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We all get lost in the day to day business of life. It's easy to forget or get side-tracked from our purpose and goals. (As I found out yesterday by looking at my goals for last quarter and having only reached one of five, ahem.)
Thinking in terms of vision, mission, or values may be a bit much in times of urgent need, but one word that encompasses all is easy to remember. So how do you find that word?
1. Figure out your theme
What is the one thing you want more of in life? What's been missing? What brings you joy?
When was the last time you had a huge belly laugh and caught yourself being completely un-selfconscious?
What were you doing at the time?
Group all those things together on a mind map, or on sticky notes, lay them out before you and see if you can connect the dots. Distill it down to one thing, and see how that resonates.
2. Choose from a list
Perhaps you have 1o or 57 words that all resonate? I know the feeling. To help you decide, write all of them on individual pieces of paper, fold them, and pour them into a container.
Then pick one. If it feels right, go with it. If you love more flexibility and one word for a whole year is too much commitment for you, choose your word for the month, or word for the week.
3. Look inside
Light a candle, burn some incense, do a meditation, pray, go for a run. Whatever works for you. Spend some time breathing deeply and feeling supported, trying to connect with your inner voice. Ask, "what's my word?" in your mind, and the answer will appear.
My word for this year is CLARITY.
I chose it because my mind is often running 100 miles per hour in 5 different directions. Making decisions becomes a fearful process, and as a consequence, fewer decisions get made. Which results in fewer results, and more worry about where to even start. Clarity of purpose, of communication, of message reminds me I'm a work in progress, and that it's worth the work. Makes the ride kinda fun, too. :-)
Image by Keiko Hampton, Flickr, Creative Commons License.
If I could do so much of my early life over, I would have taken more moments like this to breathe. I would have spent more time focusing on what was right in front of me, instead of recoiling from what is because it didn’t look or feel exactly as I imagined it. I wouldn’t have been forever trying to look around the corner to see “What’s next, what’s next?!”
I’d have taken in the beauty of the moment, and greeted everything in my life with a big “YES, AND.”
“YES AND” is the vital and only rule of improvisation. Never deny your fellow actor. You should be willing and able to accept whatever your fellow improviser throws at you. Use that as your jumping off point and expand it. “Heighten and explore,” as we call it.
In other words, in order for our lives to go forward, in order to engage fully in life, we need to be willing and able to accept what is right in front of us. Whatever it is, the good, the bad, the thrilling, the heartbreaking, every emotion, occurrence, event, person, place or thing, you will experience them all. That’s the “YES” I’m talking about. And the acceptance and embrace of it with all your heart and doing something with it, that’s the “AND.” You accept influence and then you exert influence. You can’t make a cloudy day a sunny day, but can embrace it and decide it’s going to be a good day after all.
As you travel through life, in these many years ahead, I guarantee that you will come upon countless times in which the last thing you’re gonna want to say is “YES AND.” You will experience loss, heartache, the death of a loved one, you’ll probably have to say goodbye to a lover, you’ll experience rejection, maybe have to deal with a bad diagnosis. You’ll age.
The trick isn’t to avoid these times or pretend they’re not happening; you can’t. What you’ll need to do is step up to them courageously and embrace them. Allow these experiences to permeate your being and weave them all into the fabric of your life. They will not only soften you and strengthen you, and you will open your heart to compassion. You will not be powerless in this. If you embrace what is happening, instead of denying it, you can make it your own. If life gives you lemons, grab it by the horns and drive. Yes I just mixed three metaphors, remember I was a “C” student.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Jane, what about doing porno?” To which I say I am as surprised as you are that I was never offered that opportunity.
But would I have said yes to that? What if life gives us the opportunity to rob a bank, or a way to cheat on our taxes, or say it offers us several hours in a row of life with the Kardashians...hours that we can never get back?
To this I say: you can always trust that when you’re coming from your highest self and from your heart, you’ll know when you should say “YES AND,” and when to engage the awesome power of “NO WAY.”
I guess I am assuming you all are as terrified as I was of life, so you know that when you feel sick to your stomach, it’s a good thing! It signals “Opportunity For Big Growth Ahead!” “Somethin’s coming, somethin’ good.” Don’t ignore the nausea. Step up to it.
Life is not all about work — and the scariest places to say “Yes And” are also the most rewarding...in a relationship.
Your partner will inevitably see your soft underbelly. Shocking behavior you only read about will start to become your own. Your demon will rise up to righteously destroy your relationship in the guise of saving yourself from really seeing yourself. Your partner will say to you with all the tenderness that situation allows, “What the fuck?” You’ll want to break up with yourself.
Don’t be afraid of this horrible version of you! Face it, embrace it, coddle it, write it a poem, maybe it needs a hug. Shine the light of day on it. Unclaimed and unacknowledged, it’s got the power and its darkest forces will have you enslaved! Accept its influence, mine it for its gold. Yep, sometimes saying “YES AND” is going to take everything you’ve got. But the payoff, trusting in love, is just incredible.
Read the full text here.
You know I love her, and guess what, she gave a commencement address at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. :-)
Dr. Brené Brown chose three nuggets of wisdom she would have wanted to have upon her graduation:
1. Whatever you do, do not wait until you're unafraid to do something. Don't wait til you're brave. Don't wait til you're comfortable. Step into the discomfort and do it anyway. You're more ready than you think.
2. If you want other people to put value on your work, put value on your work. Period.
3. Find joy. Really find and cultivate joy in your life.
"Thank you for signing up to be the love and the light in this world."
We were living in Mexico when the final installment of Harry Potter came out. This was a book I had eagerly anticipated, and you cannot imagine (well, maybe you can) how immensely outrageously happy I was when I realized the stores received copies in English. Hooray!
The list of inspiring women's quotes would not be complete without J K Rowling's Harvard address from 2008.
Feast your soul:
I have asked myself what I wish I had known at my own graduation, and what important lessons I have learned in the 21 years that have expired between that day and this.
I have come up with two answers. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called ‘real life’, I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination.
Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.
Now you might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I personally will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.
Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places.
Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.
So today, I wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom: As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters. I wish you all very good lives.
Read the full text or watch the video here.
We all need pick-me-ups once in a while. I hope you're filling your own happiness jars with numerous notes of noteworthy positive events in your life! I'm sharing my favorite encouraging inspiring women's quotes this week, maybe they'll inspire you, too. Below is an excerpt of Debbie Millman's address to the students at San Jose State. Honest, touching, poetic.
Every once in a while – often when we least expect it – we encounter someone more courageous, someone who chose to strive for that which (to us) seemed unattainable, even elusive. And we marvel. We swoon. We gape. Often, we are in awe. I think we look at these people as lucky, when luck has nothing to do with it. It is really all about their imagination; it is how they constructed the possibilities for their life.
Our abilities are only limited by our perceptions.
Perhaps what is truly known can’t be described or articulated by creativity or logic, science or art, but perhaps it can be described by the most authentic and meaningful combination of the two: poetry.
As Robert Frost wrote: a poem “begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It is never a thought to begin with.”
Start with a big, fat lump in your throat and run with it.
Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not 2 weeks from now. Now.
If you have time, read the beautifully illustrated version here.
Image by Mark Winterbourne, Flickr, Creative Commons License.
Looking for fun ways to keep your heart healthy? Exercise, eat and think right.
For exercise, when was the last time you jumped rope?
It's easy, just grab a rope and jump it. For at least 15 consecutive minutes. Your brain needs oxygen to think well, and your heart needs oxygen to feel well. This is why smoking isn't good on so many levels; it breaks down the process where red blood cells transport oxygen to other cells.
No need to get all professional about jumping rope like these guys, but their hearts sure look healthy:
Recipe: Thai Red Chili
Cut a piece of tempeh (fermented soybeans, kinda like tofu but nuttier) into finger-sized pieces. Dry-fry (no oil) in hot wok and set aside. (Use vegetable broth if it sticks. Use a non-stick wok, make it hot enough and it won't.)
Chop one red onion and glaze it in the wok.
From your freezer, grab a cup each of broccoli florets, sugar snaps peas, green peas, and edamame beans and heat through. You can also use fresh, obviously, but I like the fast option. Hey, add carrots while you're at it.
Stir in thai red curry paste and deglaze with a can of coconut milk. We like it quite spicy (2 heaped tea spoons) and use the light milk version, but you might have to play with it.
Serve over jasmine white rice or soba noodles.
For a sweet kick, add cherry tomatos and fresh basil strips.
Acknowledge your emotions. Take time to reflect on them throughout the day.Emotional intelligence is not about controlling, avoiding, or ignoring emotions, it's about being aware of them and not letting them take over.
"Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways." Sigmund Freud
Especially when you're stressed, remember to breathe deeply. Counting to ten sometimes works, or opening a window. When you're in a stressful conversation, take a 10-minute walk around the block to clear the air. Time-outs work for adults, too.