Firebirdlifecoach's Blog

Pursuing a Passionate Life

Inspiration from the Inside – Out February 6, 2013

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Quiet Day in the showroomI was stuck… There was a list of “to-do” items as long as my arm – I sat at my desk, searching for a place to start and painfully aware of the need to get going. The phenomenon is not unusual, many people feel pressed right now and it is not uncommon for it to create a sense of overwhelm that results in a state of inertia. But common or not, it isn’t a place anyone really wants to stay for very long. The trick is how do you find the path outward? Though it may not seem so obvious in the moment the options are plentiful, here are some of the most common:
• You may decide that you need to just “break” the moment a bit, step away from the “stuckness”; go fix yourself a cup of coffee or take a walk to the supply-room to grab a new pen – anything that takes you out of the moment in hopes of a simple reset when you return.
• You could try to force the issue – mustering your discipline to “just do it” and hope that by jumping into the fray – your sheer force of will, can suffice to break the stand-off.
• You may seek to do a little meditation to quiet the mind- since often it is the swirl of all the tasks in your head themselves which are preventing you from getting started on any one of them.
• Or you may choose to spend a little time connecting with a friend or colleague – taking a moment to vent, to distract, or to seek a little collaboration and insight.
• You may look outward – reading a favorite quote or passage which rekindles your spark.
• You could decide that today is just not going to be your most productive day – and hope that tomorrow a fresh start will provide new momentum.
• Or you can take the time to look inward, to connect with your own self; your values, goals, passions and strengths. Connecting the “why” with the “what” and thus creating your own inspiration.
From one day to the next you may find yourself working through this list of alternatives or trying something not mentioned here – but I generally find the last option to be the most effective. Because often, when we can truly connect with our own personal motivations for what we do we are most effective at re-energizing ourselves to actually get the work done. It’s easy to lose track of “the why”. On a day-to-day basis – so many of us are on a sort of automatic pilot – going through our days – checking off our lists – but not really even completely conscious of what we are doing and what got us here in the first place. For many, life has become a series of days where the only obvious purpose is to “just get by” and our investment in the process has become just enough to keep us around to face another day tomorrow. And indeed, there are times when that is in fact an achievement worth striving for – but the hope is – at some point – it will be about more.
Maybe you aren’t in your dream job and the work you do provides a simple paycheck to help make ends meet – but if you connect with your fundamental value – that you are doing it to provide a home and basic amenities for yourself and your family – well, hell in my book that’s pretty darned important. Maybe you have a burning need to create something, to inspire others, to be of service to your community, to be a positive role model for your children, to teach, to build or any other countless possibilities. Inside you somewhere, are your values, goals and passions – and whether or not they are obvious in an outward fashion – they are shaping the decisions you make, the things you do and how you do them. So next time you need a little inspiration to move a ahead – take a moment to look within – to find that part of your soul which fuels the fire within your very existence – and let it burn baby! You’ll be surprised to find out just how inspiring you can be.

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A Test of Strength/s April 27, 2010

A while back I wrote a couple of blogs about the VIA Survey of Character Strengths and one of those strengths in particular, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence. (See blog posts 1/19/10, “The Strength of Strengths” and 1/20/10, “Beauty and Excellence – Ignition”) I have been thinking a lot recently about another of my top five Signature Strengths (See: http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx) which is “Creativity, Ingenuity and Originality”. For purposes of this entry, this strength is defined by the folks at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center as-“Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.”

It is true; I do value originality and creativity (both in myself and in others) and constantly strive to envision new possibilities and perspectives.  I think part of it is that I am inspired by the challenge of new ideas. I like it when something challenges me to think in a new way and I appreciate people’s ability to put things together in new and innovative ways. Convention has its usefulness, I am at times comforted by familiarity and the quiet ease it affords but for the most part I prefer the disquiet that a new idea affords. In actuality I guess I prefer a balanced mix – tradition is non-threatening, safe, easy and familiar while ingenuity is energizing and inspiring for me.

There most certainly is a value and a merit to each side of the coin and how one determines how much of each they need in their lives really depends on their own personal style, preference and needs. The main idea here being that the choice is individual and the most important piece here is about doing what is “true” for you. I have come to appreciate how valuable it is to work from our strengths whatever they may be. For me, this strength, “Creativity, Originality and Ingenuity – informs many things about my character and lifestyle, from the choices I make for recreation, to the people I seek out as friends, to how I dress, how I think and what inspires me. It is mine, I own it and I live it. But for you the these pieces may not factor significantly into your days. Your strengths may lie in your compassion for others, your zest for life or your courage. Each one of us has a different compliment and they are not truly fixed in time, but rather fluid with some rising to the top at some times in your life more than others.

When I work with clients, I always ask them to take the “VIA Survey of Character Strengths” located on the website listed above. It doesn’t take very long maybe 30 minutes, to answer all the questions and the results may (or may not) surprise you. All the same, knowing your strengths can be a valuable tool in creating the life you want – because the more aware you are of what they are, the more easily you can draw upon them in enhancing your life. So, if I may, I’d like to suggest that you go to the website and give it a whirl, if nothing else, it may be an affirming experience.

 

Beauty and Excellence – Ignition January 20, 2010

“Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence”, according to the VIA Survey of Characteristics which I took again yesterday after writing about it in my blog, is currently my top Signature Strength. I say “currently” because the strengths do move around a little bit. The last time I took “the VIA” about a year ago – I got similar results, in that my top five strengths were the same as they were this time, but they did shift around a bit in their ranking.

Per the survey, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence is defined as; “You notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience.” And in fact, it is true, I most certainly do. But I want to add that what I experience goes beyond appreciation and attention – I notice these things because I find them inspiring. I have thought a lot about inspiration (and plan to write a blog about it when I can gather my thoughts on what exactly I would like to say) – nonetheless this little reminder of my “Top” character strength brings it to the fore.

I had thought about the idea that I believe inspiration is the fuel that ignites our passion. And I do get very energized when I see something that is beautiful, or hear an idea that is exceptional – no matter what the context. There is something about the simple awareness itself, of something exquisite, unique and extraordinary that fills me with a sense of wonder and excitement. So though at first I was a little surprised to find this at the top of my list of strengths the more I think about it the more I become sure that at least for now, that seems to be the right place for it. Beautiful how these things work out sometimes, isn’t it?

 

The Strength of Strengths January 19, 2010

Positive Psychology seems to have found its voice in popular culture. The branch of psychology founded by Dr. Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania which focuses on positive psychological emotions, personal strengths and personal health is getting a lot of airplay these days. And why not? For too long, the field of psychology has been fixated on dysfunction, mental illness and pathology and Seligman’s drive to look at the “up-side” is a refreshing and much-needed break that takes in a fuller, more complete picture of psychological experience.
In my opinion, one of the best things to come out of this branch of psychology is the classification of 24 specific character strengths. See: Character Strengths and Virtues by Christopher Peterson and Martin E.P. Seligman. In this handbook and classification manual these two researchers set-out to define and classify strengths under a broader range of virtues which transcend various cultures and historical time periods. They are: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. Under each of these virtues fall a number of personal strengths that are widely valued as positive traits.
I have found in my work as a coach, that having my clients take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths questionnaire is a useful tool in helping them to move forward with their goals. The survey under the Engagement Questionnaires header can be taken for free online at http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx
Knowing what your personal strengths are and actively engaging them in your life is a powerful intervention. So go ahead, take a look it may take a few minutes, but it’s worth it. Maybe you will be surprised, maybe not, but aren’t you just a little bit curious to see what it says?