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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Free the Future

Free the Future

Would you like to free yourself to an unencumbered future? This week we are featuring Free the Future that Andrea wrote as a blogger for The Spirited Woman in 2014. Can you find meaning in her words today?

by Andrea Chilcote

While I am rarely inspired (or convinced may be the right word) by popular evangelical preachers, I took pause today at a statement I heard by Bishop TD Jakes.

He said, “When you hold onto your history, you do so at the expense of your destiny.”

td-jakesWhile the context for his words surrounded people working to release the trauma of severe abuse and betrayal – certainly a difficult and honorable journey – I was struck by the day-to-day implications. How many times (a day or an hour) do we allow what came before to poison what lies ahead?

I began listening for evidence, in my own self-talk and in the words of others. Quickly I realized that many of our future actions are predicated on what came before – often just moments before.

Here is a self-assessment, designed to determine if your past (even the past five minutes) influences your future. Before you answer the questions, please realize that most if not all answers will be “yes” –  if you are a human inhabiting planet earth.

  • Is there something more you would do if only you had the energy, connections, confidence or skill?
  • Do you feel badly because of a (non-healthy) choice you made (today or five years ago) with regard to diet, sleep or exercise?
  • Are you exhausted from arguing a point, championing a cause or trying to convince those who will not be swayed?
  • Do you feel inadequate because of any past injustice, trauma or difficulty?

If your answer was yes to any of these questions, I’m betting that some bit of self-judgment about past circumstances or choices is influencing the current situation.

So what to do? Ah, here is the answer, the one that I seek, quite imperfectly, to live into each day.

Forgive. Forgive yourself first. The choices you made before need not poison your future.

Then, forgive those who caused harm – not because they are absolved of responsibility, but because you release their power over you. What freedom that is, freedom to pursue the future, your destiny, as Jake describes it. Free the future to unfold, unencumbered.

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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: The Need for Renewal – Part II

by Andrea Chilcote

Does the full swing of this New Year 2017 already have you feeling fatigued? Here’s Part II of Andrea’s re-blog, Relating to Ourselves: The Need for Renewal, a timely nudge towards remembering to honor our needs for rest and renewal.

Andrea Chilcote

Recently, I led a workshop with a team of people who are driven, dedicated — and stretched thin. I began our work with two questions: “How do you feel right now?” and “What do you need?”

Almost everyone replied with some version of the following: “I feel very tired, and I need rest and rejuvenation.” As they spoke, I secretly related. It had been a long and exhausting week for me as well, and I was looking forward to a weekend of play with friends who were visiting us, a rare three-day respite from the demands of life.

Even as I pushed forward that day, I realized that I was fatigued, and in need of a good night’s sleep. But there was more. I felt a longing for connection with people who enjoy and value the things I do. I wanted to be outdoors, enjoying the wonderland that is my desert in March. And I longed to be with my loving and goofy dogs, a pack that now includes a foster Husky. For me, rest can be active. It’s a time when I can turn off the noise of my mind and focus on the experience at hand — an enjoyable one.

How do you feel right now? What do you need? Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and feel the answers to the questions. Do you feel stress or fatigue? Do you have a longing for some enjoyable experience that has been missing from your life?

If you have no shortage of things to do, it may seem as if there’s no time for “me” time, rest time or play time. It is, of course, a matter of prioritization. If you’re telling yourself a story about how you can’t possibly do the thing you long to do, consider the cost of depriving yourself. Recreation is defined as “refreshment of health or spirits by relaxation and enjoyment.”

Andrea Chilcote

Rest and recreation does not have to take a long time or cost a lot of money. Many years ago, I regularly dreamed about fun activities with friends during particularly stressful times. While I couldn’t call upon those dreams at will, they conveyed a valuable message that I was working too much and playing too little. Life coach Martha Beck offers practical advice for adding more laughter, play and connection to your life in her book The Joy Diet. Intentional Resting’s Dan Howard promotes active resting and teaches simple tools for calling upon a restful state in the midst of everyday activities.

This past weekend, I played hard and laughed heartily. We took long hikes, enjoyed fine food and wine, and howled with the Husky dogs. I’m rejuvenated and ready to meet the challenges life has in store this week. And, the people around me will benefit from my more relaxed state of being.

What do you need to rest and recharge in a positive way? Whether you have three days, three hours or three minutes – take action – and enjoy the rewards.

Part One: Relating to OurSelves – Putting Self First – read

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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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The Year of Your Heart’s Desire

The-Year-of-Your-Heart's-Desire

“…the influence of Cicero upon the history of European literature and ideas greatly exceeds that of any other prose writer in any language.” Wikipedia

Happy New Year! The Year of Your Heart’s Desire is a timely reblog from 2011. Make 2017 the year of your heart’s desire!

by Andrea Chilcote

Have you made a New Year’s resolution? If so, stop right now and notice how it feels to you.

Did you sigh wistfully, thinking “the party’s over soon,” or sense a need to buck up and get discipline? Did the feeling energize you—or deflate you? It’s estimated that only 10% of New Year’s resolutions are achieved. And it’s no wonder, given that they are often uninspired.

The Latin root of the word resolution is resolutionem ‒ the process of reducing things into simpler forms, loosening or “unbinding.” In his Word Power blog, Gregory Rineberg points out that in the last 500 or so years, we have used the word resolution to mean just the opposite ‒ holding firm in determination, resolute in pursuing a course of action.

Perhaps we can take a lesson from etymology. Consider as a metaphor the loosening or unbinding of your passions and true desires before taking resolved action. In my last post, I spoke of how intuition can work in tandem with our clever mind to manifest success if we allow our heart to take the lead. “Here is what I want and need,” we say from the higher self, our creative center, and then the mind responds, “Okay, let’s figure out how to get that for you ‒ here’s the right action step to take.”

When we lead with our head vs. our heart, we pursue faux goals. A faux goal is a pursuit disguised as noble, but does not truly reflect our heart’s desire. Many New Year’s resolutions fall into this category. Of course, it sounds honorable to start exercising, get organized or save money… but what’s the real reason for taking these actions? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my goal or resolution reflect a “should”‒ something I think or have been told I should do?
  • Is the goal more important to someone else than it is to me?
  • Does the thought of doing or achieving it give me energy or take the wind out of my sails?
  • Have I pursued this before without lasting success?

Sometimes we formulate resolutions as some sort of punishment for our supposed failures (“I ate too many holiday desserts…” or “I took too much time off…”). A goal born out of regret is handicapped from the start.

Examine Your Goals
What higher purpose is achieved when you get what you say you want? It that your true heart’s desire?

Recently, I met a man who was preparing for a second heart bypass surgery. He was disciplined enough to exercise regularly and eat a heart-healthy diet, yet 15 years after the first surgery, he had to endure it again. I asked him where he got the courage and resolve. His reply, “I have five grandchildren and I want to be here as they grow up.”

Take Inspired Action
Lead from your heart. Decide first what you desire, what purpose you are pursuing, then, and only then, define the action steps. Test the actions with the question, “What will that get me?” and include positive effects as well as negative ones ‒ before resolving to achieve them. A helpful hint regarding purposeful action: you’ll know it when you feel it, not when you think it.

Our new book, “Erik’s Hope,” is the culmination of my 13-year pursuit to share the lessons of a shelter dog named Erik with the rest of the world. The goal of publication has been achieved, and at the same time, the journey is just now beginning. I have never been filled with more resolve to have this story reach others who can consider and apply the lessons in ways that transform their own lives. My resolve is born out of my deep knowledge that this experience with Erik, this message of hope and inspiration, is purpose-based. It’s one of the things I’m here to do in this life, and it gives me joy.

So go ahead, resolve to lose weight, save for retirement or leave work earlier. These are noble pursuits for sure. But first ask yourself the question, “What will that get me?” If the answer fills you with passion, if you feel a sense of purpose or meaning, you’re on the road to success.

This life we are leading here on planet Earth is finite. While it’s fleeting by eternal standards, we all are here now for a reason. Make 2017 the year of your heart’s desire!

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