An Invitation

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“I believe I have a personal responsibility to make a positive impact.” ~ Anthony Fauci

I chose this image (source: Pinterest) of a “fire rainbow” to illustrate a rare and wonderful atmospheric phenomenon. I also wanted to contrast the point that beauty demonstrated, is not always rare.

Some of you know that I have been wanting to give more of my time, talents and energy to a meaningful and significant cause — on a volunteer basis. This Spring a beautiful opportunity presented.

This March, 2016 Press Release announced my election to the Board of The Coach Initiative – a ten years young organization that supports nonprofit initiatives worldwide to make a greater positive impact.

An Invitation

More specifically, The Coach Initiative (TCI) offers, on a pro-bono basis, coaching support to exponentially expand the positive global impact of projects that focus on the betterment of the human condition and on uplifting the human spirit.

TCI looks to a future where every not-for-profit organization with the purpose of making a positive impact in the world has the support of an experienced professional coach to enhance their contribution toward safer, healthier, happier, more productive global citizenry and the protection and care of our planet.

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We are moving quickly! And herein lies the invitation:

If you are aware of an established not-for-profit organization that could benefit from what TCI offers (see above link), I would like to learn about that nonprofit from you. Preferably, it would be an organization that you have personal experience with, one that you can vouch for their efforts and meaningful focus. In turn, I will have TCI contact that organization with information on how to apply to its program.

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In lieu of often shared points for consideration, following are three quotes that, I believe, remind us of what we are capable of doing. Choices that we make can contribute to the betterment of the human condition.  We simply need to act.

  • “A freely given gift can create a ripple of positive change in a person’s life, their family and their community.” ~ Unknown
  • “You have to throw the stone to get the pool to ripple.” ~ Glenn Tilbrook
  • “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Companions

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“A good companion shortens the longest road.” ~ Turkish Proverb

Companion defined (Dictionary.com): a person or animal with whom one spends a lot of time or with whom one travels; one of a pair of things intended to complement or match each other.

This Thursday, a fellow blogger (Silvia Writes) asked readers “What type of music inspires you?” Answering her question was relatively easy yet it prompted thought about music as a significant companion. When we think of the essentials, we think about food and shelter. However, we often ignore aspects that are essential to our mental health. We do not normally think of companionship as something that’s essential. Yet research has shown that social interaction is crucial for one’s health. And music and companions are social.

When we reflect on companions we often think of a friend, a spouse, a significant other, a soul mate, an animal, a travel partner or maybe an escort.

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Wine and cheese are ageless companions, like aspirin and aches or good people and noble ventures. I like wine and cheese. I relish traveling with a curious travel comrade. And my two dogs shadow me wherever we go, often as unwitting accomplices. But these aren’t the same as having cherished human companions.

For me, music will remain a companion, an inspirational one at times. Just as time in and with Nature will always be a welcomed balm. But have you ever wondered about that human ‘match’? I do, sometimes.

Alas, before digressions co-opt this post, let’s circle back to Silvia’s question. A female vocalist who collaborates with the group Above & Beyond, Zoe Johnston, accompanies amazingly uplifting music. Here’s a clip of Zoe singing a favorite:

What is significant in a companion to/for you?

If you are wondering what contributes to making a good companion, perhaps these three considerations will help:

  1. They listen to you (and you to them). They’re not just nodding their head supportively while you talk. They are actually paying attention because they care about what you think and how you feel and what you find interesting.
  2. They have something in common. Companions have a balance of shared interests, but not in everything. Art galleries, trying new foods, hiking along a coast… What matters is some cross-commonalty.
  3. Life is a dance. Enjoy dancing (literally or metaphorically) with those who will complement your life. Bow out of the dance when it isn’t time to dance and welcome new dance partners as they join in to your life.

Image Credit: Flying Companions by Artsammich (Sam Nielson) Deviant Art

The Thrill of Inclusion

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“No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.” ~ Mohandas K. Gandhi

Being included may not always be thrilling. Yet most of us, I suspect, appreciate being invited and involved.

Basically, inclusive refers to the extent to which we welcome a broad range of backgrounds and interests, taking into account issues of language, ethnicity and culture, gender, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status and disability (or as a wise blogger taught me, ‘diffability’).

A colleague directs diversity and inclusion programs for a large, global business. I recently heard him speak about the proactive measures his company is taking to integrate and enrich diversity and inclusion, worldwide. What he shared, even though it was specific to the workplace, prompted me to reflect on how we consciously and unconsciously, include and exclude.

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How often do you go out of your way to include people? How frequently (even after-the-fact) do you realize you inadvertently omitted or forget to invite others? Perhaps our knee-jerk response is ‘I always invite others,’ until we see or are reminded of an unintentional exclusion. It happens. Yet it need not happen.

Inclusion connects us to innovation and happiness. It’s true! It invites and allows us to make better decisions about the future when all voices are heard – especially younger and elderly voices.

Embracing diversity can bridge cross-cultural divides. Just think of the last time(s) you found yourself in a different cultural setting. Were you open to experiencing all of the newness or were you inclined to stay within your comfortable cocoon? Did you encourage others to share unique aspects of their lives and thinking or were you too tethered to your own beliefs and norms?

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Take potlucks; potlucks are cool. And they’re making a comeback. The act of gathering with others to eat homemade food has health benefits. Merely inviting a diverse group of people to get together, to enjoy one another’s concoctions and to have a good time can be an amazing way to foster connections and build relationships. Simply because people were included.

Most of us know how to be inclusive and to create more positive environments. What helps to foster inclusivity is when our actions are intentional. If you are interested in simple inclusion starters, here are three for your consideration:

  1. When you have the chance, introduce people. Find that shy individual at a social or networking event and introduce them to someone they don’t know. Invite others into a conversation.
  2. Become a mentor, even if informally. Consider the wide variety of people you interact with, then make an effort to help another person to more openly understand and communicate with others. Think: encouraging action.
  3. Simply smile. People are put to ease at this simple facial cue. Building a rapport with someone, discovering more about them and listening to what they have to say builds trust and inclusiveness. The thrill of a smile can go a long way. 🙂

Do You Tell Stories?

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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou

For several years I have attended an annual speaker’s workshop in Las Vegas. One of last year’s presenters was Michael Hauge. Michael works with Hollywood Screenwriters to find and tell what is most authentic in every moment of a story. I learned from him.

Do you tell stories? And I don’t mean fictitious tales. If you do, to whom? For what purpose?

Some of you know that I speak in public. As “facts tell but stories sell,” rarely do I speak exclusively about facts. Rather, I stitch them together into stories to provide an interpretation and to point to a larger significance. I do this because, among other commonalities, we are wired for relationship. In order to grow, develop and move closer in connection, we need to gather from one another. And this can be accomplished by simply sharing an insight or experience with other people.

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For much of my adult life I worked in linear environments, settings which dealt in data, lacked color and focused on bottom lines. We didn’t tell stories; we delivered results to stakeholders. We grew business enterprises that did little to build cultural bridges, construct meaning or provide a shared understanding of our lives as knit together in society.

The only emotion we elicited was scorn from investors when goals weren’t met or elation from the same cohort when financial targets were surpassed.

Yet stories with emotion, the kind that bind families, generations and cultures, are key to what profoundly shape civilizations.

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Have you ever paused to consider how your stories might change hearts and minds? An example: The Diary of Anne Frank did more to educate people about Auschwitz than any research on the topic. And it was simply her story. Stories invite participation. When you tell a story, you are essentially creating a framework for the listener, reader or viewer to insert their own details, thereby enabling an active role in the story itself.

Think about this: Identifying common value is attractive, not just for those with whom we want to communicate directly, but also to other listeners we might want to be part of the conversation. And many of us want to be part of some conversation. Right?

The reality is that each of us can be a storyteller. Perhaps you’ve not thought of yourself as one. What might be an insignificant experience to you could serve as a meaningful lesson for others. Yet, how are they going to benefit from said lesson if you aren’t telling your stories?

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Don’t zip it. Share it! As an emerging (or growing) storyteller, consider these points:

  1. Have a reason or an objective. It may be to encourage or inspire or cause someone to think differently. Keep the story’s purpose in mind. At the story’s end, reflect on what you shared. And ask if there are questions.
  2. Be imperfect. We are delighted by stories that involve some vulnerability. People want to hear about struggles, and how to overcome them. It’s okay to talk about success but talk about the challenges; what got you there!
  3. Spread the glory. Give credit and explanation to those in your life who have helped you in your journey. Acknowledge those who influenced you and lifted you up to the heights you reached.

What Others Need Now

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“Make yourself necessary to somebody.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

People watching / observing human interaction is a favorite pastime. I got to do this today, waiting (for quite a while) in a hospital pavilion. Behaviors abounded ranging from sheer joy to bewilderment, from rudeness to emotionally drained — with smiles, laughter, tears and ugliness interspersed. And I got to thinking…

There are a lot of people who are vain and arrogant, who see themselves as the center of the world. And I wondered… if the human species ceased to exist today, while the animals that we underrate lived on, would the world be changed for the better? Then I snapped out of it, reflecting instead on how our we favorably impact others.

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When I think about the people who made the biggest impact in my life, it has been those who showed a sincere belief in me; those who let me know through their words and actions that I mattered. And to me, mattering is a universal human need, one that each of us have an opportunity to satisfy.

With those people I observed today, the mere fact that they were born, that they exist, regardless of their circumstances, mood or looks — reminded me that each one of them is indispensable, necessary, and irreplaceable. They matter.

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Have we become superambitious and hyperproductive in order to create some semblance of outer control in place of no inner control? Are we that detached from our fellow-man? I think not. Rather, I think we sometimes forget that we can create a world in which each of us knows we matter, believing in ourselves and supporting one another. Actions you take today can make a difference in someone’s life tomorrow. And that ripple would carry into future generations. Just imagine…

If you are unsure about what to do when you encounter or interact with someone significant or yet-to-be significant in your life, here are three things to consider:

  1. Notice everyone. When you do, you recognize their value and importance. Go out of your way to acknowledge people. Make an effort to “see” them. I’m not going to suggest how; this is where you get to play.
  2. Ask meaningful questions. We show people how much they matter by the questions we ask. For example: How can I make your day? Do you know how smart you are? Are you aware of all you have accomplished today? People’s feelings can be significantly changed, simply by your thoughtful questions.
  3. Show hope. How you interact with people you meet could be the stimulant that provides them with encouragement for a better day. Enthusiastically, let others know you believe in them and their potential. The idiom Hope Springs Eternal does infer promise. 🙂

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What to Give

5824862885_0e7c2dd835_m“Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.” ~ Sarah Bernhardt

As a child growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I fondly recall my Dad taking us to the REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) store in downtown Seattle. With its warped wooden plank floors, it was located on the upper levels of an old warehouse. A co-op for all things outdoors (and more), it remains my favorite place in which to lose myself and spend considerable moolah.

My siblings and I were introduced to hiking, backpacking and camping at early ages. And we loved it! Now living in the desert Southwest, I pine for the pines, the mountain trails, crystal clear lakes and rivers, and nature’s majestic tranquility — well, unless one is white water rafting.

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So where did I find myself today? At a local REI outlet. I was browsing for Christmas gift ideas because I rarely give a gift unless it jazz’s me first. I left the store empty-handed, returning to my car. And it was in that parking lot that I had an insight: I am a giver. I always have been. Of myself and the material/tangible. I enjoy benevolence and I know many have appreciated being on the receiving side of gifting.

But I’m done with what has, for decades, been tradition; unless there is a pressing/genuine need for something perceptible. This year my Christmas gifts are going to be different. I’ve got some ideas but I am committed to identifying creative alternatives. At my cost, my objective is to invite family and friends to be part of creating joy and significance for people who may have little or receive nothing. Something substantive yet beautiful in its simplicity.

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This is where you can help and in doing so, share ideas for we of like mind. I would love to read/learn what you have heard about or done in this vein. I’m inviting your input. I’ve already had someone suggest gifting through Heifer International, an established, reputable organization that empowers sustainability efforts around the world with/for poor people in developing countries.

If you’re inclined to think ‘outside of the box,’ please do. I am encouraging all suggestions. In advance, thank you for taking a few moments to enlighten me with your thoughts. I’m navigating a new path and I’m excited for how this will be a win-win for, perhaps, you too. 🙂

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Significance Personified

images“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that some (many?) of my posts are not “on the light side.” Lest you think that Eric is always deliberate and doesn’t write about “joyful” matters, I am sharing what follows. It was sent by a reader who understood yesterday’s post, yet thought this saying was a light-hearted way to ‘bring it home.’

In the spirit of small acts and making contributions, I invite you (in comments) to share something you’ve recently done that you consider significant (all random acts count!) and that brought a smile to your and someone else’s face. 🙂

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Quality of Life, Varies

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“The significance of a man is not in what he attains, but rather what he longs to attain.”  ~ Kahlil Gibran

Reference.com defines significance as, “importance; consequence; meaning.” I’ve previously posted about significance and given what I believe it means to many, I’m revisiting it.

Significance is not a subject on which people often dwell. Instead, many are focused on achieving success, however one defines success. When you ‘Google’ the word significance you find abundant reference to: statistics, physics, ethics, religion, history, locations, and significant others. But you need to dig deeper to find works that address it in the context of life meaning and the accumulation of moments that matter.

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It’s easy to feel like small acts of kindness are unimportant in the big scheme of things, especially in parts of our world that are captivated by fame, promotion and bravado. But small acts can be incredibly important. Life stories, even legacies, are not possible without a series of meaningful acts; with each moment adding on a quality to the next.

A person who is leading a significant life is unimpressed with him/herself.

Many of us are passionately engaged on the road towards success (I certainly once was), but if we are asked whether or not we are living a life of significance, some may not have an answer. It’s not easy. And it’s not for everyone. Creating a life of significance takes planning and awareness of your calling, values, and goals. And this is something that can become lost in day-to-day living. However, it is attainable.

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Copious choices exist if living a life of significance is an aspiration. Here are three possibilities to consider:

  1. There are opportunities every day to learn new things, meet new people, explore new ideas, and contribute to the betterment of yourself. Many only appear once. Don’t miss them. Or… maybe you’d rather create them!
  2. Contemplate telling your truth of the moment. (It evolves as you grow and change.) Be authentic by your definition, not what others cast upon you. When you become grounded in who you are, it becomes easier to push beyond limits and live more significantly.
  3. Opportunities for turning what you do into ‘what you give back’ are virtually limitless. If you’re itching to shift your focus towards doing things of greater value, what would you consider to be the most pressing issues of our time? How could you leverage your skills and interests to help solve a piece of those problems?

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Significance can be core to the overall quality of how you live your life. In part, it’s about ‘who you are’ and how your choices have a ripple effect on your family, community, and the wider world.

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.

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.