Thursday, September 29, 2005
being a big recycling nut myself, i found hanna's metaphor very appealing. while i was in high school and college i worked for five years at a fabulous thrift store here in minneapolis - arc's value village thrift store. it was a fabulous job, with a great organization, and in many ways became my second home. among many great finds i made there over the years, i found my partner, who is still an employee of the organization.
On a bigger scope, I'm reminded that finding ways to recycle ourselves daily, annually, and over the course of our lives, is part of our task as leaders and change agents. Taking what is old, used up, discarded and making it new again; giving away what we no longer use to others who can make better use of it, or who can do something new with something that we don't need anymore.
working with other people's junk can provide a variety of interesting perspectives. on the most basic level it gives a tremendous insight into the material affluence of US society. people have a lot of stuff in this country, and are buying more all the time. but beyond the perspective provided by the sheer quantity is the complex reality of what people choose to give away. as we used to say "one person's trash is another person's treasure."
these words are what came to mind as i read hanna's post. not only do we get to as hanna says "make ourselves new again" we get to do so from our own unique perspective. our treasure may be another's trash and vice versa.
imagine what it would mean to embrace this trash-treasure perspective in your life...
what might you try that you hadn't considered before for fear that others might deem it trash?
what might you chuck that you've always been told you were supposed to treasure?
got your own recycled perspectives to share? post them here!
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
being an ally
i prefer the term ally over most others as i think it more accurately captures the sense of partnership and common purpose that exists when we decide to support others in their pursuits. it avoids the connotations of either being a martyr, or being an all-knowing instructor. when we ally ourselves with someone we've decided to join their team - not take it over or give our entire lives to it.
at times we become someone's ally in an effort to support them in something we know very little about, other times we sign on to assist in an area in which we are skilled and knowledgeable - but in both situations the opportunities for learning are immense.
over the past few months, i have been acting as an ally to my youngest brother who just started college. i've helped him navigate the applications, financial aid forms and class registration process and more recently have been reading and editing some of his papers. my expertise in these areas has been a tremendous asset to him, but i've also been learning through the process. i've been learning how to support my brother without doing things for him and i've been learning what subjects and ideas he is passionate about. it's been a ton of fun to have this opportunity to learn more about who my brother is and who he wants to become.
i also made a decision a few months ago to be an ally to a friend of mine who is having a baby. this is an area where my expertise is quite limited, which has meant the opportunity for a ton of learning. i've gotten to read the books and magazines she is reading, ask lots of questions and listen to her think about everything from choosing a midwife to making a plan for after the birth.
both of these experiences have enriched my life greatly. i am learning a tremendous amount, and getting closer to people i care about.
what have you learned from being someone's ally?
are there people in your personal or professional life who you want to become an ally to?
as always i'd love to hear about your adventures in living big and supporting others to do the same...post them here!
Thursday, September 22, 2005
this has been the case this week as i continue to get one universal hello after another on the theme of 'we are what we think', or more specifically we are what we think of ourselves.
today, this quote arrived in my inbox, thanks to a fabulous service from thinkexist.com:
It is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate.
-Henry David Thoreau
huh, i thought, sounds a lot like what i've writing about lately. as i thought about it further what it brought to mind was the power of thought over action.
action is what ultimately makes things happen, what gets results, but thoreau's quote seems to suggest that without the foundation of thought, our actions really have no oomph. he doesn't say how hard someone works determines his fate, or how many brilliant ideas he generates, or who he knows. he'd probably agree with us that all of these things can impact one's fate, but his point seems to be that what we think of ourselves matters more than any of this.
in a world so focused on accomplishment, production and output it can be hard to remember that our thoughts have great value. but they do. i'm sure we can all think of times when we were feeling confident in ourselves and were able to pull off tremendous things, and then later when coming from a place of less confidence fell flat in our efforts.
so what do you think of yourself? what kind of fate are your thoughts leading you towards?
if you are like me, and i think most humans out there, you could probably be thinking more highly of yourself a lot of the time.
my proposal is to make a "to think" list, like a to do list, but of things to think rather than to do. brainstorm the things you love about yourself, the things you are good at, the things other people love about you and make yourself a list. keep it handy, say on your bedroom or office wall or in your planner, and let it remind you what is true of you.
and as always, feel free to share, i'd love to read your "to think" lists so post 'em here!
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
my parents did something very right in my youngest years of life, some combination of love and confidence built the foundation for me to like myself, pretty much unconditionally. even with this foundation in place however, i find it difficult not to be hard on myself for things i do. sure i like who i am, but my actions now that's another story. somehow my brain has decided that there is a loophole in loving myself, as long as i love who i am i can beat myself up for what i do.
i think many of us have these loopholes, "i'm a good person, i just suck at _____."
the problem with loopholes like these and the resulting self-bashing they bring about is that they keep us from seeing who we really are, and therefore from being who we are.
when we look at our friends or our family members it's easy to see how amazing, talented and lovable they are. it can be a lot trickier to see these things in ourselves. but surely they are there. because just as we can see them in our friends, they can see them in us.
most of us were raised to think that speaking highly of ourselves was arrogant. we didn't want to brag, so we rarely mentioned the things we did well. the problem is by not mentioning these things we allow them to lose significance, to fade away and be forgotten. this happens all the while we are highly vocal about our mistakes, shortcomings and goof-ups. as a result we end up with an extremely lopsided picture of who we are.
i think buddha said it best:
You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.how would your life be different if you adopted this perspective?
what might shift in your life if you put a ban on self-bashing?
try it out and as always share your insights here!
p.s. one forewarning, if you decide to invoke a ban, please don't be hard on yourself when you break it. you will, it's unavoidable, and being hard on yourself for being hard on yourself, well it's a downward spiral to say the least. i speak from experience.
Monday, September 19, 2005
from the time we are young we get messages about who we are. these messages are often communicated in relation to other people, who you are as compared to your siblings, your parents or your cousins - how you stand out or are similar. we are told that we are the smart one, the shy one, the goofy one.
these early characterizations of us stick - in a big way. sometimes these messages are right on the mark and allow us to take great pride in these parts of ourselves. unfortunately, sometimes they aren't so accurate, and when this is the case they can become major road blocks to creating the life we want. in many ways they are like personal stereotypes, oversimplified and unfounded opinions we hold about who we are as people.
challenging these assumptions can broaden what is possible in all aspects of our lives, from our relationships to our career path. the importance of freeing ourselves of these assumptions came to mind as i was noticing the stereotypes i have about myself based on the messages i got when i was a kid: i am a people person, not an artist.
these assumptions become clear when i have ideas about things i'd like to do that involve me being more creative and artistic - almost always i immediately dismiss them. and yet, when i have ideas about new ways i can build community and help people live bigger lives, even if they seem incredibly challenging, i'm willing to entertain them.
what possibilities do i close myself off to by accepting these assumptions? moreover, how silly to try and stay convinced that i am not an artistic person in the midst of my mind coming up with idea upon creative idea.
what stereotypes do you have about yourself?
what possibilities might open up if you allowed yourself to challenge them?
as always share your insights and thoughts here, i'd love to hear what you are noticing and figuring out!
Sunday, September 18, 2005
it brings me back to one of my favorite passages, which i've written about before. the passage is part of a letter written by ranier maria rilke:
Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.approaching life from this perspective allows so much more to happen, it creates such possiblity because it reminds us that we don't have to be doing "the exact right thing" we can just do what seems like the best thing to do next.
what i am noticing about this process most recently is that sometimes as we are working our way through the questions, new ideas only come once the old ones have been completely worked through. it's as if there is only so much space in our brain in which thoughts and ideas can take seed. as we let go of the old ideas, which life has proved to be unworkable, new questions and ideas can move into the available space we've just created.
as often happens, just as i was mulling this concept over the universe delivered a confirmation that i was on the right track. it was in jodee's recent post on her great blog you already know this stuff. the visual on this was really helpful, so check out the full post to get the full effect.
When we go through any kind of creative process like brainstorming, we usually don't allow ourselves enough time. We go through the motions, bringing in our old ideas, and then get bored when we've had a chance to dump those ideas we came in with. But the real value - and often the breakthrough ideas - come when we allow the process to work its way through that first downward trend and come back up even higher on the value scale.
while this description is pointing more to an exercise than to the experience of living life, i think it's entirely applicable to the bigger picture. too often we have some concept of something we want to create, accomplish or make happen and once we've tried our first two or three ideas and failed - we give up. we never let ourselves see what would happen if we kept thinking, exploring and trying things beyond those first failed attempts.
i'm noticing that the ideas i am having most recently, new ideas that i am really excited about have taken root largely because i have fully let go of the ideas that were in my mind when i started on this journey nearly a year ago. i've accepted that those first ideas were simply a means to a further end. the new ideas i'm having never would have come about had i not tried the things i've recently tried, but they also wouldn't have shown up if i'd given up all together once the old ideas lost their gleam.
what ideas are you hanging onto in spite of the fact that they've lost their appeal? what might you create space for if you let go of them?
is it time to return to the brainstorming phase with new information and experience in hand?
i'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences on the evolution of ideas and approaching life as a journey, post them here!
Thursday, September 15, 2005
the station agent
you may or may not have heard of the film. it won a number of awards at the cannes film festival, including best screenplay. it was recommended to me by a friend a few weeks ago, she said simply that it was "a great story about friendship".
she was absolutely correct, the movie is just that. it's a phenomenal story about hanging in there with people, about finding friends in unlikely places and about the tenacity if often takes to make friendships a success.
watching it gave me new energy and excitement about my friendships. it got me thinking about the places we settle for less than we want in our relationships, and what it is that holds us back.
the boldness with which the characters in the movie pursue each other is inspiring. and it reminded me that often times embarrassing yourself, leaving your comfort zone, or pushing someone else outside theirs is simply the price to be paid in forging real connections.
what holds you back in your friendships?
what would your dream friendship be like? how would you feel, act, grow in it?
invite some friends over and see the movie, i think you'll be glad you did! and as always post your thoughts on friendship or reviews of the movie here!
dream big, -kirsten
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
moreover, she noted that it's not just that "busy" has become a common response it's in many ways become the acceptable response. as though answering the question "how are you" with a simple "good" is no longer really kosher, if you're not busy something's not right.
in the days following this conversation with my friend, i noticed that her observations seemed to be overwhelmingly accurate based on my empirical evidence. i ran into the "busy" response all over, at work, with friends, and sometimes coming out of my own mouth.
it got me thinking what all of this busyness is about. many in my life might say that i have little authority to speak on this subject. i am by all rights an active person. i do a lot in my life and always have. but from my perspective being busy is far different that living a full life.
in thinking about this concept i came across this quote:
this fit in with the perspective that i've adopted about busyness and how to avoid it - do less of the things you don't want to do. for instance, i stopped "running errands" i know that sounds undoable, but i've managed to make it a very rare occasion when i have to set aside a special chunk of time to go to multiple stores to buy stuff. instead, i time my trips to the bank, the grocery store and the drugstore to fit in on my way to or from work - and i buy less stuff. it has reduced my stress considerably.
The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else- we are the busiest people in the world. - Eric Hoffer
a few of the blogs i read have talked recently about busyness and putting what is most important first, in hanna's post on the topic she mentioned the 80/20 principle, otherwise known as the pareto principle. here's a sampling from a recent article of what the principle is all about:
The value of the Pareto Principle is that it reminds you to focus on the 20 percent that matters. Of the things you do during your day, only 20 percent really matter. Those 20 percent produce 80 percent of your results. Identify and focus on those things. When the fire drills of the day begin to sap your time, remind yourself of the 20 percent you need to focus on. If something in the schedule has to slip, if something isn't going to get done, make sure it's not part of that 20 percent.what a great reminder. putting what is most important to us first, not only will help us to feel less busy, it will get us greater results.
so what's on your 20% list? what are the things you want to put first?
and what falls into the 80% category? how can you think in new ways about doing these things less often or not at all?
as always i'd love to hear your thoughts, post them here!
Friday, September 09, 2005
what do you think?
one of the most important of these lessons, is that it can be very easy for us to cede our thinking to that of others or to the generally accepted notions expressed in society. more simply put - we swallow things whole. we accept things at face value rather than putting them through the filter of our thinking, our values and our vision.
when someone asks your opinion on something, or when you are trying to solve a problem, how often do you find your mind referencing some fact or perspective you heard somewhere else and parroting it back word for word? we so often let our brains go on auto-pilot. sometimes we do so out of necessity, we are so pushed to produce more and more, quicker and quicker that snap answers seem like the only option. but so much is lost in our experience of life when we simply accept what is rather than questioning, considering and then formulating our thoughts.
and don't get me wrong, i'm not saying that we shouldn't learn from the thoughts and ideas of others, on the contrary i think that is a large part of what life is all about, what i'm aiming for is to actually learn rather than simply reciting. to interalize the ideas i come across, to think them through and meld them with what i already know and believe, to make them my own.
i think the tendency to swallow ideas whole can be an especially easy trap to fall into when we are in contact with people who we perceive as having more experience or knowledge than us. they share an idea and we assume it must be right, after all they "know what they're talking about." the question is do we know what they're talking about? do we agree with it? do we have a unique perspective to add?
one of the biggest assets i gained from my liberal arts education is my ability to think critically. i was literally taught how to think for myself, how to read something, analyze it, and then formulate my own ideas about it. it's a skill that is easy to let fall away as we enter the working world, but one that i think makes life all the richer if we can hold onto it.
so as you go about your life, in fact as you're reading this blog, i challenge you to really think about your own unique perspectives and opinions on all that you come in contact with.
what do you think about the ideas i'm writing about? what do you think about the plan your company has for expansion? what do you think about the news coverage in your local paper?
and as always i'd love to know what you think, so post your comments here!
Thursday, September 08, 2005
i came across this quote yesterday and it brought the importance of truly listening back to the forefront of my mind:
so often when we feel overwhelmed, depressed or just plain freaked out, all we really need is for someone to listen to us rant, rave and think things through, and suddenly things feel more manageable. making it a priority to stop and listen when we are talking to the people in our lives, and expecting the same of them, can have big results.
The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.
have you ever had that experience where you are trying to solve a problem, maybe it's some oddity in balancing your checkbook, and you just can't figure it out, so you decide to go and ask someone for help. and no sooner have the words explaining the problem left your mouth then the solution becomes totally clear. it's as if you didn't need the other person there for any other reason than to listen.
listening is a powerful tool. and it's a tool that is available to all of us.
i was watching some of the only hopeful media coverage i've seen of hurricane katrina to date - it was on oprah yesterday. she had rounded up a crew of celebrities to help the victims of the hurricane in a variety of ways. while their efforts were meaningful, what i found most touching was the footage of them just sitting with folks and listening. allowing people to tell their stories again and again and thus begin the healing process.
not only does being listened to allow us to solve problems and move through difficulties, it meets a basic human need we have to feel heard. we are all born with distinct thoughts, ideas and gifts to share during our time on this planet. being listened to allows us to fulfill our purpose.
what helps you to slow down and really listen to the people in your lives?
what do you need someone to sit down and listen to you think, talk or cry about?
i'd love to hear your thoughts on the power of listening, and what you notice as you take time to give and receive undivided attention, as always feel free to post them here!
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
before i headed off to work i took a few moments to just sit and cry. it's amazing how when tragedies, like hurricane katrina, happen we so often allow ourselves no time to grieve. you may not know a single soul that lives in the affected area, but just watching as your fellow humans struggle to survive is devastating and fully deserving of grief and sadness.
as i moved on with my day and began sifting through the email i'd received over the weekend, a recurring message seemed to be coming my way. you are not powerless.
it was so useful for me to be reminded, both that grief is normal and that i do have an impact on my world. i figured you might also enjoy the reminder. so i thought i'd share the messages that showed up for me today.
the first was in an email from my former yoga instructor:
Many thoughts to the people experiencing all of the destruction from the hurricane. Sometimes when I end class, I like to say my favorite mantra, "Lokah Samasta, Suki No, Bavantu." Which translates to, "May all my thoughts and actions somehow contribute to the peace and happiness for all beings around the world." And ya know, it can be the little stuff like carpooling, riding a bike to work, mowing someone's lawn, making a healthy organic meal from local farmers, or taking the time to hear someone with your ears, eyes, body and soul by offering them your presence.
a few hours later i received this message from a listserv that i am on:
The transformation of society also consists of daily, ordinary and so called "small" actions that we all do. These may not be remembered by history, but they nevertheless determine it in a certain way. As I push myself to expand my circle of action and become bolder and more effective, I am struggling not to feel bad for not doing enough, or not doing the right thing, and to avoid the trap of "if you can't make it all, there is no use in your efforts" which usually leads to sitting back and doing nothing. It is also important to remember that while we prioritize our goals, that does not mean that we only have one goal. There is no such thing as negligible change - if you care about it, its worth the effort. Even if it is "only" number seventy five on the list, it will move us forward.as we take the time to grieve and determine how we want to help in this tragedy and others, it is important for us keep in place a perspective that we are powerful and that we can and do have an impact on our world.
keeping this perspective in place helped me to start brainstorming what i wanted to do in response to hurricane katrina. i was able to decide to act, knowing that even if my contribution seems small, i will have an impact.
what impact have you had in the last week?
what impact do you want to have in the week to come?
as always i'd love to hear your thoughts, post them here!
Thursday, September 01, 2005
last night, i went to the mn state fair with my partner and a couple of close friends. it was a beautiful evening, we ate great food, rode frighteningly fun rides, watched baby chicks hatch from their eggs and admired great art made from everything from driftwood to cream of wheat. i love the fair. it's a fabulous minnesota tradition and one that always makes summer feel complete for me.
as we wandered among the barns and pronto pup stands our conversation inevitably turned to the onset of fall and the ending of summer. my friends made the usual comments about how quickly summer had passed and how they couldn't believe it was over. the very same comments i'd heard from coworkers earlier in the day.
the strange thing was i didn't find myself chiming in to agree this year. instead, i noted how i feel like summer has been full and long. a great expanse of fun, adventure and sunshine. i'd certainly felt as they did in the past, like summer had flown by, so what was different about this year?
i realized as i thought about it this morning that two things contributed to my newfound perspective. the first is that i made a decision early on this year that i was going to live this summer fully. i didn't have a ton of vacation time, but i deeply enjoyed the time i did. moreover, i lived all of my free time this summer as much like a vacation as possible. whether it was taking a trip to the beach three times in one week or laying in the sunshine in my backyard reading, i took full advantage of what summer in minnesota has to offer.
the second, and possibly more important reason, is that i have simply taken some time to reflect on the events of the summer. sitting down to reread my journal entries from my trip out west this june, or remembering the feel of swimming in the warm water of lake superior in july has helped me to know that i had a full summer.
it seems to me that our attitude that time is passing quickly, escaping us before we've had a chance to really enjoy it, is one more way we give up on really being present in our lives.
'if summer is already over what chance do i have of really enjoying fall before winter hits?', we ask ourselves.
what if instead we chose a perspective of noticing how full our lives have been this summer. taking stock of all the learning and growth we've experienced in the last three months. how might this affect our outlook on the months ahead?
and let's be clear i'm not assuming that you had a great summer, maybe it has been a rough few months. regardless, noticing how we have grown and that the passing of time has changed us is a useful perspective to hold as we think about what is possible for the time that lies ahead of us.
try it out, make a list either on paper or just in your head of what happened in your life this summer. here are some questions to get you started:
-what new perspectives do i have now that i didn't have at the beginning of the summer? what events brought these about?
-what are my highlights of the summer?
-how have i grown this summer? what did i learn?
sometimes using events as markers can help us to realize how much we actually have experienced and grown. for instance think about what books you were reading at the beginning of the summer, or what you did the first weekend of june, how were you feeling then and how is that different from how you are feeling now?
the more we can notice how rich and full our lives truly are, the more energy we have for making them even richer and fuller.
so the next time someone says "can you believe summer is over already?" you can respond with a real answer about how this summer shaped your life.
as always, post your thoughts here. i'd love to hear your answers to the questions above or any thoughts you have about the passing of time!