Like many introverts, meaningful conversations make my soul sing. Friends, strangers, anyone — as long as we’re cutting past the small talk and getting down to things that really matter, I am in my happy place. I am much more experienced than I was at 18, more jaded by the realities of life, but I like to encourage people to dig down and share their dreams, their fears, and their hope for the future. It’s what fills me up.

Throughout the years and through many conversations I’ve witnessed a common thread tying us together — really, we all want the same thing. It may look different on the outside, but at the core, it’s the same:

  • We want to be happy.
  • We want to help others be happy.

That is humanity, friends. It’s why I believe that at our (sometimes very deep) core, people are good. It’s the external world that changes us and buries this truth starting the second we’re born.

My older sons are now 10, and 9, and I’ve tried my best to teach them how to be happy and make others around them happy. But another eight or nine years, and I’ll be sending them out into the world. They will graduate from high school and maybe move away from home to go to school. They will continue gathering lessons as consequences of their choices. One very significant chapter of my job as a parent will be complete.

I’ve thought about what I want to say to them, what lessons I would like to impart on them on their graduation day. Maybe write it out and fold it up and stick it into the pocket of a random pair of jeans so that one day they’ll find it just when they need it.

Things I Want to Tell My Kids on Graduation Day

There are some really important lessons that I want to pass on to them on their graduation days, and today I wanted to share them with you as well.

1. If you feel too attached to an idea or belief – question it.

This attachment creates a divide between yourself and anyone who has a different set of beliefs or values. It strips you of compassion. Don’t allow yourself to slip into a space where you cannot accept and respect others simply because of your beliefs. When you feel that strongly about something, seek out opinions that are on the other end of the spectrum. Watch a TED Talk or documentary. Tune in to talk radio. Read a book on the subject.

2. Be generous in every way.

Give love. Give Compassion. Give acceptance. Give all of the good you can access within you even when you feel like you can’t. This is a powerful act that has a major reward – you will receive back to you what you put out in the world. Generosity is contagious.

3. Change your expectations about everything.

Expectations cause more problems than they are worth. We have expectations of our partners, our friends, our children, our parents, our jobs… the list could go on and on. And when someone or something fails to meet our expectations our world can come crumbling down. Why do we give so much power to things that are outside of us? If you truly want to find some peace within you, loosen the reigns on both life expectations and your expectations of others, and you will gain quicker access.

4. Don’t hide behind your achievements.

It can be so easy to hide our true desires, dreams, and even personalities behind our accomplishments. Sometimes we are so attached to this persona we don’t even realize it not us. This attachment is very ego-based, and it can easily block the flow of our lives and deter us from our true calling. While we’re at it…

5. Don’t let your failures define you.

Maybe you didn’t finish that degree, or maybe you were fired from your job – we’ve all experienced what we perceive as failure at some point in our lives. The point is that we recognize that each experience happened for a reason. We learn important lessons, become resilient and ultimately, move closer to our important work and most authentic relationships.

6. View your jobs as steps toward your dream.

This is a time for dreamers and doers. We have big plans, and we are working to make them a reality, sometimes that includes taking jobs that aren’t our dream jobs in the interim. While we plan for our future, we can build our skills in variety of jobs and then when the stars align we will be armed with everything we need to dive headfirst into our calling. Be happy and proud of every job along the way to your dream.

7. Know when to let go, and then do it.

This goes for romantic relationships, friendships, business partnerships, jobs, and everything in between. Sometimes when the writing is on the wall, we still fear letting go because we don’t know what the future holds. When you feel you’re face to face with the end, let it go and practice being at peace with uncertainty. It is the only real guarantee in life.

8. Don’t bear the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Once we get a bit older, and the rose-colored glasses of our youth dissolve we become more aware of the suffering and injustices throughout the world. So many of us want to “be the change” and play a role in healing this earth and its 7 billion inhabitants, but it’s crucial that we do not carry weight of the challenges with us. Sure, they may motivate you some of the time, but there is a risk of falling into that negative space and getting stuck there.

9. Get comfortable with discomfort.

We all have our triggers – physical or emotional – that push us to our limits. They bring out the worst in us and cause discomfort in every way. When you feel this way know that you are being challenged and provided with an opportunity to peel back a layer toward inner peace. Practice getting comfortable with discomfort.

10. Check your privilege.

This is an important time in history. Many of us are coming to understand our own privilege for the first time in our lives. And we need to continue down this path. We need always to be aware of where we came from, and how that can affect our perspective. We need never try to speak or act for another when we haven’t walked in their shoes. We need to understand our privilege – most often by LISTENING and HEARING others – then make sure we keep it in check.

As Heidi Oran prepares for her sons to graduate, she's compiled a list of