I recently caught up with an old friend. It had been years since we'd talked – really talked – and I was moved by her wisdom. She's grown up, I thought. Then: so have I.

I've learned a lot since high school, mostly the hard way. Here's what I know:

On respect:

Treat other people with respect. You'll never regret it. If you don't it'll usually come back to haunt you one day.

On decisions:

When you have a big decision to make, don't let the HOW distract you from the IF. First decide WHAT needs to be done without freaking out about HOW it will be done. Once you're clear on IF, the time is right to decide HOW, and do so with an unwavering commitment to what you know is the right thing to do. Keep saying: it's not an IF, it's a HOW.

On difficult conversations:

You can say almost anything if you think really hard about how to say it. Think what would motivate you and feel good to you. Leave the other person feeling valued and loved and the relationship can survive 99% of difficult conversations.

On criticism:

9.9 out of 10 criticisms that cross your mind should never be uttered to anyone.

On weight:

The last ten pounds don't actually matter. Those who love you would much rather you relax and enjoy life. Those who don't shouldn't have a say.

On wrinkles:

Wear every wrinkle with pride and gratitude. Each is a medal of achievement in the Olympic sport called Life.

On control:

Release control. Trying to control other people's thoughts, choices and feelings is like trying to thumb-wrestle an octopus. It's exhausting, you can't breathe, and you'll always lose. Breathe deep breaths and repeat: I am liberating myself from the useless attempt to control others.

On pessimism:

Optimism can be learned. This can be done by saying things like, "We can handle this." "That's okay, it was probably a mistake." "It's just stuff." "I'm sure there's a solution." "This too shall pass." "It'll seem more okay in the morning." "Sometimes good people just make bad choices." "I can fix this." "This is not my problem to fix." "I can apologize and start over." Almost nothing in this world is too broken for there to be hope, and hopelessness is its own mistake.

On gratitude:

Thank others relentlessly. Never assume they know, or have heard it enough.

On God:

God is big enough. He's seen your problems, heard your questions, watched your mistakes, and loves you anyway. There's nothing you can do to make Him stop loving you.

On shame:

No matter how weird your thoughts, how embarrassing your questions, how dysfunctional your habits, how scared or small or ugly or worthless you feel, there are others who are exactly like you. Never let shame keep you from finding them, from feeling normal, and from getting help. Love yourself enough to be vulnerable.

On prayer:

Pray like you're talking to the smartest friend you ever had. Be so open and know that whatever you know, there's more to know. There's a bigger story, another layer, more possibilities. Dump your problems at God's feet and walk away lighter.

On knowing things:

Whatever I know today, I'll know something different tomorrow. I'm humble enough and confident enough to be open to new truths, and hope I'll always remain open to new truths.