Why I’m Grateful for Friendships

Join us today as we reflect on Andrea’s timeless blog Why I’m Grateful for Friendships. Will you be spending time with friends this Labor Day weekend?

Andrea with her ‘sister’ Whisper on the beach in Cambria, CA – 2017

by Andrea Chilcote

I’m fortunate to own a business that allows me to work with clients over long periods of time, on projects of mutual interest. As a result, I forge meaningful and long-term relationships that often morph into genuine friendships. These friendships and others are the source of much of the joy and meaning in my life.

I Googled “why we need friends” and was surprised by the volume of research on the topic. I learned about everything from the fifteen reasons we need friends to five common female friend types.

None of the research surprised me, and as I consider the many benefits of friendship, I realize it’s not necessary to list them here. You know the power and the value. Patricia Levy, the author of the latter post on common friend types, stated “There is a one question test to gauge whether a friendship is healthy: Does she bring out the best in me?”

Yes. She’s talking about that extra boost that helps us see who we really are and what we are capable of – the boost that provides the tiny spark to help us be our best.

As I reflect on a busy week, I’m feeling grateful for my friends who believe in what I have to offer and demonstrate it. I’m grateful to those who entrust me with tasks that help them fulfill commitments they’ve made. I’m motivated to be the person my friends believe I can be – because I am that person already, but my friends remind me.

Who brings out the best in you? If you need that boost I’m describing, spend some time with your friend.

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Fighting is Easy (Love is Hard)

With tension towards violence elevated on a national level today, we thought it apropos to publish Andrea’s Fighting is Easy (Love is Hard) article that she originally wrote in April 2014 as a blogger for The Spirited Woman.

By Andrea Chilcote

When the same lessons show up say, three or even four times in a row, I listen. The lessons this week point to one principle: we are all connected. If you doubt that, just pay attention to the influence you have on other people – and vice versa.

After a day of travel in which I seemed to either transform potentially difficult situations into positive ones, or nearly jeopardized my on-time agenda simply because of my own negative energy about the situation, I paused to take it in. I had felt a little off since leaving the house Tuesday morning, sensing heightened emotions whenever I was in contact with other people. Was I picking up on their state of being, or transferring my own to them?

I asked my friend Debbie if she was experiencing something similar. Here’s what she said:

“What affects one affects everyone. When you recognize that you are not in alignment, or are in a state of resistance – you have physical pain, emotional stress or not so good experiences – simply correct course and head back to a state of love. As we reflect love out, it will be reflected back.”

Fighting is easy. Being right, being the victim and being burdened is easy. Rising up is hard. Love is hard – but it’s so worth it.

Okay, I got it. The message was one of those “simple not easy” ones. Then I had a conversation with a colleague that went something like this:

“I get so frustrated with myself about everything – mistakes I make or needs I know I have but don’t make time or space for. And then the more frustrated I get, the more paralyzed I become. I tell myself how bad it is, and then of course it becomes so.”

She sounded like she was fighting with herself. Immediately, I thought about my travel lessons. I had begun to “fight” with the Avis clerk about who was right, and the conversation spiraled downward. I stopped in the middle, and focused on being compassionate – loving even – in the moment. I got my car, and was on my way.

I suggested to my colleague that she consider giving up the fight and instead treat herself with compassion. It seemed to me that she – and none of us really – have the luxury of negativity. Even though it’s the easy way.

Then, as if to confirm my premise, a book review arrived this morning via email with this excerpt from The Nonviolence Handbook by Michael Nagler. The subject line was “Violence is the Easier Path.”

“Nonviolence is not the recourse of the weak but actually calls for an uncommon kind of strength; it is not a refraining from something but the engaging of a positive force.”

The Little (Big) Things

Arthur and I in Cambria celebrating our anniversary, July 2017.

It’s been a while since we have posted to Andrea’s blog. She has recently returned from her annual trip to Cambria, CA where she celebrates her anniversary with her beloved husband Arthur. Andrea originally wrote The Little (Big) Things following her 2014 trip.

by Andrea Chilcote

I noticed this tag line on an email I received today:

“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”

It caused me to pause and reflect back on the sweet weekend I just enjoyed with my husband, Arthur, in one of our favorite places, Cambria CA. While it would be easy to think of the many things we did as “little things,” in comparison to so-called “important things” (you know, work deadlines, and dental appointments), I have a new view of them. The little things in life combine to create the love and joy we give and take.

Cambria, CA [2017]

The weekend was special because we were alone. We travel often with our beloved dogs, and that’s always fun – but this time, a dear friend cared for them while we could fly away, literally, without obligations.

Arthur and I enjoy a rhythm together that’s hard to describe. It’s one that can only happen when we’re alone, without external pressure or deadlines. We plan, yet we’re loose about plans and often change our minds. We take advantage of synchronicities and don’t worry about what might have been. We play together, allow each other space, and make tiny compromises that get rewarded at each next turn.

Arthur and I at the Hero Awards benefiting Friends of Animal Care and Control, February 2015.

“Happy Anniversary beloved Arthur!” July 2017

Here are some of the little things I treasure, the ones that are really big things.

We accommodate each other in a balanced way.

We’re two very different people. Arthur likes to walk the boardwalk, to keep his feet clean. I like my bare feet in the wet sand. We walked the boardwalk together each morning, and he lugged a beach chair to the surf, meditating as I walked for two hours one day.

While Arthur prefers antique shops and sports items, and I prefer jewelry and farmer’s markets, we both like to “vacation” shop. Without planning or even discussing it much, our rhythm prevailed we both had our needs happily met.

We’re flexible.

I was delighted when Arthur suggested, despite other plans, that we wait 90 minutes for seats at our favorite restaurant – the one we had eaten at the night before. We walked the boardwalk and watched the whales while we waited.

We understand one another.

This one comes from so many years together of course – yet I think we forget when our lives are stressful or just too full. We know when to take words literally and when to laugh them off. We know when the other needs help. We know how to touch each other’s heart. We did all of these things this past weekend, because we had the quiet presence in which to do so. That one thing alone was priceless.

What “little things” will you one day look back and treasure? Acknowledge them now, and suddenly they become very, very big.

“Circa 1990. We were such kids.”

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Relating to Ourselves: Who Are You – Part III

How well do you know yourself? Here’s Part III of Andrea’s re-blog, Relating to Ourselves: Who Are You, a timely nudge to delve inside yourself to know and love the uniqueness that is you. 

Andrea Chilcote; Relating to Ourselves

By Andrea Chilcote

Want to know how to get what you need from the relationships you value in life? Know what you need. And, knowing what you need is a result of knowing who you are.

In my experience, an essential price of admission for healthy, satisfying relationships with others is a clear and grounded sense of self. I’m not talking about self-indulgence or selfishness – I’m referring to the settled sense that comes from knowing and loving the uniqueness that is you.

As a coach, I utilize instruments that help me quickly (and painlessly) assess clients’ core drivers, productive behaviors and the consequences of unmet needs. When revealing the results of these assessment tools, I’m sometimes met by a distinct response, a bewildered astonishment that I could reveal aspects of their personality so carefully hidden away. Often they themselves had not consciously considered these traits, but when faced with the data, they have a whole new world of choices. Recently I met with a new client over dinner to review the information I had compiled, a combination of feedback from others and her Birkman Report. At the end of the evening, she remarked: “Well it was very enlightening to have dinner with someone who knows me better than I know myself.”

Andrea Chilcote, Character ValuesWhile these tools are quite helpful, the fact is you don’t need a report to tell you who you are. You know when you are your best, most productive self. You know the activities and people from whom you gain energy vs. being depleted. You know what makes you feel most alive.

Do you let your true self be known in your day-to-day interactions with significant others? Is there some aspect of your personality – some core need you have – that’s hidden away? There’s a cost to holding back. At a minimum, when we don’t acknowledge and reveal who we are and what we need, we miss the most basic satisfaction in life. At worst, we find ourselves entangled in personal and professional relationships that can be destructive to body or psyche.

So, what is it that you need from a key relationship in your life? Take responsibility by naming it, then examine what you are doing (or not) to nurture that quality. A relationship is a product of the interaction of two parts. Changing your awareness alone can shift everything. My client has managed to change the perception of her work team by revealing herself in day-to-day interactions. What can you do to show up as who you are?

Andrea Chilcote


Revisit parts one and two of the Relating to Ourselves blog series:   

Relating to Ourselves: Putting Self First – Part I
Relating to Ourselves: The Need for Renewal – Part II

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Relating to Ourselves: Putting Self First – Part I

This New Year 2017 is off to a swift and catalyzing start! We thought this re-blog, Relating to Ourselves, is timely and may it be a helpful nudge towards remembering to honor ourselves and our own need to act from a personal state of integrity. Join us as we reflect back to Andrea’s original blog written in 2012.

by Andrea Chilcote

This post is the first of a three-part series entitled Relating to Ourselves. This segment deals with honoring yourself first in order to build capacity for helping others.

self-care_relating-to-ourselves-rev5

Lately it seems I have less time and more demands on that precious time. Sound familiar? When I recently shared this lament with a trusted confidant, she asked me to do something that on the surface sounded simple. Her request? “State the following, then tell me how it feels to you: ‘I am the most important person in my life right now.’”

Well, it felt incongruent. Even though I believe that unless I care for myself first I cannot possibly care for important others in my life, I sure did not feel it in the midst of my all-too-busy day.

Many women tend to be healers – we’re the gender more often charged with care-giving. (This is not intended as a criticism of the many care-giving men out there who are natural nurturers – it’s simply a fact that women usually assume the role more explicitly).

So my friend’s question sparked thoughts about the great equilibrium of giving and receiving. It can be out of balance literally, or in our heads. Rejuvenating activities, gratitude or compliments from those we love, as well as simple acts of kindness shown to us, all produce healing energy. Are we allowing enough of that in our lives?

‘Am I the most important person in my life right now?’

Consider the literal examples. We can starve ourselves by constantly doing for others, never taking the time to replenish in whatever way creates true enjoyment. We can surround ourselves with people who take only (energy vampires, as Dr. Judith Orloff describes them), rather than spend time with people who know the beautiful dance of give and take. If you are one of these givers, you probably recognize the toll it takes on you, and, most likely, the things that you seek – acceptance, purpose, love – are elusive.

More insidious is the type that is made up in our minds. In this scenario we do a lot and are offered a lot, but – we don’t notice what’s coming back to us because our mental drive is so focused on the next task. I get caught in this mind trap often.

I am blessed with a loving husband as well as friends, clients and animal companions who give me as much or more than I give out. But often I miss these precious gifts because the to-do lists in my brain trick me into believing I have no time for them.

re-focus_relating-to-ourselves-revThe affirmation offered by my friend – “I am the most important person in my life right now” – was profound. Once I made that statement, I was forced to re-focus on the present moment. What I was doing did not change, but the way I did it changed significantly. I came back alive, appreciating the small and
beautiful give and take in the interactions of life.

As I moved through the next several days, I did, as usual, a great deal for others. What I provide the people and animals I love brings me great joy. And I en-joy that work when I come from a place of integrity in myself and my capacity.

So, take the challenge given to me.

Can you love yourself enough to care for those you love?

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Passion Revisited

Andrea Chilcote, Second Home Pet Resort, Husky Rescue

by Andrea Chilcote

UPDATE: Andrea is happy to announce that Emmalee did find her forever home over the weekend. We hope her story of passion revisited inspires you.

Two weeks ago, with the help of many animal welfare angels, I rescued a young female husky from the county shelter. She was picked up as a stray after a passer-by tried to strangle her with his belt. Undaunted that she was malnourished, had tick fever, ear infections and a mass nearly blocking her left ear canal, I made a commitment to her care and named her Emmalee.

The kind owners and staff at Second Home Pet Resort allowed me to board her there at a much reduced fee, as my home is full with my three dogs. Shortly after arriving, Emmalee had surgery to remove the mass. She did very well, and the mass was benign, likely a result of untreated ear infections. She is being treated for tick fever, is symptom free, and will recover fully. And, she is enthusiastically eating healthy food and gaining weight. She is returning to her husky self – active, curious and fun-loving. Now, we wait for her perfect forever home to surface. And act of faith in action.

Déjà vu. I am reminded of my feelings the last time I embarked on a journey like this one, and the words from my 2013 post seem fitting.

It’s been said that we cannot think or act in love or in harm toward another without affecting, in some small way, all others including ourselves. This truth becomes more evident to me each and every day. We are all connected. What we think, say and do to members of our planet – people and animals, as well as our earth itself – has profound and far-reaching impact.

Despite a full work schedule and many demands on my time, I am consumed by passion – compassion actually – for this sweet pup. And I know that many of you are equally consumed by passions of your own. Most all of us have some cause or mission that evokes a strong desire to contribute, make something better, or right a perceived wrong. We cannot help but be affected by circumstances that surround because we are in relationship to one another. We are connected.

I love words, and writing gives me an opportunity to study them. The word “passion,” describes the drive to action I have felt, and the deeper feeling underneath is “compassion.”  I was surprised to learn that the Latin root of the word passion is “suffering.” Compassion’s root is “to suffer with.” Ah, the addition of the word “with”… connection.

My drive to help this one dog could easily be snuffed out if I allowed myself to become overwhelmed by the great need beyond her’s. I’m reminded of the well-known starfish story in which a young girl’s refusal to be discouraged by the limitations of her own small efforts inspired others to join in and help. This is how connection works. We inspire one another.

What is your passion at this very moment? You need only to step out your own world for a mere minute and you’ll be able to feel it. Make a choice to meet suffering with love, whether through a simple kind thought or an action. You’ll inspire the same in others even if it’s invisible to you. It’s how it works.

Emmalee is a very special soul who will make a mark in some human’s life. Do you need the sweetness of a grateful friend and the antics of a husky personality? Our girl needs needs a forever home with a husky-savvy family. Can you help by sharing this message?

Gravitas

Maya Angelou

A wax figure of Maya Angelou seen on display at Madame Tussauds on December 6, 2013 in New York City.

I’ve been hearing the word “gravitas” a lot lately. Gravitas – poise under pressure, strength of character, self-esteem, confidence. It’s described as hard to define but visible to the naked eye. And, there’s debate about whether it can be learned or if it’s just part of the package – (or not).

Often I work with people to build what’s called in my world “executive presence.” And according to author Sylvia Ann Hewlett and research by the Center for Talent Innovation, the biggest contributor to mastering executive presence is developing gravitas.

In my experience, a key part of the equation is that word confidence. Yet we’ve all known people whose seeming over-confidence was a turn-off. So what’s the relationship between presence  (executive or otherwise) and confidence?

Confidence might be a prerequisite for external presence, the thing that attracts and influences others. Is that surprising? Let’s look at what destroys our ability to show up, focus on the matter at hand, listen and respond.

  • We are not present when we worry. Worry is almost always a condition of projecting the past onto the future, or simply making up stories of what the future might hold. Presence means we embody “now,” confident that the past has passed, and the future holds promise – within our creative control.
  • We are not externally present when we’re feeling negative emotions. People who have strong external presence can fluidly move from an emotional state to an objective state. The stamina to step outside and look in surely requires the confidence to trust what we might see.
  • We are not present when we are focused solely on ourselves, unless we happen to be alone and without any other inputs. It takes confidence to face whatever inputs show up.

In a post on The Spirited Woman, Pam Hale wrote a beautiful tribute to Maya Angelou. This woman embodied the word gravitas.

Can we learn to muster more of it? Oh yes, if Angelou could, we simply must.


This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a blogger. Enjoy it!