Inspired

Andrea Chilcote, Erik's HopeThink about something you do that inspires you, something for which you feel such passion that you never tire of it. Time seems to pass without notice.

Does that inspirational activity come to mind easily? Is it what you’re doing right now (or at least right before you began reading this post?) Is it your work? Your hobby? Your longing?

I’ve been thinking about inspiration a lot in the past few days, as I’ve prepared for an overdue vacation. I definitely am inspired by my work – oh, I don’t mean to imply every day is bliss, but the work itself is something I pursue with passion. And I can tell when I need a break, because I begin to get impatient and cynical, and the feelings start showing up, ever so slightly, in my day-to-day communication.

Writing is part of my work, a part I love. And one of the symptoms that appears when I need a break is a lack of inspiration for writing. So odd – that which usually energizes me becomes a drain. It’s not that I don’t want to write. It’s more that the things I hold precious get lost in the sea of demands and to-do’s.

Just this week I saw a LinkedIn post entitled “What if you’re not passionate about anything?” I rolled my eyes and read no further. But seriously, I thought a lot about it. “How can that be?” I felt a sense of compassion for whoever wrote the statement, and wondered if lack of passion was an indication something else was at play.

One meaning of the word “inspire” is inhale, or breathe in. How interesting that taking a breath, literally or metaphorically in the form of a vacation, serves to engage. Regardless of the sense of mission or passion felt, we simply cannot give of ourselves without taking in. I think it’s a rule of our humanness.

So back to my earlier question, does the source of your inspiration come to mind easily? Or do you need a breath (or several) to gather the mojo or light the fire? I’ll be rekindling mine by the sea. Perhaps I’ll see you there.


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

Mirror Mirror (2014)

Andrea ChilcoteEven though I’ve written of this “mirror” concept many times, Brene Brown helped me finally “get” it.

by Andrea Chilcote

What if many of the things we hear, see and experience, outside of ourselves, are just reflections of our own inner state? In each of our lives there exist other people and situations acting as mirrors for the aspects of ourselves that we either dislike or admire. If you believe, as I do, that all living things are part of a mass consciousness, separate in personality and possessing free will but connected energetically ‒ spiritually in fact, then this “mirror” principle makes sense. And, as is the case with many of my life lessons, a dog is teaching me just how closely connected we all are.

WhisperThis past year, I have learned that I have a four-legged mirror living in our home, sharing my life. Her name is Whisper. She’s a Malamute ‒ my husband’s Malamute to be precise, and she’s been our companion for eight years. I can hear her comment now, if only she could read a blog: “Yes, it’s taken Andrea eight years to get the message. Pitiful humans!”

The truth is, I’ve always been aware that Whisper reflects my feelings and fears. Whisper shows her sweet and loving demeanor to every human she meets. Other dogs? Not so much. So when we hike in the desert and inevitably run into other dogs, she often takes an aggressive stance, testing my physical strength (a Malamute is a strong creature) and frustrating me as a supposed leader. It would be easy to write her off as impossibly dog-aggressive or rationalize her behavior as protective of me or her handler, but there’s more at play here. Whisper mirrors my feelings. If I can remain present, calm and objective, there is usually no trouble. If I feel the fear of a potential fight, or, as is more likely the case, judgment of people who can’t or won’t control their own dogs, Whisper acts out my emotions. Knowing this, the solution seems simple ‒ yet managing feelings is far from easy. Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, advocates calling up a calm-assertive state of being, using an inside-out approach of managing one’s thoughts and feelings before taking outward action. I challenge you to try it now.

Imagine some person or group for whom you feel judgment ‒ from mild superiority to true disdain or contempt ‒ the degree does not matter. We all have these feelings at times. Okay, now that you’ve got it, try to release it. Stop feeling judgment, quickly. Tough, yes? For me, it can be very difficult and at the same time, a very worthwhile pursuit. If I can manage my thoughts and feelings, then I can manage my actions ‒ and this, in my opinion, is the key to the universe.

Go back to the judgmental state you just identified. What is this person or situation reflecting that is true for you? Do you feel a fear that was previously unrecognized? Is there some aspect of the other person’s behavior that triggers a memory of your own shortcomings, a mistake you made, a lesson you learned? Identify it, feel it, and ‒ here’s the magic ‒ it will be transformed.

Once a previously unconscious emotion is brought to the surface, your logical mind can make sense of it, and you can act appropriately. Take the feeling of fear, for example. If the fear represents a real threat, you can act on that. If the fear is based on history or a habit of thought, you can let it go. The truth will indeed set us free.

There’s a bonus to this process, given that we are all connected. When we transform our inner state, others respond in new ways. It makes for a more peaceful hike, as well as a better world.

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.

You Just Have to Laugh

Andrea Chilcote

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


by Andrea Chilcote

It’s week five of a five-week travel run. While travel is a necessary part of the wonderful work I get to do, I treasure time at home, off the road.

As with many situations in life, it’s the little things that cause stress during business travel. And, as is true in most circumstances, one’s attitude determines the degree of angst. This fifth week, I decided you just have to laugh.

I’ll admit that laughing at things that aren’t obviously funny is not my usual behavior. In fact, I have to consciously relax into finding humor. And deciding to do just that was the source of this week’s lesson.

I’m not even going to recount the not quite funny situations I laughed at. They’re boring, except perhaps to fellow road warriors who might show some empathy for my car debacles, road construction or customer service breeches.

What I want you to know is that I learned (or once again realized), one of the mechanisms through which our thoughts create our reality: our thoughts, feelings and behavior are contagious.

By laughing, or at least smiling, through minor annoyances (those I couldn’t change with demands or aggression even if I had wanted to), others around me smiled too. I struck up conversations, complimented people and brightened days. And I felt calm and relaxed – surely a boost to my work and the equivalent of an extra hour or so of sleep.

Some of you are masters of this technique of bringing lightness to stressors. I have always envied you. This week I learned it’s as easy as a lighthearted laugh.

Complete As Is

Arthur and Andrea ChilcoteAre you still in search of an ideal intimate relationship? …I had just returned from yet another date that took more energy than it gave in return. I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? Why are you wasting precious time with men with whom you feel no connection?”  The following post was originally titled, Do I Really Need A Marriage?

By Andrea Chilcote

Dining with an old friend and her significant other, a story surfaced that I have told often, though never written. It’s the story of how I met (maybe “recognized” is a better word) my husband, and it’s not even about how I met him in the tactical sense. I have no advice to offer as to the pros and cons of online dating vs. more traditional methods. It’s about the state of mind (and heart) that I believe enabled me to find him.

My friend recounted the story of how she and he became a pair. Her beloved husband passed away several years ago, and after several attempts at “dating,” she decided she really didn’t need a mate, and would proceed to be happy as is. Then, when she was not looking (or counting on finding him), he appeared, a casual introduction from friends.

I will never forget my own experience 28 years ago. I had just returned from yet another date that took more energy than it gave in return. I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? Why are you wasting precious time with men with whom you feel no connection?” The answer shocked me. I was doing it because I thought I needed a mate. Didn’t every woman?

In that moment, I vowed that I did not. I decided that I would carefully discern my feelings and choices. Most of all, I decided that if I never, ever fell in love and married, I would have a happy life.

Arthur came along a month later. I don’t think I would have recognized him had I not made that declaration.

Arthur and I love one another without condition, though our human nature takes its toll on a regular basis. Our relationship has endured, in large part, because of the fact that we are both confident as individuals. The “secret” to our success is the antithesis of Jerry Maguire’s famous line, “You complete me.”   We were both complete before we met.

That is the truth I realized one evening 28 years ago, and it’s what my friend realized just

I don’t pretend to know the pain of loneliness or the distress that comes from trying to find a person to share your life. I’m certain that many others have the kind of confidence I describe, yet are still in search of ideal intimate relationships. But one thing I do know is this. Accepting yourself as whole, complete and loving is a prerequisite for finding a companion who will hold you in that same high regard.

And after all of this, the truth that holds me here
Is that this emptiness is something not to fear

                             – Mary Chapin Carpenter

_____

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

Mirror Mirror

by Andrea Chilcote

What if many of the things we hear, see and experience, outside of ourselves, are just reflections of our own inner state? In each of our lives there exist other people and situations acting as mirrors for the aspects of ourselves that we either dislike or admire. If you believe, as I do, that all living things are part of a mass consciousness, separate in personality and possessing free will but connected energetically ‒ spiritually in fact, then this “mirror” principle makes sense. And, as is the case with many of my life lessons, a dog is teaching me just how closely connected we all are.

WhisperThis past year, I have learned that I have a four-legged mirror living in our home, sharing my life. Her name is Whisper. She’s a Malamute ‒ my husband’s Malamute to be precise, and she’s been our companion for eight years. I can hear her comment now, if only she could read a blog: “Yes, it’s taken Andrea eight years to get the message. Pitiful humans!”

The truth is, I’ve always been aware that Whisper reflects my feelings and fears. Whisper shows her sweet and loving demeanor to every human she meets. Other dogs? Not so much. So when we hike in the desert and inevitably run into other dogs, she often takes an aggressive stance, testing my physical strength (a Malamute is a strong creature) and frustrating me as a supposed leader. It would be easy to write her off as impossibly dog-aggressive or rationalize her behavior as protective of me or her handler, but there’s more at play here. Whisper mirrors my feelings. If I can remain present, calm and objective, there is usually no trouble. If I feel the fear of a potential fight, or, as is more likely the case, judgment of people who can’t or won’t control their own dogs, Whisper acts out my emotions. Knowing this, the solution seems simple ‒ yet managing feelings is far from easy. Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, advocates calling up a calm-assertive state of being, using an inside-out approach of managing one’s thoughts and feelings before taking outward action. I challenge you to try it now.

Imagine some person or group for whom you feel judgment ‒ from mild superiority to true disdain or contempt ‒ the degree does not matter. We all have these feelings at times. Okay, now that you’ve got it, try to release it. Stop feeling judgment, quickly. Tough, yes? For me, it can be very difficult and at the same time, a very worthwhile pursuit. If I can manage my thoughts and feelings, then I can manage my actions ‒ and this, in my opinion, is the key to the universe.

Go back to the judgmental state you just identified. What is this person or situation reflecting that is true for you? Do you feel a fear that was previously unrecognized? Is there some aspect of the other person’s behavior that triggers a memory of your own shortcomings, a mistake you made, a lesson you learned? Identify it, feel it, and ‒ here’s the magic ‒ it will be transformed.

Once a previously unconscious emotion is brought to the surface, your logical mind can make sense of it, and you can act appropriately. Take the feeling of fear, for example. If the fear represents a real threat, you can act on that. If the fear is based on history or a habit of thought, you can let it go. The truth will indeed set us free.

There’s a bonus to this process, given that we are all connected. When we transform our inner state, others respond in new ways. It makes for a more peaceful hike, as well as a better world.