What Inspires Your Soul?

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 2.16.45 PMThose who know me well and/or are connected with me on my personal Facebook page, know that at my core, I’m a nature girl. I am energized by the city, but it is time in nature that ultimately soothes my soul. It is the heart of my creative energy and where I draw inspiration for much of my writing and creative work. Nature, after all, is a wonderful teacher if we’ll take the time to listen to Her secrets.
Just as nature invites me into a deeper, more contemplative conversation, so, too, does the energy of people, new places, and the problems of the world draw me back in to engage in life in a larger way. Honoring these two equally powerful dimensions of my life is as essential to me as breathing air, and I’ve learned over the years that to live entirely in one domain without honor and attention to the other, is to live a diminished and divided life.
Knowing what inspires and influences our energy, whether positively or negatively, is a big part of walking our heart path. Being mindful and intentional about who and what we give our energy and thoughts to is equally important.
Consider the image for this post. Part of a creative series inspired by nature, just beyond the view of my lens and the once tranquil green I traverse on a near daily basis, is farmland that is rapidly being bulldozed to be replaced by more housing that will permanently alter the landscape of our little town. It is a reflection of our times — landscapes changing that challenge each of us to adapt and change with them, whether invited or not.
Still, though we cannot always control or change those landscapes or events in our lives that threaten to disrupt the status quo, we are free to choose what we focus on, acknowledging that mindful intention has the power to influence more than just the moment we’re in.
I could choose, for example, to focus on the unsightly bulldozers, allowing my peace to be disrupted by the physical and emotional noise and subsequent negativity that arises, or choose instead to be deliberate about what I focus on, disciplining my senses to tune in to the beauty and peace that remains in plain sight, if only I’ll pay attention.
So, too, is it with life.
At a time of tremendous turmoil and upheaval; during times of uncertainty, crisis, and the threat of constant change, it can be tempting to be distracted by the noise; to allow ourselves to become consumed by anxiety, negativity, and fear. While we cannot ignore the realities of our world, where we choose to focus our energy and the way in which we move through these things is entirely within our control.
It’s a matter of mindfulness and adopting a daily discipline of intentionality about how and with whom we choose to show up and spend our time, energy, and talents. And it is the sum of these daily choices, that ultimately create the legacy we will leave behind for others.
I’m curious to know…
How does nature speak to you? What gives you energy and/or feeds your soul? Are you intentional, mindful, and deliberate in your choices, or do you allow the winds of change and uncertainty to toss you about and throw you off course? 

Owning Our Imperfection

LeadbyExampleRemember the old adage, “do as I say, not as I do?” For those of us who have ever struggled with perfectionism, proving and/or a need for approval from others, it can be easier to project a prescriptive formula for living your best life, than to allow others to see us for who we truly are: imperfect, flawed and failing forward (just like everyone else). Yet it is often the transparency of the journey itself, however flawed, that provides inspiration and encouragement to others as we continue to step out, fall down, stand up, and keep moving forward, a little wiser that we once were before.

While the world is filled with self-proclaimed ‘experts’ who are quick to tell us the five things we must do or the ten things that will result in certain failure, sometimes what we really need is a little honesty along the way — guidance from those mentors and role models who are as willing to acknowledge their shortcomings and failures as much as the lessons and hard-(l)earned wisdom gained along the way. Sometimes what we need is a little honesty with ourselves, too, remembering that failure is an inevitable part of the journey towards personal success — not something to be shamefully buried behind the false mask of perfection, but acknowledged and perhaps even invited as a present opportunity for growth and future invitation to serve others in a deeper, more authentic way.

I’m curious to know…

Do you carefully protect your image as a way of presenting a perfect self to the world or do you allow others to see your flaws and imperfections? How might your own struggles, setbacks, and comebacks serve as inspiration and encouragement to others? When it comes to your own mentors and role models, do you (or they) place them(selves) on the pedestal of perfection, or do they inspire and encourage from a place of honest acknowledgement of both their strengths and struggles? As you move towards a place of deeper alignment with your authentic self, how do you choose to balance the need for both transparency and privacy in paving a path forward for others?

The Best Teacher

Thought for the day:

The best teachers in life are not the ones who presume to have all of the answers, but the ones who can help us find our own.

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Creative Possibility

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What Gives You Hope?

I believe in the power of hope.

Just as purpose provides a sense of meaning and direction in our lives, hope, like faith, enables possibility and the strength to endure, without which we cannot live. An essential ingredient in resiliency, to be hopeful is to not only believe in our capacity to overcome, but to open ourselves to new possibilities in the future. Hope expectantly empowers, engages, emboldens and encourages. A gift to ourselves and others, hope helps pave the path to our collective potential.

But where do we find hope? How can we cultivate it within ourselves? How can we share it with others?

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all. -Emily Dickinson

Recognizing the power of stories to inspire, uplift, engage and empower, Gary Doi, a retired school superintendent in British Columbia, recently brought together 42 VIPs (very interesting people) from different parts to the world to create a stimulating anthology of startlingly honest stories focused on the eternal question: What gives you hope?

Inspiring Hope, One Story at a Time“The stories are as varied and compelling as life itself,” said Doi. “They stir the imagination, ignite your courage and invite reflection. They inspire hope. In today’s world, that’s a resource in short supply. Yet, we can’t live life without it.”

Doi believes that hope creates resilience which in turn provides the strength to face life’s many challenges. Examples from the book include a California mother who shares her heartfelt story about raising an autistic child and how that experience brought fulfillment, love and gratitude. A teacher in Dubai describes how her bucket-list adventures opened up fascinating opportunities to learn and discover. A retirement coach from the United Kingdom explores a common question facing retirees: What will you do with the rest of your life? And, a university professor writes about the heroic efforts of a sixteen-year-old student in Tokyo who mobilizes community members to raise funds for a small fishing village affected by the Tohoku Earthquake disaster.

A global book launch is scheduled for November 25 – December 13, 2013 with various events and activities to draw attention to the book and its cause. All net proceeds from book sales will be donated to provide resources for the Asturias Academy Library in Xela, Guatemala, a private, non-profit pre K-12 school serving vulnerable students in the community.

Books are available as a hard copy or ebook at Amazon.com (ca/uk).

A second book in the series (Inspiring Hope: One Image at a Time) is planned for next year. It will feature inspirational photographs, artwork and stories from around the world.

Note: For those who are regular followers of this blog, I am pleased and honored to share that two of my posts, George the Cabbie and Clearing Out the Weeds (In the Garden of Our Life) were selected for inclusion in this wonderful book on hope. I hope you’ll consider spreading  a dollop of hope by purchasing your own copy today!

Waiting in Earnest…

For the last few years (and these last few weeks in particular), my son has been waiting in earnest to go to Scarowinds – the Halloween-themed fright night at our local amusement park.  Until this year, he has neither been old enough to participate in the fright zones (maturity defined by the magic age of 13), nor big enough to ride all of the rides.

Though he has been frustrated by the wait; though he watched as his older and bigger friends attended this time last year, to his credit, he never allowed circumstances and restrictions to limit his thinking, dreaming and/or planning for the BIG DAY.

The planning came in many forms.  As a parent, I am always amazed by how an otherwise often forgetful child can nevertheless manage to memorize every last detail of his latest focus – in this case, the Scarowinds theme park.  Now 13 and with a firm offer in hand from his mother to take him and his best friend to this treasured destination, he spent the weeks leading up to the big day studying every last detail of this year’s theme park.

Lost in the wonderful world of imagination and make-believe, he practiced creating some of the same gory make-up effects as the ‘scare-actors’ with various supplies around the house.  Already a talented computer programmer, he spent much of his free time designing and building 3D computer animated roller coasters, anticipating the thrill and adrenalin rush of the rides he would soon ride.  Topping the list were the Intimidator, Night Hawk and Vortex, and as the days drew closer, he studied weather maps, park maps and time schedules.  It was all he could talk about…all he could think about.

Waiting with earnest expectation, the BIG DAY finally came.  Yesterday in fact.  The planning, the dreaming, the imagining, were coming into focus.  As the rain poured throughout the day, we held our breaths, wondering…praying that the thunderous rain clouds would not thwart our carefully laid out plans.  In the final hour, prayers and wishes were answered as the skies cleared, the sun shone, and we headed off on our adventure…

It is now 10:00 a.m., Saturday morning.  The boys still sleeping, I smile as I reflect back on last evening.  There were thrill, chills, and screaming.  There were endless smiles and laughter.  A beloved son, a favorite friend, a good-natured mom, and a good time had by all.

I wonder to myself…after months of anticipation, did the evening live up to and/or exceed his expectations?  Did his planning and preparation enable him to more fully appreciate and enjoy the moment? Was it worth the wait?  Absolutely!  

Leading From Within

What does it mean to lead from within?

Just ask acclaimed business and life coach, Lolly Daskal.

Lolly would tell you that when you lead from within, “you step inward to seek the life you yearned for–a life of commitment and fulfillment of your heart’s desires. By listening to your inner self and following your compass within,  you will find a life that is aligned with your talents, truth and values.”

Leading from within is what many of us are learning, what we are living, and what we talk about every Tuesday evening on Twitter.  It is Lolly’s brainchild, launched online in January, and already it has directly touched hundreds of lives and impacted thousands more.

I am no exception.

For the last six months, I have had the privilege of connecting with countless others, learning and sharing right along side of me.  We connect, we engage, we share, and we learn.  Many of those tuned in Tuesday nights are in the leadership/coaching/training business.  Not just people toying with these ideas, but some of the strongest leaders in their industry.  Just visit the bestseller section on leadership at your local Barnes and Noble and you will recognize many of the authors’ names as fellow leadfromwithin’ers.  Others of us are leaders and learners in other professions, in our civic lives, and in our own families.  All of us are drawn to this Tweet chat week after week, but more importantly, we are drawn to each other.

On my own journey within, I have been tested at every step along the way – my faith, my resolve, my purpose, my commitment, my truth, my values.  I have also connected with others.  Many others.  People just like me, who have either walked in similar shoes before me, walked along side of me, or followed in my footsteps.  People from my past and present have stepped up, offering a word of encouragement, the comfort of a shoulder, or illumination on the path before me.

In recent months, many of these people have been those I’ve connected with via Leadfromwithin. I have learned and I have grown, seeds of wisdom planted that have since sprouted and blossomed in my personal, professional and civic life.  Among those in this community who have touched my life and planted a seed are Dave Pancost, writer of life wisdom extraordinaire and all-around good guy; Jesse Lyn Stoner, a gracious and humble leader whose legendary work on the subject of vision has helped me clarify my own; Becky Robinson, fellow mother, friend, social media maverick and blogger to no particular end but to learn and share with others; Mr. cool culture, Chris Edmonds, my enthusiastic friend and cheerleader, without whose guidance I might have struggled for months on end to find clarity and direction in my own life; and to Lolly herself, a kindred spirit and inspiring force of nature, whose commitment to her own vision enabled me to connect with these other gems.  There are others, too; those who have reached out and shared their own wisdom in ways that have influenced my own.  That, after all, is the great gift of Leadfromwithin.  We humbly acknowledge, week after week, wisdom we have to share and all that we still have to learn.

To me, leading from within is about living and leading from our heart place…our heart space.  It is about transparency, authenticity, integrity, and honor.  It is about connecting with others, just as we seek to reconnect with ourselves, recognizing that we each have the beautiful, unique and amazing gift of ourselves to share with the world.

To Lolly, Chris, Becky, Jesse and Dave; to @John_Paul, @Helen_Antholis and @worksmarta; to @lynnfishman, @giselle2323, @growinggold, @koomba303, @My_webevent, @womanonajourney, @waynemcevilly, @smaxbrown, @Josepf @EdwardColozzi, and @Cyburh; to @PatRobeck1ofHis, @StrategicMonk, @MagneticSilvia, @knowledgebishop, @Earthliz, and those countless others from whom I learn every Tuesday, THANK YOU.

Thank you for sharing your hearts and the wisdom of your experience.  Thank you for the connection, your inspiration, and for seeds planted.  As I’ve reconnected to my heart place, you have collectively been the catalyst that has enabled me to not only live from within, but to lead from within.  It is indeed a great privilege to share my Tuesdays with all of you.

Note:  You can find Lolly at www.lollydaskal.com.  You can join the conversation every Tuesday at 8 p.m. (est) on Twitter at #leadfromwithin.