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Helen Mirren’s “Top 5 Rules for a Happy Life”

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Earlier this week we shared Ellen’s brilliant commencement speech from Tulane University, New Orleans. This week, Helen Mirren, another girl crush (we have many), shared her funny but wise wisdom with the grads. First up, Helen shared her”Helen’s Top 5 Rules for a Happy Life”….

Rule number one: Don’t need to rush to get married. I married Taylor a lot later in my life and it’s worked out great. And always give your partner the freedom and support to achieve their ambitions.

Number two: just treat people like people. A long, long time ago, an actress friend of mine did the most simple thing that taught me a huge lesson. We were in the backseat of a car being driven to the location where we were filming, and she was a smoker, in the prehistoric days when you could smoke in a car, and she got her cigarettes out and before she lit up, she offered the driver one. So simple, but, you know? Thoughtful. To her, he wasn’t a “driver person,” but a “person person” who might want a smoke. Today she would probably be arrested for attempted murder but that’s a lesson I never forgot, and I am grateful to my actress friend to this day. So, remember that every single person, whether they have dominion over your life or not, deserves equal respect and generosity.

And an addendum to rule No. 2. No matter what sex you are, or race, be a feminist. In every country and culture that I have visited, from Sweden to Uganda, from Singapore to Mali, it is clear that when women are given respect, and the ability and freedom to pursue their personal dreams and ambitions, life improves for everyone. I didn’t define myself as a feminist until quite recently, but I had always lived like a feminist and believed in the obvious: that women were as capable and as energetic and as inspiring as men. But to join a movement called feminism seemed too didactic, too political. However, I have come to understand that feminism is not an abstract idea but a necessity if we — and really by “we,” I mean you guys — are to move us forward and not backward into ignorance and fearful jealousy. So now, I am a declared feminist and I would encourage you to be the same.

Oh, and addendum to the addendum — never again allow a group of old, rather grumpy, rich white men define the health care of a country that is 50.8% women and 37% other races.

Okay, back to the rules.

Three: Ignore anyone who judges the way you look, especially if he or she is some anonymous creep lurking on the Internet. And if you are that person lurking on the Internet — STOP IT, just stop it, go outside and DO something.

Number Four: don’t be afraid of fear. Those words bring me back to my grammar school and our headmistress, Mother Mary Mildred, an ancient Nun — is there any other type? — with one drooping eyelid and a lifetime lived behind the walls of a convent. She said those words to me the moment I walked into her class, a trembling 11 year old about to enter high school. Sixty years later and I will never forget those words or that teacher. I think what she meant was, don’t let fear rule you. Now, mind you, sometimes it’s wise to be afraid, like when you are about to take a dive into a pool with not enough water in it. Or drive a car drunk. In moments like those — be afraid, be very afraid and absolutely don’t do it. And if you want more information on this, please visit a paraplegic ward. But for the moments when you are challenged by other fears – like “Am I good enough?” “Am I smart enough?” “Will I fail?” – throw caution to the winds, look fear straight-away in its ugly face, and barge forward. And when you get past it, turn around and give it a good swift kick in the ass. And thank Mother Mary Mildred.

And Helen’s Rule No. 5 for a happy life? Don’t overcomplicate things. You can navigate each day just by following some very practical dos and don’ts.

Like don’t put hot cups on waxed wooden surfaces.

In fact, don’t ever wax wooden surfaces.

Don’t procrastinate.

Do say thank you when it is merited.

Don’t procrastinate… especially in saying thank you when it is merited.

Don’t lose your sense of humor.

Do confront bullies.

Don’t procrastinate.

Do open your heart to love.

Don’t confuse sex with love. Love generally lasts longer than two minutes.

Don’t smoke tobacco… or chew it.

Don’t dive into water if you don’t know how deep it is.

And one more thing — don’t procrastinate.

Actually, I would have had more dos and don’ts but I waited until the last minute this morning to compile the list.

Wait…one more, do call your parents at least once a week. Tell them you love them. Then ask for money. Not the other way around.

Watch the full speech here.

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