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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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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Compassion for Yourself

by Andrea Chilcote

I love it when this happens: someone very wise states a basic truth in a simple and elegant way and I hear it anew.

Andrea Chilcote; Brene Brown

That’s what happened when I read scholar Brene Brown’s advice to examine my judgments, to see if they’re really self-criticisms that compare something I feel is inadequate in me to someone who I view as “worse.”

I’ve known about this mirror thing for many years. The things we like or dislike about others serve as a mirror for those things we like or dislike about ourselves. The judgments we have of others are really self-criticisms. It all make sense, yet Brown’s message gave me a tool to go beyond self-awareness – to transformation. And, it’s important because without the process she outlines, looking in the mirror just produces more self-criticism.

Like every great tool, her process lends itself to interpretation. I’ll share mine here, in the hope it will be practical and useful to you too, spirited women.

  • Examine the judgment. Ask yourself: “In what way does this behavior I’m judging in someone else remind me of something I don’t like about myself?” This step requires introspection. Don’t rationalize it – seek the insight, even if it seems illogical.
  • Give yourself a break. Practice self-compassion. Forgive yourself. This is the most important step, and it’s easier because you have company.
  • Then, (are you ready for this?) – feel empathy for the person you were judging. That’s easy too, if you acknowledge the ways in which you thought or acted in similarly. Compassion for the other person becomes automatic because – and perhaps only because – you just felt genuine compassion for yourself.

This new insight doesn’t change the inevitable fact that judgments will arise in me. It doesn’t change the need to practice self-acceptance. But in the week or so I’ve been focusing on this, I’ve transformed quite a few criticisms of myself and others – things that were sitting below the surface affecting my quality of life in some small way.

Brown says the practice will bring more joy. I welcome that. How about you?

“It starts with showing compassion for ourselves. Only when we feel comfortable with our own choices—and embrace our own imperfections—will we stop feeling the driving need to criticize others.” —Brene Brown

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Can you let it go?

Andrea Chilcote

by Andrea Chilcote

I’ve been thinking about beliefs lately. How they form, how we let go of them. I know for sure that they often operate unconsciously, driving everything from our self-talk to simple choices and life decisions. Anyone with even an ounce of self-awareness knows that they “believe” (or at least have believed) some things that are irrational or untrue – often because of the thought patterns that were formed at a very young age and remain unearthed and unexamined.

I have beliefs I don’t even think I believe. For example, in good conscience I would tell you that at my very core I know that I am safe and secure, and will always be able to create and maintain a life I love. But every now and then, fear slips in and I become sure I will become one of the bag ladies Martha Beck talks about. There’s a complex biochemical activity unfolding in my brain’s amygdala and on some very basic level I’m just harkening back to the remnants of a belief system that I’ve spent my life learning to let go of. If, in one of those moments, you tried to offer me a logical, rational argument, I would nod my head and say I believe you. But some part of me would not even listen.

Why do some belief systems show up as impenetrable shells, biases that preclude even mere consideration, while others can be informed, enlightened and shaped upon examination?

Once I attended a legislative committee hearing on a state bill that I have a keen interest in opposing. Once again I saw how our beliefs color our ability and even desire to listen. I watched as compelling, intelligent arguments were made, and hoped they would, at a minimum, provoke dialogue. Yet those whose opening statements revealed opposite views didn’t even ask any questions. When it was time to vote, they parroted back their opening lines and remained true to their initial stand. It was as if no new information had even been introduced.

I wrote about the ways in which our listening gets hijacked by our beliefs and biases in my post, “Attention Please”  I suggested presence as a method for better listening. But there’s something that comes before presence. It’s motivation. I’m reminded of an admittedly blunt response I have been known to offer clients when they ask me how to transform some simple habit or behavior that, on the surface, looks easy to overcome. “Ya gotta wanta,” I say with a smile.

It is simple, but far from easy, to put aside one’s biases and beliefs. And I know that doing so improves the quality of our lives in so very many ways. But, – ya gotta wanta.