Plans as Sand

Plans as Sandby Andrea Chilcote

In the summer months, we rise before 5 am to take the dogs on once-daily hikes before the unforgiving sun comes up, leaving them no choice but to retire indoors to our stone floors and air conditioning. It’s a treat for humans and canines alike, and usually it’s an urgent matter.

On some mornings, the weather is better than on others. If there have been no monsoon rains to add humidity, and if there is even a slight breeze, the pre-dawn is almost pleasant. If the air is laden with moisture from an overnight downpour, the heat is already oppressive at 5. On one such morning, Whisper, our ten-year-old Malamute, decided she wasn’t going.

WhisperMy hiking buddy Beth and I were shocked the first time Whisper stood glued to my husband Arthur’s leg, refusing to go with us and the other dogs. I was concerned that she was ill, but when I got out onto the trail I began to think she had the right idea. She chose to take it easy on a day the environment prescribed ease. The next day, a much more pleasant one, she enthusiastically joined us.

Each day since, Whisper has decided if she wanted a longer, more strenuous walk with us or if she would rather go to the barn for the morning feed, followed by a short and gentle walk with Arthur. She’s very clear, and she decides in the moment after checking the weather from an outdoor deck. One day last week I asked her, “Do you want to go to Spur Cross? (a nearby county park),” and was met with an excited “Woo woo woo.” The very next day her body language told me she was staying close to home, and she did.

Once again, Whisper has sage lessons for us.

I’ve always loved the saying, “Set your goals in stone and your plans in sand.” This summer, Whisper has been a role model for making routine and relatively inconsequential decisions in the moment, based on the circumstances that present themselves. If that sounds like obvious advice, consider this story. The other day, while walking up my driveway with Beth, I was puzzled as to why she had parked her car in a tucked-away space. As it turned out, she planned to do so the day prior, thinking that another friend was joining us. She didn’t want to block her in. While certainly a positive gesture, the problem was that her plan was no longer valid. The other friend’s “plans” had changed. Beth knew this, but still wedged her car in the inconvenient spot. As soon as the words left her mouth, she was reminded of Whisper’s lesson.

Do you ever waste the precious present moment planning things that are best determined in another, future, moment? Do you ever follow through on plans that are no longer justified?

Personally, Whisper’s behavior has reminded me of my goal for self-care. If my plan does not support my goal, perhaps I should change it. A long time ago, Beth offered me this advice: “If you do the right thing for you, it will probably be the right thing for others.” It’s tough for me in practice, but my dog makes it look easy.

Are you doing things out of an unfounded sense of obligation? What if you chose to hang out at the barn instead hiking up a mountain?

The last lesson involves giving another the freedom to change his or her mind. It was tempting to coax and cajole Whisper. After all, what dog would not want to hike? We refrained, honoring her wishes. I’m not sure we could have dragged her out of the house anyway, but we could have gotten ourselves all worked up trying. Isn’t that how it usually goes?

Do you honor the wishes of those you care about, or do you try to persuade them to follow the plan that seems right to you?

This next day, consider your and others’ plans as blowing sand. Where might they take shape?


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

A Timely Tip to Try – Revisited

Andrea Chilcote

This week, join Andrea as she revisits A Timely Tip to Try, originally posted in May 2012.

by Andrea Chilcote

In the past month, I’ve spent much of my time working one-on-one with people from very diverse walks of life and with quite different needs. Even with the varied backdrops, a theme keeps reappearing: judgment. Self-judgment, judgment of others – that subtle process of forming an opinion that leads to even more subtle and often unconscious behavior directed at those we judge.

My work has always been about helping people change behaviors that are unproductive (and even destructive) in their relationships. Behaviors are tangible; they can be seen and heard. We can stop and listen to ourselves, or receive feedback from others, then make a choice to do something different and better. But if you have ever tried to act or react differently toward a situation or person that “pushes your buttons,” you know how difficult changing your own behavior can be.

Imagine one of those button-pushing people in your own life. Recall a touchy situation and then try to think of something you could have done or said differently. You may or may not be able to think of something. Even if you can, doing it is a whole different story. Right?

It’s hard to change how we act or behave because, if we really analyze it, we think our behavior is justified. This mind-trap is almost certainly being driven by a feeling. In a world where being busy is valued, rapid decision making is expected, and multi-tasking is rewarded, who has time to truly become present and feel? But that’s the key to the kingdom, so to speak. Lack of this simple presence can result in misunderstanding, or even disaster.

So take time out right now and get present. Take a breath, notice the sights and sounds around you. Recall the incident with the button-pusher. How does it feel to you? As you recall a past confrontation or presume a future interaction, what feeling do you have? What motive is driving you? Are you judging yourself or another, and if so, is it really fair and accurate? With new perspective comes transformation.

As I’ve done this work with clients (and myself) these last few weeks, we’ve unraveled many small mysteries that have led to breakthroughs in thinking and acting. Impatience led to inclusion, inadequacy morphed into acceptance, and a motive to highlight wrongdoing was converted into motivation to solve a problem. Small and incremental, one step leads to another.

Here’s another tip: be gentle on yourselves. When we take responsibility for how we behave in connection with others, there’s a tendency for more self-judgment. True responsibility includes conscientiousness in how we regard – vs. judge – ourselves.

Taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them. – Byron Katie.

A Pack of Friends or One at a Time? (2014)

A Pack of Friends or One at a Timeby Andrea Chilcote

There’s a saying I love to share, just to watch the puzzles form on listeners’ faces as they try to decipher the message. It goes like this:

“One dog, you have a dog. Two dogs, you have half a dog. Three dogs, you have no dog at all.”

The point, of course, is that due to pack behavior, the closeness of a human’s relationship with a companion dog depends on how many dogs there are. When there are several, you don’t have one-on-one relationships — you live with a pack. My neighbor observes this behavior in her husband and his two grown sons, with whom he is very close. When they’re away, she has a husband. When one son is present, she says she has roughly half a husband and when all three are together, she laments (but with a smile), that she really has no husband at all.

Even though I work with people day in and day out, am socially adept and enjoy interaction with others, I’m an introvert by nature. That just means I get my energy by being alone or with one very close, significant other. I expend energy in my work and in social interactions, and need time in nature or with one close (and quiet) friend to recharge. Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy by being with people. I often tease a strongly extroverted colleague about the time she told me, in all seriousness, that she couldn’t wait to relax on a Jimmy Buffet cruise with 200 of her closest friends. “200 close friends?” I exclaimed. I could not imagine (though this was before Facebook) having that many friends, let alone consider being with them all at once “relaxing.”

This introvert/extrovert concept is complex, because we need different things from groups than from our one-on-one relationships. In this world of never-enough-time, I tend to covet and protect time alone with special pals, even to the point of (I confess), sometimes resenting when well-meaning others join us. As an introvert, I tend to let the “pack” do its pack thing, with me on the fringes as a lone wolf. I can easily lose connection and drift away into my own thoughts while they carry on as a unit.

Susan Cain’s new bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking  does a beautiful job of helping introverts understand themselves a bit better and nudges their extroverted friends, partners and colleagues to consider a different way of interacting with them. Take her quiz to assess your own preferences.

If you need the absence of connection, the solitude of your choosing, to build the energy to connect with important others in your life, consider the choices you are making. Do you go along with crowd, later feeling exhausted or even resentful that your bucket is empty? Or do you make time for quiet, alone or with a quiet confidant? Honoring these core needs contributes to the quality of our lives.

“One of the ways you can tell if you are introverted is that you need time to recharge your batteries and decompress after you spend time with others.”– The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler

Letting Go

Letting GoToday I am reblogging my 2012 post about Letting Go. Do you need to free the spirit of another to travel his or her own path?

by Andrea Chilcote

This past weekend was very special for my family. Our foster Husky dog, Lucky, went to his forever home.

Three weeks ago, late on Saturday night, I got an urgent email from a worker at the county shelter. They had brought in a half-dead Siberian Husky who had been attacked by dogs. He faced a certain death if not claimed, immediately, by a  rescue group. Fortunately, I was able to reach two such angels from Thefetchfoundation.com and they arranged for me to retrieve him to the safety of my home. It turns out his wounds were serious but treatable, and he was a pup, less than a year old.

Happily, through anything-but-coincidental events, the perfect family came along to adopt Lucky. In three short weeks I had bonded with him as he healed, and shed tears as I prepared him for his journey.

That day I was reminded of the fleeting relationships we have with some people (as well as animals) in our lives. Of course, most of us are all blessed with life-long friendships and family bonds. And we also meet and connect with people who come and go. These brief connections offer us gifts in the form of life lessons or a simple helping hand when needed, and they take gifts from us. Have you ever wondered about the purpose of a transitory relationship? They’re easier to release when it seems we gave more than we were given, or when there was more hurt than happiness. But there are others that we try to hang on to, in order to recreate the magic after the magic has faded.

Consider this. There are people who enter our lives in pure synchronicity, for a clear and finite purpose, then exit. The purpose of the relationship may be ours or theirs, and we often don’t ever fully understand the “why” of it all. The important thing is the memory, the life lesson, or the gift exchanged.

In the animal rescue world, there are people called “foster failures.” These kind folks take in animals to foster, but cannot give them up – eventually rendering themselves unable to foster because their kennel is full, so to speak. For many homeless and helpless animals, it’s a blessing there is so much needed compassion. In human relationships, it’s a bit different. Some people need to be allowed to “fly away” and find the right connections for the next leg of their journey. (www.wakeupcloud.com/outgrowing-your-friends/)

I know in my heart that sweet Lucky belongs with his new family, even as I miss his sparkling blues eyes and loving demeanor. And, I know what we both meant to each other’s lives, however brief the interlude. Do you need to free the spirit of another to travel his or her own path?

The Personal Plus of Positive Intent

Intent Final

by Andrea Chilcote

As an observer of human behavior – sometimes student and sometimes teacher – I marvel at the fact that there are so many simple and reliable tools for making relationships of all kinds easier. Even when aware of these tools, we so often fail to employ them in the very circumstances that count.

One example is a simple mental model called “positive intent.” I’ve been working to assume positive intent quite a bit these days, as a way to ease the stresses and frustrations of a busy life. It’s so easy to become irritated by others’ supposed shortcomings or to take personally the minor transgressions seemingly committed on purpose to make life difficult. The principle of positive intent requires us to ask one simple question prior to judging, assuming motive for, or reacting to another person’s behavior.

“What possible, positive reason does he or she have for doing or saying that?”

It doesn’t matter what the answer is. The very moment you have an answer, no matter how preposterous it seems, something shifts. Something very big.

There’s a well-known illustration of the principle in Stephen Covey’s blockbuster title, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In short, as a passenger in a crowded subway, Covey becomes irritated at a father who is not disciplining his unruly children. When he gathers the courage to ask the man to intervene, the father tells him they are all returning from the hospital where their mother (his wife), has just died. Covey experiences an instantaneous paradigm shift. Suddenly his irritation pales in comparison to the man’s grief.

The truth of positive intent is one of the toughest things for our egos to swallow. Yet once we assume there might be a reason for another’s behavior that, while perhaps misguided, to them makes some kind of sense, we are then free. Free of being violated, persecuted or even mildly disrespected, suddenly, our thoughts and feelings are independent of the influence of others’ actions. What a break this gives us, in a world in which we are bombarded by input, some welcome and some not.

We can all assume positive intent in daily interactions with everyone from strangers to casual acquaintances. The benefit is a bit less stress, a tad more peace in our hearts. Can you assume positive intent in the most challenging of your relationships? There lies an opportunity that just might transform those relationships. When we think differently, we act differently. When we act differently, others re-act in new ways. Pat your ego gently on the shoulder and try something new – you might reap a surprising reward.

Inspiration

Inspiration, Andrea ChilcoteWho inspires you today?

by Andrea Chilcote

Lately I have had the opportunity to meet, dialogue with, and work with some amazing women and men. These are “ordinary” people who don’t think of themselves as extraordinary. Yet their courage of conviction inspires me with every breath I take, and any time I become weary, I am heartened by their stamina and drive.

Today’s post is a tribute to the people who know who they are, what they desire for our world, and stand firm in their values.

More than ever before, it seems we are no longer satisfied to know of a right path yet remain on another. One former client wrote to tell me of a drastic life change he made, inspired by his passion to improve literacy. He sent this quote by George Eliot: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” Another said “I’ve made a firm commitment to myself that a year from now I will be doing something very different for a living, in a field I am excited about and with very little concern about the income.”

Whenever I feel weary because I work hard, I am reminded of all the others who do even more. My veterinarian friend Dr. Kit performed over 6000 low cost spay/neuters for needy families and rescue groups in 2013. She draws forth the energy because her love is so great.

Recently, I spent time with a colleague who recently experienced a major, painful surgery. She is back to work teaching and supporting others, appearing as if the pain she still feels does not exist. Surely it would if she were not compelled to service. Many who suffer significant physical and emotional pain seemingly don’t suffer at all because there’s so much to do.

Thank you all for being a light in a needy world.

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

Choose Peace

Peace 5Today I’m reminded of a post I made nearly a year ago, just after the Boston Marathon bombing. I wrote of how our polarized differences lead to senseless violence, and offered a plea to “choose peace.”

The topic is on my mind this day after a fortunate veto by our governor of senate bill 1062, which proposed to give businesses the right to actively discriminate against AZ citizens in the name of religious beliefs. While there was no physical violence involved, the fear and hatred that drives these kinds of proposals is violence too – and in my view, the antithesis of what religion purports to represent.

The message, choose peace, is timely as Arizona seeks to heal.

by Andrea Chilcote

One of the things I do is help people find common ground even when they are, at their core, very different. The differences can be a result of social, political, or religious viewpoints or they can be hardwired as personality traits. It’s my belief that this diversity is an asset when its respected and welcomed, and it is a barrier to peace, progress, and productivity when it is not embraced. Of course, there’s no shortage of work to be done.

On the day of the Boston bombings, a friend wrote on his Facebook page of his dismay that while he grew up in a gray world, it appears we have become so “black and white” in our mindsets. He lamented the absence of compromise and tolerance.

As I read his post and watched the news, I thought about the core need we have to be with those of like mind and heart. It’s no secret that we seek and are more at ease with those who share our interests and views. There’s something very comforting to me about spending time with cherished old friends with common goals, and I’m invigorated in work and in life by those with whom I share values and beliefs. This week I have enjoyed both immensely, and I treasure the experiences.

For me, this human need for connection with those like us has never appeared to be in conflict with tolerance. While of course I have no idea of the true motive of the bombing perpetrators, the events of the week, my friend’s post and my own daily observations have me wondering to myself whether the pendulum has swung. Those who have crossed over the line engage in outright violence. But I see many others so bereft of connection that they lash out in insidious violence, not that which is illegal or life-threatening, but violent still. Are we becoming so polarized that we cannot consider compromise or commonality of any sort? For healthy individuals, blatant condemnation is a choice.

I challenge you to a practice I intend to embrace this week. Practice peace.

I know it sounds cliché. Yet cliché results from empty words. Practice requires action, however small the step. I vow to hold my tongue when a criticism arises. Take a breath when I’m impatient. Ask a question before I draw a firm conclusion.

We feel powerless when large scale violence occurs around us. Choice is powerful. We can take back our power moment by moment, simply by choosing peace.

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This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.

Connections (2014)

Connections, Andrea Chilcote, Kairos ChilcoteBy Andrea Chilcote

Do you ever find yourself trying to explain what you do at work each day after being met with a blank stare when you share your role or title? What is it that you really do?

Here’s what I really do. I help people build relationships – all kinds of relationships. The common denominator that defines my work is the connections we have or seek: with ourselves, with other people, with the natural world, and with the minute-by-minute opportunities afforded us by the grand existence called being a human.

Connection is a primal need. That’s why there’s so much distress in organizations when personal agendas and misplaced hierarchical boundaries trump inclusion and collaboration. It’s why, in one-on-one relationships, we seek to be heard and understood first and foremost. The basis of trust is the feeling that one is safe with the other — and trust is required for engagement of any kind. Perhaps most important is a connection with ourselves; an eyes-wide-open type of awareness that stems from honest self-examination. This leads to two things: a state of being called “settled in self” as well as on-purpose action.

Many of my posts build upon the relationship we have with ourselves, with key others, and our animal companions. And, that oh-so-important relationship we have with time – the moment at hand, as that is where the magic begins.

As you relate to my posts, I invite you to begin a dialogue. Share your own stories and reflections to spread the connections among all of us. I’ll start by posing a question: What is it that you do?

From My Heart – Reflections

 

heart 3

Are you considering your own words and actions through this most important filter, your heart center? Andrea asks you to act from the heart as she shares her reflections from November 2012.

by Andrea Chilcote

Last week I attended a screening of the film Sacred Journey of the Heart. Its premise is that in this very difficult time on our planet, “heart-based living” holds the key to navigating our way through the collapse of the structures that no longer serve us. It offers a seemingly new approach that is in fact based on ancient traditions, a return to the wisdom of our past.

The film relies on the scientific research of the Institute of HeartMath. In general terms, HeartMath suggests that the very powerful electromagnetic field generated by the heart organ (the strongest in the body) is responsible for the healing effect of energy exchange between two or more people.

I have few words this week, in the ongoing aftermath of the disastrous storm Sandy as well the ongoing and escalating stress of the Presidential election. I can only offer you the opportunity to reflect on the heart-based actions you have seen on news programs or have experienced in your lives.

Consider your own words and actions through this most important filter, your heart center. Act from the heart. I strive to do the same with every breath I take.

Deep Truth by Gregg Braden

We must think of ourselves and our relations to one
another differently than we have ever before
.
– Gregg Braden, author of Deep Truth

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

Acts From the Heart – Inspired Action (2014)

Act-from-the-heartThis Valentines’ week, Arthur and I received a surprise in the mail from our friends Jeanette and Larry. It was a sweet and simple Valentine card. I was so touched by their gesture – and reminded that Valentine’s Day isn’t limited to romance. It’s a time to express our feelings and share our hearts with the people we care about.

We don’t see Jeanette and Larry nearly enough. But that act from the heart – the card – reminded me of the happy times we have spent together. And it reminded me that our relationship is alive.

Enjoy this “re-blog” of my account of another friend’s “acts from the heart.”

by Andrea Chilcote

I just returned from lunch with a dynamic woman who I admire greatly. She owns and manages a thriving business, juggling multiple priorities in work and life. Her secret? The relationships she builds and nurtures.

I‘m fascinated by how she makes time to do the things she does to build trusting, sometimes life-long bonds with customers, vendors and employees, (not to mention while caring for an active family and supporting philanthropic interests). She does the small yet high-impact things I think about yet often don’t follow through on. She forges personal connections by genuinely acknowledging the trials and triumphs of her colleagues’ multi-faceted lives.

Whether it’s a piece of welcome information or advice contained in an otherwise mundane email, or a greeting card celebrating a small accomplishment or sharing compassion, my friend takes inspired action. It’s inspired because she has true empathy and concern for those her business touches. It’s not a technique … it comes from the heart. If you’ve ever had the urge or feeling to offer comfort or congratulate, but either shied away or gotten too busy, take a lesson from Jane. She feels the need, then acts. Impeccably.

Here’s the real secret. This woman knows, instinctively and with absolute congruence, how to balance her desire to nurture and care for those around her with getting her own needs met. She is absolutely transparent — who you see is who you get. She passionately and candidly shares her stretch goals and desire for growth. Her approach is the very definition of win-win, and, once again, it’s not a technique. It’s who she is.

And guess what? Like begets like, and others strive to help her. Jane has an army of people committed to her business’ mission that aren’t on her payroll. And there are smaller benefits too. When the inevitable minor problems of business life occur, the “funds” in the relationship bank serve as a comforting cushion, and no one overreacts.

So many people ask for help, yet have no cushion from which to draw in the relationship bank. Others give without considering their own needs, rendering those needs unmet and success elusive. One without the other is unproductive.

It’s no longer a secret. Act from the heart. Share of yourself openly while declaring what you too want and need. You might be surprised at what follows.

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David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic
President Jane Spicer displays some of her headcovers at Daphne’s Headcovers in Phoenix.

And, if you would like to know more about Jane Spicer, check out her business website: www.daphnesheadcovers.com.