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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will emerge from parental leave with five major lessons learnt, a journalist close to the couple has said.
Omid Scobie, who co-authored Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, says the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are finally "thriving" after years of merely "surviving".
He says the couple's time off with daughter Lilibet has been a time for introspection as well as newborn nesting.
And what they've learnt will help them make decisions moving forward, as well as heal from the past.
1. They excel in 'moments of human interaction'
According to Scobie, Meghan and Harry are ready to take their next steps back into an intentionally public life.
With their parental leave coming to an end, they are preparing for a busy autumn and winter as many of the programs they've been working on behind the scenes kick into action.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex – who welcomed baby Lilibet Diana in June – are entering "the era of visibility," Omid Scobie told PEOPLE magazine.
The couple are "really excited" about what is ahead, including working directly with causes aligned with their interests and expanding their in-person charity work through the Archewell Foundation.
"They're a couple who do very well in those moments of human interaction. They need to be on the ground," says Scobie, who wrote the book with fellow longtime royal reporter Carolyn Durand.
"They say that the proof is in the pudding, and what we are about to see is that pudding."
2. Toxicity must be kept 'an ocean away'
One of the key lessons the couple has learned these past months is to prioritise their mental health and keep "some of the toxicity" at an arm's – or ocean's – length away, Scobie says.
"They seem to be existing in a different place, and that place is much healthier," Scobie says. "Meghan famously spoke about that it was not enough to survive – we are now in the thrive chapter."
3. 'Empathy and action' must be what defines their legacy
The couple shared a very personal note on the Archewell Foundation site on Tuesday.
"Though we are not meant to live in a state of suffering, we, as a people, are being conditioned to accept it," they wrote of several generation-defining struggles happening in the world right now. "It's easy to find ourselves feeling powerless, but we can put our values into action – together."
Urging followers and leaders alike to recognise and ease others' suffering, they concluded, "the decisions we make now … will prove our humanity."
4. Sometimes a change of plans is not failure – it's for the best
Though Meghan Markle and Prince Harry had what they wanted for their next chapter "all mapped out," those plans weren't "actually what was best" for them, Scobie says.
Between a global pandemic, family disagreements and daily media scrutiny, Meghan and Harry's step back from royal life hasn't exactly been simple or straightforward, but the unexpected changes in course have surprised them for the better, Scobie says.
"The hardest part for them was taking those initial steps away from their royal roles," says Scobie.
"That was harder than they would ever imagined. They had had it all mapped out in their heads."
Although the couple initially wanted a "one foot in, one foot out" approach that allowed for both royal duty and private work, that arrangement was vetoed by Harry's grandmother, 95-year-old Queen Elizabeth.
"They knew that they had to change things, but what they had actually planned wasn't actually what was best," says Scobie
"They tried to find a way to compromise. But would that have enabled them to have that level of happiness and security that they have today? Probably not. Those ties to the institution [of the monarchy] would have still been strong and there would have constantly been issues about financial endeavours and the business decisions they made."
5. Their children have given them 'energy to stand up for what's right for them'
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's son gave them bravery to weather "major consequences" from exiting royal life, says Scobie.
For Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, the birth of their first child helped concentrate their minds about their future – and instilled a new resilience in them to change course.
The arrival of their son, Archie, in May 2019 gave the Duke and Duchess of Sussex "that energy to stand up for what was right for them, regardless of what the consequences were," Scobie says.
And the birth of Lilibet has only reinforced that.
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