Wednesday, August 31, 2005


dynamic optimism

i love when ideas come into our lives just as we become ready to receive them. the concept of dynamic optimism showed up for me in just this way. i learned about this concept from a recent post on curt rosengren's ever-inspiring blog the occupational adventure.

i have always considered myself an optimist, in fact i think almost everyone i know would hands down say that i qualify as one. being an optimist has at times been a lonely pursuit. many today feel that realism is the correct approach to the world and accuse optimists of being naive and misguided.

moreover, i think many people who have big dreams for our world and are working to make it a better place have fallen into a pattern of being "opposed to" things rather than "in support of" them leaving them sounding more often like pessimists than optimists as they go about trying to creative positive social change. a strange place to end up.

dynamic optimism is a brilliant way of defining what i have always considered optimism to be:

An active, empowering, constructive attitude that creates conditions for success by focusing and acting on possibilities and opportunities.
as max more goes on to discuss in his article on the subject, optimism is not simply about approaching life positively - it's about influencing things to move in a positive direction. as he states:

The dynamic optimist both interprets experience positively, and influences outcomes positively. Merely believing that everything will work out fine without taking action makes one a foolish optimist, not a dynamic optimist.

more outlines twelve steps involved in being a dynamic optimist. i think they speak for themselves and are a great set of ideas to consider as we think about our outlook on the world:

1) Selective Focus: Emphasizing the enjoyable, constructive, open aspects of life.

2) Refraining from Complaining: Avoiding pointless complaining and whining about one’s difficulties. Taking the world as it is and not complaining that life isn’t fair.

3) Questioning Limits: A constructive skepticism that challenges the limiting beliefs held by ourselves, our associates, and our society. A fundamental creative openness to possibilities.

4) Sense of Abundance: Feeling free to do what you want, rather than feeling compelled by circumstances or people. Recognizing the world to be full of opportunities. Being for things, not against things.

5) Humor: Seeing one’s own shortcomings with a sense of humor. Allowing healthy, good-natured humor to reveal new perspectives and combat dogmatic thinking.

6) Rational: Using reason rather than being lead by fears and desires. Objectively assessing situations and taking action based on understanding reality apart from our wishes.

7) Self-Improving: Optimists see the self as a process and seek continual improvement. Their drive to improve is not pushed by fear but pulled by a inspiring self-image.

8) Experimental: Frequently trying fresh approaches, staying out of ruts, actively seeking more effective ways of achieving goals, and being willing to take calculated risks.

9) Self-Confident: Believing that we can bring about good things. A fundamental conviction of competence in living.

10) Self-Worth: Believing one is worthy of success and happiness. Without this, attempts to improve one’s life will lack motivation.

11) Personal Responsibility: Taking charge and creating the conditions for success. Being aware of how we determine our chances of success. This crucially involves integrity: living according to one’s values.

12) Selecting Environment: Being attracted to positive people and situations. Seeking out those who will support and inspire, not discourage, distract, and undermine.

do you consider yourself an optimist?

how could acting on the principles of dynamic optimism affect your life?

as always share your thoughts, i'd love to hear!

dream big,

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


life as an apprentice

i've been thinking a lot lately about the message we get that we are supposed to pick a career path and get climbing already - up, up, up that career ladder. it's an interesting expectation to navigate.

i find it problematic for two reasons. the first is that it assumes that our goal is to "reach the top" in our career and second is because it assumes we will be climbing just that one ladder. i think in today's economy and in our lives as twentysomethings (or thirty or fortysomethings for that matter) this is a highly unlikely reality.

we are complex people and this is a complex world. careers no longer last a lifetime as they did for past generations of workers. climbing the ladder becomes a whole new game when you know going into it that you will likely find yourself on at least 5 ladders in your lifetime.

in addition, the goal of reaching the top seems in many ways like a set up. now i'm not saying that i don't advocate putting your full self into your passions and striving to be your best - but the idea of "the top" seems wrought with unattainable expectations. moreover, it puts us in a place where we are measuring our success based on society's standards instead of our own.

as i've been milling all of this over, i came across this brilliant quote:
We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.
-Ernest Hemingway

whether hemingway is referring to writing or to life in general in this quote i am uncertain. regardless of the original intent i think the concept provides an interesting perspective for us to consider.

what if life was not about becoming a master, but rather remaining in a place of learning?

how would you approach your career differently if you felt no pressure to "reach the top"?

as always i'd love to hear your thoughts, feel free to post them here!

dream big,

Thursday, August 25, 2005


making money, being happy

fortunately or unfortunately, having money is a necessity in our world. we all need food, shelter and clothing and thus we all need money to buy them. in the US though, money has become much more than simply a means to fulfill our basic needs. our capitalist economy uses money to lure us into competition with our friends and neighbors, to persuade us into working jobs we don't like and to buy things we have no idea why we feel we need.

as a twentysomething, money is a tricky issue. in my ongoing efforts to not give up on my dreams, to be who i am and to build a vibrant community for myself money can feel like a daunting opponent. as such, i find it immensely helpful to be reminded that while we all need money, our instincts are right in telling us that it will not be what brings us happiness.

in fact, as jeremy over at lifestylism has been blogging about lately, research shows that contrary to the messages all around us - money does not equal happiness. instead the article he cites by dayana yochim of the motley fool describes what really does matter:

According to the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center:

-People with five or more close friends (excluding family members) are 50% more likely to describe themselves as "very happy" than respondents with fewer.

-A loving marriage: 40% of married American adults report themselves as "very happy," vs. 26% of those who are not married.

-Good health.

-A connection with a congregation such as your community or a religious group.

On the other hand, a survey of 800 college alumni showed that classmates who valued high income, job success, and prestige more than close friends and love were twice as likely to be "fairly" or "very" unhappy.

Happy people, it seems, concentrate on their own successes and don't compare themselves -- their income, their family time -- with others. They do not judge others or dwell on negative feelings. If they do dwell on the better performance of a colleague or friend, it is to learn ways for self-improvement.

"By far the greatest predictor of happiness in the literature is intimate relationships," Sonja Lyubomirsky, a researcher at the University of California-Riverside, told
a Chicago Tribune reporter. "It's definitely not money."

this pretty much sums it up. being happy is about being closely connected to people. another reminder that putting relationships first always makes sense.

of course we all have to make a living. but approaching that undertaking from the perspective that relationships come first, and success isn't financial in nature can help us to create what we really want - jobs that we like and work we feel good about.

what would it mean for you to put relationships first?

how would you conceive of your success differently if it were based on your close connections to people rather than your annual income?

as always i'd love to hear your thoughts and musings, post them here!

dream big,

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


imaginary board of directors

i was reading jodee bock's blog - you already know this stuff and was turned on to what i think is a great idea - creating your own imaginary board of directors. jodee borrowed the idea from the idea sandbox blog and they borrowed it from michael michalko's thinkertoys. gotta love how good information gets around!

here's how they explained the idea over at idea sandbox:

This board may consist of any person you admire most, living or dead. The instructions Michael Michalko offers in Thinkertoys to form and use this board are as follows:

-Select three to five movers and shakers, living or dead, whom you admire most.

-Get photographs of your Board and pin them up to constantly remind you of the talent at your disposal.

-Research your heroes. Read everything about your heroes that you can get your hands on.

-Take notes on your favorite passages. Pay particular attention to the creative techniques they employed to solve problems.

-When you have a challenge, consult the members of your board and imagine how they would solve it.

i absolutely love this idea. it reminds us that we get to rely on those who have gone before us and it helps us remember that we get to have a team.

i'd encourage you to take it a step further than michalko suggests and if your board members are living get in touch with them. why not? write to them and tell them why you admire them, tell them a little about yourself, and how they have had an impact on you. anyone would love to get a letter or email like that. so go for it! you never know you just might find yourself making a connection that pushes your board from imaginary to real.

i haven't had a chance to think through who all of my board members would be, but i've included a list of the few i am certain of.

here's my initial list:
ani difranco - because she's passionately herself, amazingly brilliant and gutsy as hell.
johann wolfgang von goethe - because he was a brilliant thinker who believed fully in the power of intention and the responsibility we have to make the world the way we believe it should be.
barbara kingsolver - a woman who tells both the most beautiful and the most politically compelling stories that i have ever read. and damn does she have some integrity.
paul wellstone - a fierce defender of the rights of all people, a true politician in all of the best ways, and a fellow lover of minnesota.

i'd love to hear who you want to sit on your board, feel free to post your list here!

dream big,

Monday, August 22, 2005


take time for your life

last week in one of my posts i referenced a book i've been reading as part of a book group - it's called take time for your life and is by cheryl richardson. as i was writing the post, i thought of cheryl's seven "key points" which are the main message of the book. each of them has led to a ton of learning for me, and i decided they were definitely worth sharing here.

this is of course just a list, reading the book offers a much more in depth exploration of each of these ideas - and as cheryl suggests doing it with a group can have an even greater impact:

#1 - Learn to practice "extreme self care", put yourself at the top of the list and everyone else will benefit.

#2 - Get your priorities straight - if your schedule doesn't reflect your priorities, stop reacting to life and take control of what gets your time and attention.

#3 - Identify the things that drain you and eliminate them - people, places and things, once and for all.

#4 - Invest in your financial health - if you feel trapped by money, investing in your financial health will stop making you feel like a victim.

#5 - Kick the adrenaline habit - Identify the things that fuel you and discover new, healthy sources of energy.

#6 - Build community - learn how to surround yourself with high quality relationships that support, challenge and encourage you to be your best.

#7 - Honor your spiritual well-being - don't let life get in the way of you connecting to your inner wisdom and creating a personal practice.

what speaks to you on this list?

where do you need to take more time for your life?

as always i'd love to hear, feel free to post your thoughts and comments!

dream big, -kirsten

Friday, August 19, 2005


what feeds you?

it's not an accident when our lives go well. on the contrary, our lives go well when we are well fed - on all levels - physcially, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, etc.

i've mentioned before that i am part of a book group that is reading the book take time for your life by cheryl richardson. the book has got some great thinking in it about ways to live bigger, fuller lives. one key point that richardson makes is that in order to live big we've got to fuel up. she has a wide range of suggestions for how to do that, and she encourages readers to come up with their own.

last week sometime i noticed that i was feeling rather uninspired. i wasn't unhappy or upset - but i wasn't great either. i'd taken on some extra hours at work and i assumed right away that that was the reason. i'm working too much. when i had a long weekend off and was still feeling the same way at the end of it i decided to explore the situation a bit further.

i took mental note of when this shift had occurred - when had i stopped feeling inspired by and excited about life? and then i reviewed the things that i was doing back when i was feeling inspired. i fairly quickly realized that there was a simple explanation for my feeling blah - i'd stopped feeding myself amply. my yoga practice had become inconsistent, i wasn't reading a novel and i hadn't spent any time in nature recently...aha!

doing what feeds us is worth making the time for. in fact it makes everything else we do more efficient and productive, because we can be more present and inspired while doing it.

what feeds you?

here's a sampling of my 'kirsten is well-fed when' list:
-i am in touch with and feel connected to the people i love
-i am reading a good novel
-i am writing and being creative
-i spend time being in and appreciating nature
-i'm having sweet connections & good sex with my partner
-i do yoga at least 2x per week
-i keep sacred time for myself and meditate regularly
-i go 'out on the town' and am around people

so what's on your list? think about the times when you feel most alive, when you can't stop the flow of creative juices...what are you spending your time doing during those periods? chances are it's no accident when your inspiration and creativity show up, it's simply when you are well fed.

as always share, share, share...i'd love to hear more ideas you have for ways to fuel yourself or any other thoughts on being well fed!

dream big,

Thursday, August 18, 2005


future snapshots

someone asked me recently what i want my life to look like a year from now. wow, great question, i thought. i was a bit surprised to find i didn't have an immediate answer. you'd think with all the thinking i do about following one's dreams i would have had a quick come back - but i didn't. i realized that while i have a whole list of things i want to have in my life, things i am working towards, i haven't put a timeframe on almost any of them.

part of this can certainly be attributed to that fact that i am a big proponent of living the questions and letting the universe unfold as it will, but there is something to be said for creating a picture in your mind of what you want your life to look like say 3 months from now. imagining yourself in a time months from now is a vivid process. like a snapshot of the future, we can picture our lives complete with the new and evolving parts we are hoping to attain.

i've made a commitment to try it. to create a vivid picture in my mind of what i want my life to look like. to consider who will be in it, what i will be doing and how i will feel. to imagine where i will live, what i will be celebrating and what will be on my horizon.

ask yourself, as i'll be asking myself:
-what do you want your life to look like in 6 months?
-what do you want your life look like in a year?
-what do you want your life to look like in 5 years?

as always, i'd love to hear about the images you create.

dream big,

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


thinking big

i've written before about the importance of thinking big about our lives and what we want. we are all meant to be amazing, bigger than we can imagine. our brains are hard wired to think super big - if we give them the space to do so.

but thinking big definitely falls into the easier said than done category.

which is why i was excited to come across curt rosengren's recent post on a great site by a guy named michael port. he calls it the think big revolution. it's always affirming to come across other big thinkers and michael has included some brilliant big thinking ideas in his manifesto:

1. Have A Mad Passionate Love Affair With Yourself
2. Stop Seeking Validation From Others
3. Embrace The Power Of Intention
4. Always Act On Your Intuition
5. Feed Your Body, Mind and Spirit
6. Make Big, Bold Promises
7. Take Action Now
8. Design Environments For Bold Self-Expression
9. Think BIG With Others
10. Choose Your Teachers Wisely

this is a powerful list. just think what an impact doing even three or four of these things consistently would have.

what's your next step in think bigger about your life?

dream big,

Monday, August 15, 2005


order up

last night i had the pleasure of attending a send off for a good friend of mine who is heading off to college. her mom organized this amazing evening for her, where a bunch of people in her community got to come together to love her up and cheer her on as she departs.

her mom, a super smart woman, decided that the evening would go better if the focus of the gathering wasn't on how badly all of us are going to miss my friend. i'm sure we've all been to going away parties that are a total downer because they end up having this very focus. instead her mom had us focus on all of us going out and creating the life we want - just as my friend is doing in heading to school. it was brilliant.

she offered a great analogy for us to consider in thinking about doing this creating. she suggested we treat thinking about our goals for our lives like putting in an order at a restaraunt. ask for exactly what you want - and expect that it will be delivered.

as we went around the room talking about what we wanted, she corrected each of us if we used any language like 'i'm hoping for' or even 'i want' - the correct statement is 'i'm having', just like you'd say if someone asked what you'd ordered for lunch.

the universe may not ask aloud 'what can i get you?' but if you let it know what you want, you may just find your order up.

what's on your order for your life? as always i'd love to hear what you are having!

dream big,

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


no assumptions

ever walk into a situation and say to yourself..."here we go again." you are certain what is about to happen - and all the assumptions fall into place in your brain like a row of dominos. we do it so often i think we are largely unaware of it. we assume that certain experiences will feel a certain way or that our interactions with certain people will always have a certain outcome. we are constantly making assumptions about how things will go from one moment to the next.

of course, some of these assumptions are useful. our brains create a database of conclusions based on past experiences in order to reduce the amount of brain power that has to be exerted in repeat situations. assuming that if you put your hand on a hot iron you will get burned is probably a safe bet. assuming that if you step out into oncoming traffic you may get hit, also probably a good conclusion. but laws of the physical universe aside, the rest of life is largely flexible and ever-changing and our assumptions about how it will go limit us incredibly.

we as human beings are amazing problem solvers. many have argued that solving problems is to humans what herding sheep is to sheep dogs or spinning silk is to silk worms - it is what we were designed to do. assumptions clog up our problem solving abilities in a serious way. when we assume that a situation will unfold just as similar situations have in the past we remove our present time flexible intelligence from that situation. we lose all ability to think creatively about how to respond because we've already concluded what is going to happen.

in reality, every situation is brand new. even if the same people gather at the same time each day in the same place and do the same activity it will always be new. how could it not be? there will be new ideas in our brains, new growth in our physical bodies, and new weather happening in the world around us among a million other new things taking place - and as a result new opportunities to take hold of.

life is full of surprising twists and turns. by deciding not to make assumptions we open ourselves up the world as it truly is: ever-changing and full of possibility. we open ourselves up to being the brilliant problem solvers we are, to our creativity and our flexibility. moreover, setting aside our assumptions is ulitimately what allows us to grow and change and to make our lives what we want them to be.

when do you find yourself making assumptions?

how would your life be different if you decided to set your assumptions aside and just experience life as it happens?

as always post your own thoughts & findings - i'd love to hear!

dream big,

Monday, August 08, 2005



i've been having a marvelous summer, it's been relaxing, playful and has had the feeling of being like one long vacation. that's not to say that i haven't been doing a lot. i have, but i've been making a concerted effort to do it differently. one of the key things i've been doing differently is to focus on what a friend of mine recently referred to as singletasking.

that's right singletasking the antithesis of multitasking - to do only one thing at a time. in many ways i think making a decision to do just one thing at a time is a revolution in our current culture. we are so pushed to multitask, to do everything in combination with something else, that we rarely have the opportunity to experience what it's like to just revel in doing one thing only.

as an article in the pittsburgh post-gazette discussed today, people are feeling more and more pressure to multitask:

"It seems like the world is so fast-paced that if you don't multitask, you fall behind," said Michael Cooney, 27, a bank employee from Forest Hills who watches TV while paying bills, works on a computer while on the phone and eats dinner reading. "I seem to make it through life OK that way."

the article goes on to say:

Some people's jobs require mental juggling, but so many of us multitask when we don't have to. It's just too compelling.
David Levy, a professor in the information school at the University of Washington, says the rush of information and the speed it has fueled was addictive: "We jump on our cell phones when they ring. And why am I checking my e-mail all the time? Because there could be something wonderful. These things point to very deep-rooted needs in us."
But at what cost? he asks: "It seems we're losing the capacity for that slow, concentrated attending to things."

slowing down enough to do just one thing at a time opens us up to a whole new way of being in the world. we are able to fully take in what is happening around us and inside of us. after all, when was the last time you had a burst of inspiration while you were eating dinner, paying your bills and talking to your mom on the phone simultaneously - highly unlikely to say the least.

how would your life be different if you decided to focus on singletasking?

try it out - even for one day. and as always feel free to post your reflections on the experience here.

dream big,

Friday, August 05, 2005


life = building

as a twentysomething i often get the feeling that i must be behind the curve, that i really should have it figured out by now, that i should be done creating and should have my life all in place - nice, neat and complete. this impatience with myself, as you might guess, usually yields little in the way of forward movement. recently, however i've developed a little mantra which has been helping to disarm the encroaching feelings of inadequacy: life = building.

that's right, you will spend your entire life building your life. in our culture of quick fixes, ultimate convenience and ever speedier everything, the idea of spending your entire life building something sounds absurd. no one does anything for their entire life. that is except live. and living is all about building. we are constantly building - our selves, our community, our career. life is like one big construction project, always in a state of assembly.

it's a great metaphor actually, life as a building project.

it can help us to keep in mind the following:
- you can't do it alone: you know the term 'construction crew' - we all get to have one in building the life we want.
- new materials are always needed: whether it's the 2x4s or the sheetrock - or in the case of life the wild adventures and new friendships.
-it's messy: i don't know about you but i've never visited a 'clean' construction site - life is much the same rarely tidy and usually thriving amidst the mess
-there are a million parts: constructing a building is a complex process from pouring cement all the way to wiring in light fixtures - life too is a multi-faceted endeavor with each part evolving at its own pace

i could go on, but you get the point. life is all about building. it's not a neat & tidy process with a firm completion date to look forward to - it's a messy, ever evolving project of weaving together what we want and making it work.

what does life = building mean to you?

and what might you do differently if you let yourself just build rather than trying to figure it out?

as always, post a comment i'd love to hear your thoughts.

dream big,

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


make a wish...

for the last six months or so i've been part of a great book group a friend of mine started to read the book take time for your life by cheryl richardson. while i must admit, as do all the members of my group, that the book is at times totally cheesy - it's also got a lot of great perspectives and ideas.

one that i've recently found intriguing is to as richardson calls it "make a wish list." as she says:

For decades, hundreds of books have been written about the power of thought to create physical reality. Thought becomes intention, this intention has power, and when you put this intention out into the world, your life starts to change - sometimes dramatically.

richardson goes on to encourage readers to make a list of three things they would most like to attract into their life. be specific she advises, and if what you really want is free rent, or $5,000 plus dollars - say so.

as a big believer in the power of intention i think this is a great exercise. in fact, i've got my wish list posted in the inside cover of my planner as we speak. so try it out, make your list, be specific and then post it somewhere you will see it often. remind yourself and the universe on a regular basis what is you intend to attract into your life. and keep me posted on the results!

dream big, -kirsten

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


celebrating our successes

my youngest brother, who is 19, returned home sunday night from a 45 day road trip. those of you who read my blog regularly may remember that i accompanied him on the first 10 days of the trip, which were amazing. well the adventure continued on all the way down the west coast, up the rocky mountains and back to minnesota.

this was an amazing trip, and it meant a lot to my brother. it was a trip that my brother has been planning and saving for for over a year. a trip that was in many ways a celebration of getting through a very tough period in his life and a chance to spend some time having a ton of fun before heading off to college. and he did it. not only did he return home sunday night, he did so having incurred no personal or vehicle damage and having received no speeding tickets. this trip was a complete success!

as such, i'm currently scheming a way to celebrate with him. i'm extremely proud of him for taking the trip and for seeing to it that it went as well as it did. so i plan to make some noise about this big success.

i think it's vital that we do this, that we help each other to remember to celebrate our successes. so often in life we accomplish something and move right on to the next thing on our list without taking the time to really notice what we've just done.

life can become mundane and overwhelming if we go through it accomplishing big things and never taking the time to properly acknowledge their completion. and it can be hard to keep wanting to head for the next goal if there is no celebration at the end to look forward to.

celebrating doesn't have to take any particular form, maybe it's calling someone up and congratulating them, or perhaps making them a great meal and chatting about their success over dinner, or maybe it's just sending a simple email. however you do it take the time to make note of success when you see it - big or small.

so take a look around, at your life and the lives of those you love, what do you have to celebrate?

dream big,

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