Physical, Visible, and Humble

Jan Maxwell

Jan Maxwell

“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.” ~ Victor Hugo

Hailing from Fargo, North Dakota, Jan Maxwell hasn’t shed her humble roots. Those who know and appreciate theater, know Ms. Maxwell. The stage and television screen have been her professional home for decades. Critically acclaimed, Ms. Maxwell made and continues to make a name for herself while being a full-time mom.

What began as a “hobby,” Jan sensed early that she might be able to carve out a modest living as an actress. She enjoyed performing before live audiences and left North Dakota for New York City, unaware of how competitive and demanding her chosen field was and is.

Years later (she’s 57), she has five Tony Award nominations (she’s one of only three women to be nominated in all four acting categories) and countless other industry awards from her peers, yet she’s still Jan from North Dakota, a mom, and a woman who just happens to love her work. And, I’ll add, is very good at it.

Jan was my guest this week on the Awakening to Awareness Radio Show during which she talked about the irony in her profession being called a “play” when in reality, it’s hard work. She spoke about the range of emotions she has to exude while in character; making ‘real-time’ mistakes on stage and how she’s learned and practices “instant forgiveness”; her philosophy on aging and; the importance of perseverance on stage and in life.

When I invited Jan to share one take-away with listeners, she didn’t hesitate and said: “Follow your passion and do it now!”

Our conversation provided a glimpse behind the stage curtain; identified who she believes are the hardest working people in theater and; what she may find herself doing when she chooses to retire from a world many only see on the surface.

If you’re interested in listening to Jan’s thoughtful perspectives, here’s the podcast link.

Inspiring Others

“Have you ever been stopped in your tracks? By a stranger who affected you profoundly?” ~ Eric Tonningsen

Months ago, I briefly mentioned a woman named Rose. I committed to writing about her in a later post. Now I am. Rose served as the inspiration for a story I shared over a three-month series of progressive speech contests. This video was the last time I told the story in May.

If you watch the video, you’ll better understand where this post is going. And yes, it has to do with how we inspire… and how people like you, inspire me.

Fifteen months ago I launched this blogging journey. Truthfully, I get more out of reading and viewing your posts, than I do crafting and sharing mine. I’ve (virtually) met an amazing, creative cadre; people who take time to share what’s on their minds, in their hearts, seen through their lenses, and created on their unique easels.  To each of you, for enriching my life, a respectful hat tip.

We don’t all follow one another’s blogs. Ergo, I want to acknowledge four bloggers whose work has inspired me and in doing so, invite you to visit their site. You may find yourself comparably inspired. Yes, there are countless more than these four people who move, motivate, and inspire me to think, act, laugh, and cry. I appreciate how each of you chooses to contribute to our community.

In my predictable format, here are three ways in which to consider inspiring others, if so inclined:

  1. Untether people. Don’t simply give people your advice. Give them the freedom to figure it out themselves. No one likes a micro-manager or a know-it-all. If you’re asked for help, share a rough outline to help the person move in the right direction, but leave something to their imagination so they’ll have the freedom to fill in the blanks. Self-discovery will show them that they’re fully capable and more powerful that they ever thought possible.
  2. Empathize with people’s judgments and how you’d like to see their life differently. You can often find presence in the feelings and needs that lie behind their world view. Maybe they aren’t changing, but you can create space in which to transform your own judgments and expectations. You have the capacity to shift opinions of others and relationships by simply focusing on yourself.
  3. Acknowledge contributions of others. You’re just one person yet you’ve contributed to your own life successes. What about others who have added meaning and value to your life? It’s not always your idea. :) Acknowledge other’s contributions publicly, if possible, to show people you’re humble and appreciative enough to give them credit for how they’ve affected you.

Me… Stressed??

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” ~ Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

This past Sunday we experienced what meteorologists call a “100 year rain event.” Put simply, it means we got slammed. I live in the desert and when rains of this magnitude fall, it is impossible for the arid land to absorb so much water in such a compressed period of time. It yields massive flooding and it literally sweeps away what you would never imagine being uprooted and moved.

It’s unnerving to watch portions of your property wash down an arroyo. It’s frustrating when years of manual labor and xeriscaping simply vanishes. It’s been a physically and emotionally draining week.

Wednesday evening, exhausted, I finally created time to put what had happened into perspective. I looked at Bailey and Logan (my canine companions) and started to laugh, at them and myself! After days of massive cleaning up, where neighbors slogged and rallied to support each other, I realized that it was just earth and rocks and trees and railroad ties. And how important are they? :)

My focus shifted to how fortunate we were. In the bigger global picture, I’m still abundantly blessed. There was no loss of life, the interior of the house was undamaged, electricity was eventually restored and life will go on. Me… stressed? Perhaps then. Me… grateful? Absolutely now.

Before

Before. Peaceful. Prethreatened.

After. It's worse than it looks.

After. It’s worse than it looks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are there take-aways? Sure there are.

1) I found my way back to positive thinking which, in this case, meant that I approached unpleasantness in a positive and productive way. I changed my self-talk to align with the best is going to happen, not the worst. I (eventually) paused and chose to cope, thus mitigating the harmful effects of stress.

2) When I got around to laughing, I was focused on Bailey and Logan. Many are unaware of the physical and mental health benefits that accompany time shared with pets. They’re mood enhancers! Studies have shown that pets lower blood pressure in stressful situations and it doesn’t have to be a cat or a dog. Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension.

3) I realized I still possessed what mattered; family, health and friends. Researchers from The Australian Longitudinal Study on Aging looked at 1,500 men and women for a full decade. Among their findings was that having good friends is more likely to increase health and longevity than even close relationships with other family members. The researchers speculate that the emotional support friends provide one another during difficult times, contributes stress reduction benefits as a result of feeling connected to other people.

Jumping Off the Bandwagon

“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein

WARNING: This post is not about Robin Williams.

I may lose readers after having read this post and that’s fine. This blog has never been about the numbers game. It’s about stirring your soul… and encouraging you to look into yourself… to realize your potential… and to focus on what really matters — how you choose to use your gifts, live, and contribute to humanity.

Earlier today I scrolled through the WordPress Reader and recent posts on other social media sites. I knew I’d see them but was astounded at how many people jumped on the Robin Williams bandwagon. Then I intentionally paused to process what I’d seen and read.

I have nothing against Robin Williams. He was a creative and talented man. He brought laughter and thought into many people’s lives, in and out of character. He battled his own demons. And I began to wonder, why does it often require a celebrity, fame, or someone with name recognition, to call our attention to social issues, serious needs, and opportunities? Why do people frequently hold up and pay tribute to talented individuals, people with marquee names, upon their passing?

What about mankind’s masses who struggle and are similarly burdened but are not wealthy, famous and/or “successful?”

In the above video, Clark Little tells how he has chosen to pursue his passion. He didn’t do what everyone else was doing. He blazed his own trail. And he’s loving every minute of life. He’s focused on and using his personal gifts to fulfill his potential. He’s not a lemming; expending energy on simply doing what many others are doing.

Sure there are lessons to be learned from Robin Williams’s choice to end his life. He has, as have others before him, rekindled and created awareness about mental health and addiction. They are real problems and warrant attention. But does jumping on the viral bandwagon to share a few kind words about him change anything?

So you may be saying, what’s your point Eric? Well, it’s pretty simple. Each of us, however illuminated our names are in lights, has unlimited potential. We possess personal gifts and skills. We have enormous, untapped capacity to live our purpose.

The questions then: Are you? Are you acting in your own unique way to effect change? Change that you desire and value? Are your actions genuinely aligned with what really matters? If they are/you are not, what are you waiting for? Are you your own leader? Are you creating moments that are meaningful, even if there is no fame, fortune or popularity involved?

When young, ducklings follow the brace because it’s instinctive. Humans, too. But what makes our species special is that we don’t have to paddle or flock in formation. We can soar in any direction we want. And create amazing outcomes, singularly.

Why Dogs Sniff Butts

 “Like the herd animals we are, we sniff warily at the strange one among us.” ~ Loren Eisenley

Stay with me; I’m going somewhere thoughtful here.

A dog lover, they’ve been part of my life for decades. So naturally, I was drawn to a recent article titled, “Why Do Dogs Sniff Each Other’s Butts? It’s More Complicated Than You Might Imagine.” Turns out, it’s all about one canine literally sniffing out important information about the other; its gender, emotional state, diet, and more. It’s like communicating with chemicals. As part of its olfactory system, dogs nerves direct the chemical information it detects directly to the brain so there’s no interference from other odors. Keep this “no interference” in mind.

Which brings me to the actual focus for this post. As humans, we also process information by:

  • Being quiet inside and really listening as a way of being aware of our own feelings as well as the feelings of others and;
  • Being aware of habitual negative patterns of thought, behavior and communication and then making positive choices to better serve ourselves and others.

When it comes to effective, meaningful communication, there is probably not a more important skill than listening. Not just hearing but truly listening. Listening is challenging for many people because we are often:

  • Focused on the physical appearance, social status, or the clothing of the person speaking. Maybe even judging them.
  • Planning on what you have to do once the conversation has ended.
  • Devising a solution while the other person is sharing a problem.

Hearing refers to the sounds that you hear. It’s what many people do. Listening requires more than that: it requires focus. Just as canines use their acute sense of smell to enhance communication, we can further develop our skill by listening with our eyes and our heart. Think Golden Rule: How do you want to be listened to?

Most of us believe we’re good listeners. If you want to become an even better listener, consider these ideas:

  1. Avoid letting the speaker know how you handled a similar situation. Unless they specifically ask for advice, assume they simply need to talk it out.
  2. Listen without interrupting. Often, people want to interject their own thoughts. (Yes, we know we do.) Does your body acknowledge that you are listening? Use smiles, nods, and expressions of understanding to communicate to the speaker that you are listening. It is important for them to know their words are respected.
  3. Want to listen. This is unique. You must have an intent to listen. Sometimes you don’t want to listen. At other times, your actions may indicate that you don’t want to listen when you really do. And at still other times, you may be unaware that you don’t want to listen. We can be as good a listener as we want.

a4

Left Brain, Right Brain

“A creative idea will be defined simply as one that is both novel and useful (or influential) in a particular social setting.” ~ Alice Flaherty

We have many creative people in our world. Many, conveniently, blog among us. In the WordPress Reader I recently found a Chris Delatorre post. He’s a creative thinker and (if you’ll pardon the simple word) doer.

Being creative or artistic doesn’t mean you know how to draw or play an instrument. Being creative is a way of thinking, a way of viewing the world. Creative people simply use the right side of their brains more than the left. The enduring question with creativity has always been whether the defining factors come from nature or nurture. Everyone can learn to be creative to some degree, but new Cornell University research has revealed that the extent to which we’re born creative may be greater than previously thought.

As a hardwired ‘left brainer,’ I find some comfort in now knowing this. :)

In one of his posts, Chris writes that he believes science and art ought to make a home together. In this video, Max Cooper creatively depicts life coming into being, blooming and then vanishing. I’d be challenged enough to find the right words to express that, let alone create what he has visually.

Researchers have also confirmed that creativity flourishes in solitude. With quiet, you can hear your thoughts, you can reach deep within yourself, you can focus.

If exploring the right side of your corpus callosum is something that interests you, here are three easy enablers:

  1. Pause from business thinking. Or any kind of thinking that requires intense focus. While it might be challenging to step outside ‘business mode,’ the mind sometimes needs a rest from bottom-line thinking. Consider taking a mental vacation and indulge in something you’re passionate about. Then come back, refreshed, to the task(s) at hand. You may see things in a very different light. Being with beautiful things (art, nature, passions) creates connections that we often neglect to notice.
  2. Shut down your inner critical voice. Notice I said “critical.” Don’t think. Disable the part of your brain that observes what you’re doing. This is your ego, your sabotage, your self-consciousness. Be in the moment (I know, I say this often). Stop second-guessing everything you’re doing. It serves no purpose to be hard on yourself. Remind yourself that you are creative and that you’re doing what you’re doing not to impress anyone.
  3. Experiment and play with possibility. It’s easy to dismiss unusual or different solutions which you haven’t tried. People often think of all the possible ways that something won’t work. And they easily dismiss the idea of experimenting. We can’t foretell the future even though many would like to. Simply go forward into it in a creative and exciting new way.
Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Live Your Epic Life

                          Byron Davis“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.”

~ R. Buckminster Fuller

A former American record holder (swimming), an Ironman Triathlete, a career coach and founder of the epic life project, Byron Davis has a gift for helping people get unstuck and to transform their passions into lives and careers they love. Byron is the author of “RePurposed: The Art of Winning Through Letting Your Obstacles Lead the Way.”

He is also a friend and was my guest on last week’s Awakening to Awareness radio show. A sought-after conference speaker, Byron is entertaining to watch and easy to understand. He helps audiences reverse limiting beliefs on the spot and teaches them to use the simple power of personal narratives to quickly establish new habits and activate their God-gifted potential.

In an amazing one-hour conversation Byron shared thoughts on how fear holds people back; his interesting concept on time; why accountability is important for each of us and; how both relationships and systems are essential for moving forward. He also talked about the role storytelling plays in becoming more self-aware and for fulfilling one’s desires and ambitions, as well as why we find some lessons/teachings difficult to receive.

If you’re interested in listening and learning more, here’s a link to the show podcast. Byron is a high energy guy, who has studied human behavior and potential for years. He can be contacted through his web site or here.

A Meaningful Life Trumps

“Life is not infinite, but its potential is. Embrace every second and you’ll triumph over compunction.” ~ Eric Tonningsen

It took years, but I finally figured it out. When you’re not happy, unfulfilled, or not living a meaningful life — you ought to (I really wanted to type must) make a change. If you remain a slave to cultural expectations, and the trappings of money, power, status and/or perceived success, you’ve left a void in your life. I told myself, “If you’re truly unhappy with your job, move on.” “Find a way to pursue your passion and your mission in life.”

So I left a world in which I prostituted myself to shareholders, made good money, traveled the world and had whatever I wanted. What was missing was meaning and significance. And I knew this for some time.

I’m not saying quit your job; you may love your job.  But are you happy? Essentially we are when we get what we want. But when our happiness outweighs the meaning in our lives, something’s disproportionate. I believe happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed life, in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult affairs are avoided.

When I decided to step out of my comfort zone and into the unknown it was terrifying and exhilarating; surreal and at times, indescribable. Suddenly, I was accountable to myself. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t that highly confident being. Yet I knew I was heading in the right direction.

Days after I left the traditional workforce, I came across this Joseph Campbell quote. It has guided and inspired me since. “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” To which I have personally added, “…and what you can still be.”

If you are contemplating a major life shift; how you might contribute in more meaningful ways and; how living a life of greater significance might change you — here are three anchoring thoughts as you explore your potential and how realizing it could be beautifully fulfilling.

  1. Figure out what defines you. You’ve dreamed most of your life. You have a vision for ‘what could be.’ It/they can still be achieved. Personally, I have a lot of life left and plans to effect change. Sure, everything won’t work out just as I’ve planned. But I can focus on being ready for whatever opportunities (and challenges) come my way. Dreams and visions can define us, even if they don’t turn out exactly as we hoped.
  2. Question whose approval you are seeking. Like it or not, we’re all sometimes guilty of relying on others opinions to feed our feelings and self-worth. While approval and compliments from others can feel great, seeking them all the time can be unhealthy. They can turn into self-fulfilling cycles of negative feelings. When you start on a self-discovery journey and pursue what you want to do, you take ownership of your life and begin to realize that it matters what you think about you.
  3. You have a right to pursue your passions. Don’t ever let anyone convince you that pursuing your passion is impractical. Passion is what brings meaning and value to your life. The quality of your life experience is directly affected by the pursuit of your passion(s). Don’t allow your passions to drift into the “maybe someday” file. Life is too short to settle for anything less than passionate.

What Gets Under Your Skin?

There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: Those who are afraid to try themselves, and those who are afraid that you will succeed.” ~ Roy Goforth

Rarely, at least with this blog, do I drift into the personal opinion sphere. It’s simply not the focus for this communication vehicle. Yet, as with many (most?) of us, every now and then something rocks us so significantly that we need to release… to engage ourselves and invite others to do so too.

Sometimes it helps to let things go because we cannot influence a desired outcome. Other times, the itch under our skin (and that may be putting it mildly) warrants more than just scratching. If a cause or opportunity is our number one priority, we’d easily invest more of our valuable time and energy into securing a meaningful solution.

But in some ‘lesser’ cases, calls to action are timely and desperately needed.

Yesterday’s post reminded and encouraged me that we can effect positive change. We can initiate or conjoin a ripple. A ripple of hope! So let us consider taking action, in whatever form you are capable and comfortable… to end the strife, the hate, loss of precious life, and the overt acts against humanity in the Middle East.

I believe most of us subscribe to and embrace the concepts of respect, compassion, and dignity. Do not think or believe that you, individually, cannot effect change. Even small change. It’s too easy to be passive or think negatively. Be a ripple!

One Small Touch

“Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they send forth a tiny ripple of hope.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy

Some, perhaps many of us, have learned: We did not have to do something amazing to initiate growth. A small action can go a long way. It doesn’t take a boulder to create a ripple effect in the water. A finger is enough. As everything is interconnected in life, we only need be brave enough to take the first, maybe very small step. Before we know it, we may realize that we are a ripple effect.

A ripple effect is a situation where, like the ever-expanding ripples across the water when an object is dropped into it, an effect from the initial state can be followed outward incrementally. Applied to our lives, everything we do and think affects people in our lives and their reactions in turn affect others. The choices you make have far reaching consequences. Not surprisingly then, each of us carries within us the capacity to change the world in small ways for better or worse.

Examples of ripple effect can be found in economics, social interactions, charitable activities, financial markets, political influence, compassionate action and so on. The concept helps to explain how individual and grassroots efforts can yield significant change.

Case in point: A Harvard University study was conducted on a large, real world social network. It used modern statistical methods to analyze data from the Framingham Heart Study. It found that if a friend of a person became happy, the person’s chance of becoming happy increased by about 15%. If a friend of a friend became happy it increased by about 10% and a friend of a friend of a friend by almost 6%. This event occurred even if the person had never met many of the people involved.

If we can synchronize our intentions and actions toward common goals, our independent waves will continue to add to each other as they travel out through energetic fields. The result will be much greater than we can manifest independently.

Here are three ways in which you can initiate ripple effect:

  1. I’m not promoting this; it’s simply an example: For just US$4 you can provide a child with clean water. Consider joining the Ripple Effect movement and invest US$4 every month to save and improve lives. You’ll contribute to a wave of positive change and watch as the waves get bigger and bigger, bringing clean water, better health, and new opportunities to countless in great need.
  2. Move forward so that you are in your best place possible including relationships, health, career, and spirituality. To effectively help others, you often have to have gone through difficult experiences in order to relate to others. But you also have to know how to grow from those experiences and to use them to benefit yourself and others. If you succeed and “walk your walk,” others can and will be more open to your insight and ways.
  3. Your influence and ability to effect change will grow as your ripples flow outward. Consider smiling at someone you don’t know, acting instead of just thinking, initiating a thoughtful gesture, or alleviating a stranger’s pain. Do good things. Small things. Humbly. For others.