below you'll find a passage from the book, as well as a sample excerpt from The Light We Carry audiobook. To purchase your own copy, click here.
From Michelle Obama, adapted from The Light We Carry
Since my last book, Becoming, was published in 2018, I've heard many stories and fielded many questions, conversing with a wide range of people about how and why we navigate unfairness and uncertainty. I've been asked if I might have, in some pocket somewhere, a formula for dealing with these things, something to help cut through the confusion, something to make the overcoming easier. I'd love to produce a clear, bullet-pointed set of steps to help you conquer every uncertainty and hasten the climb to whatever heights you hope to reach. I wish it were that simple. If I had a formula, I'd hand it right over. What I can offer is a glimpse inside my personal toolbox. These are some of the practices, tips, attitudes, and ideas that help me stay balanced and confident. They're what keeps me moving forward even during times of high anxiety and stress.
LEAD WITH KINDNESS
Real growth begins with how gladly you're able to see yourself. I have this friend named Roger who embodies this really well. Every day, he wakes up and says hello to himself in the mirror. He does this without irony, and he often says it loud—with warmth and kindness toward himself.
That's something I've been working to do as well. I wake up in the morning and give myself some sort of deliberately kind start—to consciously and intentionally take the first self-denigrating or negatively tinged thought that arrives in my head and slide it off to one side. Then I invite a second thought, something more intentional, more friendly. And I choose that as my launching point. The goal is not just to box out your inner critic—it's to push your gladness up front.
CREATE YOUR "KITCHEN TABLE"
For me, friendships are both a commitment and a lifeline, and I hold on to them as such, tightly and deliberately. I take friendships very seriously. I refer to my friend group as my "Kitchen Table," the people beyond my family whom I trust, delight in, and rely on most—and for whom I would do anything. With our friends, we are always looking for very simple reassurances that we matter, that our light is recognized and our voice is heard—and we owe our friends the same.
PARENTING THROUGH WORRY
Caring for you kids and watching them grow is one of the most rewarding endeavors on earth, and at the same time it can drive you nuts. Over the years, I've had one secret weapon to help stem the tide of parental anxiety—and that's my own mother. She has often told me that it's important to always presume the best about children—that it's preferable to let them live up to your expectations and high regard rather than asking them to live down to your doubts and worries. My mom says that you should grant kids your trust rather than making them earn it. This is her version of "starting kind."
HARNESS THE POWER OF SMALL
Any time your circumstances start to feel all-consuming, I suggest you try going in the other direction—toward the small. For me, knitting is a small activity I picked up during the pandemic to help my churning brain take a break. The tiny motions of stitching and purling, the gentle rhythm of those clicking needles—they helped move my brain in a new direction. That's why these days, I'm always encouraging folks dealing with stress to look for something small to do that'll help rearrange your thoughts. And by this I don't mean sitting passively in front of your television or scrolling through your phone. Find something that's active, something that asks for your mind but uses your body as well. Immerse yourself in a process. And forgive yourself for temporarily ducking out of the storm.
KEEP "GOING HIGH"
Going high is like drawing a line in the sand, a boundary we can make visible and then take a moment to consider. Which side of this do I want to be on? It's a reminder to pause and be thoughtful, a call to respond with both your heart and your head. Going high is always a test, as I see it. It's about taking an abstract and usually upsetting feeling and working to convert it into some sort of actionable plan, to move through the raw stuff and in the direction of a larger solution.
OUR TOOLS EVOLVE: Listen to an excerpt from The Light We Carry audiobook