Friday, July 29, 2005


the stories we tell ourselves

i've found that often times even when life is going quite well and all signs point to us making smart decisions, living big and being loved by lots of great people - we continue to get hung up on 'our faults.'

we let these 'faults' get in our way of noticing how good things really are - they distract us terribly. and i'm a firm believer that most of these 'faults' aren't real. nope, they are just a hold over from the stories we've been telling about ourselves for far too long.

you know ever since you tripped walking to the bus in 2nd grade the story you've been telling is that you are a klutz, nevermind the fact that you are now a skilled salsa dancer. or maybe you always tell everyone you're shy usually just before you introduce them to each other at another great party you are hosting. my point is our stories about ourselves often haven't caught up with our current reality.

one of my age old stories is that i'm a horrible singer. my family used to tease me incessantly about my singing voice "you're going to break a window kirsten!" - needless to say i was fairly convinced it was bad. but a couple years ago i began to occassionally get up the courage to bring it out in public and sing a little, whenever i did people complimented me on it! talk about debunking the myth. these days, i love to sing, in public or not. the true story - i've got a great singing voice.

curt over at the occupational adventure had a great post on how our stories can get in the way of us moving forward, which suggests trying the following:
A critical step in coping with a hanging future is to become aware of our life story and the myths that have governed our life thus far, including an awareness of the unwitting assumptions and unconsciously determined habits involved.

It suggests the following approach:
Answer the old question, "Who am I?" Give 10 answers. And, "What would I like to be that I'm not?" Give 10 answers. And, "What would I not want to be?" Give 10 answers. These answers reflect many of the hoped for (hero) and the dreaded (villain) stories in your culture, your family and your life.

the full post goes on to suggest six other storytelling methods for moving beyond our old and outdated ideas about ourselves. swapping life stories with friends is a great way to start revealing some of the misinformed ideas we have about who we are. our friends know us, and often times they are more aware of the assumptions we make than we are.

so sit your friends down and share life stories, you'd be amazed what you don't know about your closest friends - or about yourself. plus a life story takes a while to tell, so it's the perfect excuse for a sleepover!

and then start telling new stories, the ones that are really true. as always, i'd love to hear them!

dream big, - kirsten

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


simple actions - big impact

thanks to troy over at orbit now for sharing the link to this great project. the you are beautiful project is a brilliant endeavor to weave a message of truth into the world of advertising which surrounds us as we walk down the street. as they say in their statement:

The reasons why street artists are doing what they are doing, in the way that they are doing it, is not simply to question their surroundings; but to provide alternative perspectives, meanings, or values to those of consumerism.

i am always inspired by the impact you can have by such a simple action as putting a sticker up on a wall. while i haven't seen one of the you are beautiful stickers, i had my own personal encounter with the message you are beautiful when i was at a conference last summer - who knows if it's related to this project or not. here's what i saw:

it made me stop in my tracks. wow, i thought, what a fabulous message to put on a wall. i took out my camera and snapped this picture. and i have thought of the picture many times since. the person who wrote this message, i'm fairly certain had no idea that it would travel this far, and that they would have an impact on everyone who reads this.

take a moment to consider the impact you have had through simple actions and acknowledge yourself for the difference you have made.

you never know how far your actions may travel or how big your impact may be.

dream big, -kirsten

Monday, July 25, 2005


honoring your ideas

i have tons of ideas. i don't know about you, but for me new ideas about things i could do, want to create, or would love to try pop into my head constantly. usually, on their first appearance in my brain my ideas seem ridiculous to me.

as such, i was thrilled for the inspiration from hanna's post today. she had a link to a website which contained this quote by albert einstein:

if at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no
hope for it.

wow! what if we used this as the test for our ideas - seems absurd, must be a good one!

the other test i'm finding useful these days is based on an idea's recurrence. i find that ideas that are meant to be brought to life keep returning to my brain. they find their way back through strange associations, perfect moments of serendipity or they show up in my dreams. when they return i have a great feeling of familiar excitement.

there is something about honoring our ideas, even the ones we have no intention of over making a reality, that i think is important. each of us brings something completely unique to the world and as such our ideas are unlike anyone else's. moreover, ideas combine the best of our brilliance - our creativity, curiosity and passion.

so my proposal: start a list. it doesn't have to be formal or even consistent. but when you've got a good idea, write it down. my idea list, which i started a few months back, is really fun to read over. i don't always remember to write stuff down, and my lists don't consistently end up in the same notebook, but when i sit down and read over the list i am instantly inspired and energized - by my own creativity.

got an absurd idea you feel like sharing, i'd love to hear!

dream big,

Friday, July 22, 2005


you know exactly what to do

i was having a conversation with a friend recently about trying to give another friend a hand with some struggles she was having. "i just don't know what to do" i kept saying. his response, "bullshit - you know exactly what to do." this jarred me a bit to say the least, but it also got me thinking. maybe i do know exactly what to do.

for the next five minutes he listened while i ran through all the ideas i'd had about helping this friend out. i thought through and came to the conclusion that some made sense and others didn't. and by the end of it, amazingly enough, i did know exactly what to do. in fact i had three action steps i was ready to take.

this experience really opened my eyes about the reality of what we know. that is, i think we know a ton more than we give ourselves credit for. ever have this experience: an idea floats into your mind, within seconds your inner censors and critics go to work on it and before half a minute has passed you've thrown it out as no good. we do it all the time.

but what if we made the opposite assumption. what if we assumed that not only were our ideas good, but that when faced with a challenge we actually do know exactly what to do.

now i'm not saying that we are all experts on all things. in fact sometimes knowing exactly what to do means that you know you need to consult the experts, but the point is you are actually smart, capable and a brilliant problem solver. we all are. we couldn't make it through a single day of our lives without solving hundreds of problems, from big to small.

so consider turning off the inner critics and trusting your ideas. if they need polishing, ask a friend or colleague to listen while you consider them.

just think what you might be able to accomplish if you decided that you do know exactly what to do.

dream big,

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


no shortcuts

i subscribe to a great service from where each day a quotation arrives in my inbox selected from their huge database of quotes. i got this one last week:

there are no shortcuts to any place worth going.
-beverly sills

my first two thoughts upon reading it: how true...and...what a bummer. lately the winding and bumpy road of my life has left me wishing for shortcuts at times. but when i stop to consider what taking a shortcut truly might mean, i am pleased to be traveling the path in it's entirety - just think what we might miss out on if shortcuts were allowed.

i'm thinking of those opportune, unexpected or just plain beautiful moments that happen along life's path. i had one yesterday when my bike tire went flat for the third time in a week. my partner and step daughter biked the rest of the way home and came back to pick me up in our pickup truck. while they were gone i successfully took my bike tire off and located the source of the problem with no assistance! it was a rare opportunity to really tackle a bike fix-it on my own, and i was quite pleased with myself at the end of it.

this may be a simple example, but i think it's representative of a larger phenonmenon. after all life is lived in the details, and much of what we learn happens not upon our big breakthroughs but on the sometimes tedious path towards them.

what have you learned lately on one of life's many detours or traffic jams?

when have you benefited from taking the long route rather than attempting the shortcut?

dream big, -kirsten

Monday, July 18, 2005


failure: hooray!

what if every time you failed you said in a big, bold voice "ta-da" and then proceeded to take a bow? this was the attitude we were asked to try on while i was in coaching school at the coaches training institute. while it was a struggle at first, as soon as i embraced this concept i understood what the exercise was intended to reveal - failure is full of lessons.

in fact, 'failing' or what we perceive as failing can often be exactly what we need to have happen in order for us to take the next step, change directions, or simply realize we have set unrealistic expectations for ourselves.

all of that said, hanging onto this attitude can be challenging to say the least. and it's not common to come across people who are really living this attitude. so i wanted to share a recent example that i've found tremendously inspiring.

one of my closest friends recently embarked on a big adventure - canoeing 2,200 miles from minneapolis, mn to hudson bay in canada. aptly named hudson bay expedition 2005 the trip is based on a similar expedition taken 75 years ago by two young boys one of whom later wrote the book canoeing with the cree. my friend scott and his expedition partner todd worked for nearly two years planning the trip. they made a decision to take themselves and following their dream seriously - they secured sponsors, gave talks at local schools, developed an amazing website and after a fabulous launch party set out in their canoe.

two months into the expedition, because of an injury, todd had to make a decision to leave the river. todd shared his thoughts and feelings about this incredibly difficult decision in one of their regular journal entries. he says:

The decision to come off the water was one of the hardest
decision’s I have had to make in my life. I have spent two years of my life planning and working on the expedition. Spending hundreds if not thousands of hours of work, raising money, securing sponsors, fine tuning gear lists, packing food. It has been a lot of work and to fall short of my goal of reaching York Factory is a disappointment, but if I had to do it all over again, I would. I would not think twice about it. I have enjoyed every minute of this expedition and I have learned and experienced things that I am grateful for.
todd then goes on to list all of the things he is grateful for from this experience. and he ends the journal entry with this statement:

I encourage every one to dream big, and to go after your dreams. Although you may not achieve every goal you set out for yourself, there is a great satisfaction that comes with doing your best and giving it your all.

many people would have viewed this turn of events as a failure, a shortcoming to regret or even be ashamed of. but instead of wallowing in feelings of failure, todd takes an attitude of gratitude. he not only is thankful for all that he did experience, he is confident that it was worth the risk. he takes his bow proudly, knowing he did his best.

what have you 'failed' at recently?

what have you learned from failing?

i'd love to hear how failing has moved your life forward, as always feel free to share!

dream big, -kirsten

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


do what you love

the universe seems to be on a roll - sending me messages that all point to this same theme of holding out for doing what you love and pushing the rest aside.

today, a friend sent me a copy of a commencement speech steve jobs gave last month at stanford university's graduation ceremony. it's a great speech, you can read it in it's entirety here. the part that resonated with me the most was the following:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

what a powerful yet simple way of evaluating what we truly want to be doing with our lives. if today were your last day, wouldn't it be worth the struggle to do what you really love?

one of the things i think we get to decide to push aside in our quest to go after our dreams is discouragement. doing what we love involves not only reminding ourselves that it's worth it, but often doing so for those around us as well. the level of discouragement in our culture about getting to do what you love is pretty high, in fact it's unbelievably high. and yet, people do it all the time. i'm certain you can think of examples from your own life of people who have held out for something they truly wanted - and gotten it.

so don't be surprised if you run into some discouragement, if people tell you your crazy or warn you against being naive. try asking them in response what they would do if they decided to full out for their dreams. decide now that you will not let their discouragement, or your own, prevent you from doing what you love.

a key step in pushing aside discouragement is seeking out people who will encourage you. i got the advice a couple of years ago to surround myself with a group of 'hopeful, helpful cheerleaders'. i have used this as a guide in thinking about who i pull in close and choose to spend my time with - and it's worked. having people around me who are hopeful about following their dreams and will relentlessly encourage me to follow mine has been and i'm certain will continue to be essential.

who are your cheerleaders? do you need to recruit more?

none of us can remain hopeful all the time. but deciding that discouragement will come, and if you go for what you love it certainly will, and that you are not going to let it deter you is a powerful step in the direction of your dreams.

dream big,

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


weeding out what's important

this adventure that i am on of following my dreams and helping others to do the same has been leading me down varied paths of late. i often feel as though i'm heading in twelve different directions. this feeling of exploration can be invigorating at times, and downright overwhelming at others. i'm certain most of you can relate, whether you're looking for a new job, working to build community or simply deciding where to go on vacation it's easy to end up with too many options clogging up our efforts to head towards what we want.

while reading a great blog called making a difference today, i was reminded of the benefits of narrowing our focus. using her garden as an analogy hanna has this to say:

Weeding around the peonies I transplanted last summer, carefully choosing what plants to keep and what plants to pull, I opened up space and light for the peonies to grow. After an initial pass through, I noticed I had overlooked some weeds - smaller, shorter ones, as well as other weeds that were growing too close to distinguish them from the peony stems. Some of the peonies - having grown since last summer - are now too close to each other, and probably need to be moved, to allow optimal growth and flowering for next year.
And so as I went along, I found that these simple tasks called forth some important analogies for me about how we each do our work to make a difference. (And I'm not the only one thinking about gardening analogies recently... see here)

We have to choose where we put our efforts - what, when,how much, with whom. We have to choose what we want to grow and what we need to let go of. We have to know how best to nourish what's important. We need to know what we're looking for, and how we'll know it when we'll see it. We have to able to see how our work now will impact what we want to have happen in the future.
hanna' post is a great reminder that weeding out what's important and what's not can help our highest goals to flourish.

what options, distractions, or even outdated goals need to be weeded from the garden plot of your life?

what would a good weeding allow to thrive?

dream big,

Monday, July 11, 2005


what is your art?

i recently came across this pablo picasso quote:

every child is an artist. the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

in many ways this quote sums up why i work with people in their twenties. because i want us all to hold onto our art. i want that for everyone, but i think we as young adults have an opportunity to never let it leave us completely - to avoid having to regain it and instead retain it.

and when i read this quote i don't read 'art' as meaning only pen and paper or canvass and brush. perhaps your art is making people laugh, or writing poetry or face painting. our art is us. and more specifically it's the creative, alive part of us that often doesn't equate to value in the job market. the parts of us that our friends love us for and we often don't show enough of for fear of embarrassment.

while i have no simple solution to picasso's dilemma, i do have a suggestion: risk it.

next time you get together with friends and you think to yourself it sure would be fun to stage a play, fingerpaint, or go play in the rain - risk it...ask your friends to join you in your creative silliness and see what happens! i won't promise they'll say yes every time, but i will assure you you'll get more confident each time you ask and soon enough you'll find someone to join you in your adventures.

as always, send me your stories of art and adventure!

dream big,

Thursday, July 07, 2005


choosing courage in a culture of fear

i've just begun reading a book called you have the power: choosing courage in a culture of fear by frances moore lappe and jeffrey perkins. i happened upon this book months ago after reading an article about it in yes! magazine. i've been meaning to pick up a copy ever since and just finally got around to tracking one down and beginning to read it. as soon as i began reading it felt like i had finally picked the book up at the exact right moment.

then a series of bombs went off in london, and it felt even more exact. as the news of the bombings saturated the news media today it seemed impossible to escape the escalating sense of fear permeating the airwaves. as terror alerts were raised and that good ole sense of impending doom was revamped once again my mind turned to down a cynical spiral of thoughts. but only for a moment because then i thought of the book.

i remembered the key points they make in the opening chapter about how fear is used in our culture, why we are all so afraid and what the reality is. i won't cover all of it here, you'll have to read the book to get the full message, but the main point that i found solace in today is that as humans we we're designed to cooperate.

as they state in the book:

Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta used MRI scans
to detect brain responses [during]...the well-known Prisoner's Dilemma game - used to explore cooperation and conflict in groups and often to prove how self interested we are - the researchers found that the brightest signals arose when subjects were cooperating. These responses, said the scientists, suggest "that we're wired to cooperate with each other."

this is a refreshing perspective to hold as we consider the dilemma of violence in our world. we are meant to cooperate. rather than letting our minds turn to thoughts of frustration, meaninglessness and numbness, which are so easy to succumb to when confronted with such violence, we can choose another set of thoughts. thoughts that remind us that not only are we designed to cooperate but that change is possible. that violence is not inevitable and each of us can have an impact.

if you decided to ignore any thoughts of hopelessness and choose courage over fear what might you decide to do to make an impact in the world?

as always, i'd love to hear.

dream big,

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


the invitation

the poem below has called me forth again and again. it has roused me to action, pulled me towards my biggest self, and inspired me to be true to that self. as such, i wanted to share it with you.

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
be careful
be realistic
remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

-Oriah Mountain Dreamer

oriah has also written a brilliant book based on the poem which is also called the invitation. it delves even deeper into the poem and will challenge you personally to accept the invitation. i highly recommend it.

dream big, -kirsten

Friday, July 01, 2005


noticing what is

i know that i am not alone in asking the question 'what is the impact i want to make on the world?' it's an age old question in many ways. why are we here? a question humans have been pondering for centuries.

lately, i have been pondering this question quite frequently. asking myself what is the overall impact, the big difference i want to make? asking has lead me down many tricky trails of thought often ending in what feel like impossible decisions between one thing or another.

yesterday morning, as i sat looking out over the mississippi river once again going over this question in my mind it occured to me that perhaps i was asking the wrong question. what, i wondered, would be different if i instead asked 'what is the impact i am currently making on the world?'

what if instead of trying to see into the future, i took notice of what is right now. what impact am i making right now, in my life as i live it today?

this shift in thought seems to allow us to come from a place that is much more reality based. rather than inspiring feelings of self-doubt and impossibility, it reminds us not only that we are capable but that we are already succeeding at making an impact.

while the impact you are making today may not have reached the full potential to which you aspire, it is nonetheless an impact currently being made by you. maybe you made a great birthday cake for your best friend last week, or you just got a great review on a project you did at work, take some time to inventory your impact.

what difference do you make to the people around you? what impact does your work have on the world? what effect has your initiative had?

a leader who i greatly respect once said that if something around you is going well you should take credit for it. you have to, he said, because you can't prove you didn't cause it to go well. consider the things around you that are going well, and take some credit.

taking on this perspective has given me a much clearer vantage point from which to view the impact i want to make in the future. one where i can remember that even if i don't ascend with glory to the greatest of heights i will have made a difference in many ways in many peoples lives.

i'd love to hear your impact inventory, as always feel free to share!

dream big,

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