What’s In Your Pickle Jar?

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I keep hearing people calling for more balance in their lives. I don’t believe it’s actually balance they need at all! In fact the same people screaming for balance also want to live full, rich lives and have crammed their datebooks and calendars full with activities, events and “to-dos” to provide them the balance to their overflowing work life!

It is not balance you seek!

Balance is the act of two of more objects being of same weight, or in this case importance. This just isn’t the case for most people I speak with. What is happening in most people’s lives is that something of lesser importance or of less value to someone is taking more time or weight from the things that create joy and fulfillment in their lives. So if you are spending too many hours doing things that don’t bring you joy and then you try to add equal time doing things that do bring you joy you are going to be out of time and totally stressed!

So what happens is the work stuff gets done and the joy stuff does not.

The Professor’s Example

A long time ago when I was screaming for balance in my life as well I came across the classroom story of “The Pickle Jar.” The professor was explaining that when people thought the jar was full with a bunch of large rocks, there was still room in it for more and he added pebbles, sand and even water until there was no empty space. The underlying theme of the entire demonstration is that if you put your big rocks (most important things to you) into this pickle jar (representing your life) first then the next important things (represented by pebbles) then the next (sand) and the next (water) you will have space for everything in your life. The professor’s take on this was that there is so much we can fit in our lives even if we think our lives are full now by simply making sure the big things get in first and then you can fit so much more in it.

As well intentioned as that lesson is, I think it’s a load of crap and that most of us are walking around with stuffed pickle jars! Just because you can cram a ton of stuff into your pickle jar does not mean you should. I believe the good professor missed the point that if you fill your jar with rocks, pebbles, sand and water there is no room for life-giving air.

Where is the air?

Humans, can do so many amazing things and some can go for long periods of time with really full pickle jars but what happens when there is no air to breathe or feed the flame and no space to absorb and enjoy the process or the results? The pickle jar smothers out causing all sorts of issues that may show up as burn-out, anxiety, depression, lost relationships, health issues or substance abuse.

So I ask you, is your pickle jar too full? Do you even know what is filling your pickle jar anymore? Was a rock or pebble placed in your pickle jar by someone other than you? Does each rock and pebble in your jar belong there today?

It’s time to examine this cry for balance and begin to look at what we are trying to achieve. I believe what people are truly seeking is not balance but a fullness of life. People tell me they wish to fill their lives with people and experiences that matter to them and contribute to the greater good in the mean time. When I sit down with them and examine their desired life and current pickle jar, they just don’t seem to match.

What Can You Do?

Dump out that pickle jar and look at all the items in it. Should the rocks be rocks or maybe pebbles?  What might you take out of your pickle jar and put in a “not now” pile?  An item may indeed be a rock, but the time for that rock to take priority in your life might not be this moment. These are hard but necessary questions if you are seeking to live a less stressed and more fulfilled life. Think about it, if your pickle jar is stuffed, how can you possibly enjoy and experience all that you’ve stuffed it with if you can’t even move things around and see it all?

Fulfilled life doesn’t necessarily mean a filled life. There needs to be space in your life to be able to be present and enjoy what you place in your pickle jar! For me I gained amazing results when I looked at my pickle jar and consciously refilled it with a nice mix of rocks, pebbles, sand and water – I also was able to fit a shell in there too!

How do you want to fill your pickle jar?FullSizeRender-1

 

 

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Did Your “Calling” Lose Your Number?

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So you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up? That’s ok. Yes, I said it, it is totally ok!

This doesn’t mean that you just sit back and wait for the lightning bolt to strike or that “moment” when your purpose just hits you – it rarely happens like that. Few people knew at a young age what they were destined to be, and some of those who did know decide part way through their life that maybe they need to be something different anyway.

So if the Aha moment isn’t necessarily coming and you don’t have a clue what you were put on this earth to do, what do you do? How do you get to where you need to be when you don’t know where that is?

You Are Not Alone

As a coach I see many people in this conundrum. They know they are not currently fulfilled or doing what they were called to do, yet they have no idea how to find their “passion” and their calling isn’t dialing in!

Many are surprised when I tell them they are not alone, they feel like they are the only ones stumbling around in the dark bumping around in a fun house at an amusement park, however it is not fun nor amusing. There is anxiety in their voice, they must have a purpose, they have been told as much. Why is it so easy for others to find their purpose and so hard for them?

How Do I Find It?

First off, let’s break this myth that it is easy to find your passion. I have done countless exercises with people and they themselves have taken numerous quizzes and questionnaires (some proven, and others just facebook algorithms) and each person is moved at different times with different tools. You see there is not really a viable, “5 Tips to Uncovering Your Passion” that works for everyone.

What works best in my experience is when people take action. You see I don’t believe in the Law of Attraction as much as I truly believe in the Power of Action. They both work on the same principle, however attraction does not work without action.

You cannot OM your way to success or purpose. You must step into a direction, any direction and begin where you are with simply a desire. This does not have to be perfect, and likely it will not be.

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Your GPS (Guiding Passion System)

You may step into your desire in entirely the wrong direction. You might be going down the totally wrong road and you might spend a little time on this path before recognizing that something doesn’t feel right. Or maybe obstacle upon obstacle pops up preventing real progress. You keep trying your heart out because this has to be right, you have put time and energy into it, you don’t want to waste that time!

Even if you head out completely wrong, you end up feeling it, and noticing that this is just too much. You may want to quit, but I warn you, don’t do it! Keep plugging away, change a bit of direction or approach, ask yourself some quality questions and sit quietly receiving answers. Hire a mentor, one who has walked the road before you. One way or another, you will be guided to “make a u-turn when possible” or recalculate your plan. Much like a navigation system, you can’t get redirected to a new route if you are in park afraid to back out of your driveway because you may make a wrong turn. Trust me, the worst wrong turn is no turn at all. Inaction is the killer of purpose.

You may head into the exact direction of your purpose and head smack dab into it. Your purpose may end up looking precisely as you expected or totally different, but either way, when you end up looking it square in its face and you know you have hit what you were born to do.

How will I know?

When you stumble, or walk confidently, into your purpose, or it taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hi, this is your sign” you will feel it. The feeling is a lot like love, it makes you warm inside, it fills you with excitement, you have an all consuming desire to do more of what this is to experience more of this feeling. The most common reaction I hear is that people find a sense of peace when they have found their purpose.

Now don’t get me wrong, everything doesn’t turn into rainbows and kittens when you find your purpose. There will be work to be done, you might find that you have found your calling, but you cannot fully step into it because you have bills to pay, mouths to feed. It is ok, once you have found it, just start small to move in ways that continue to build on that excitement. Fit your purpose into your life as you can and continue to develop and grow with it.

Ready, Fire, Aim!

Yes, this is not a type-o. The best way to find your purpose is to do. Don’t be afraid of the mistake or the wrong turn. Just move in the direction you think is forward and assess. If you need to recalculate or adjust your aim, at least you will have a point of reference of what didn’t work.

So go out there and shoot for the stars! If you miss, adjust your aim and fire again!

 

12 LESSONS LEARNED WHITE WATER RAFTING THAT APPLY TO LIFE

The river of life
The river of life

I just returned from a trip to the American River, I realized that white water rafting is quite like life. Below are the lessons that I feel best apply to enjoying the journey of life.

1. Have a guide – either someone who’s run the rapids before, or is excellent at reading the river to help you avoid rocks and strong currents that could flip your raft or pull you under.

2. The calm spots are far more enjoyable with community.

3. When the wind picks up, if you have many people paddling in unison, you will still move forward. If you are alone, it will take a lot of work and you may not get anywhere or even drift backwards.

4. If you paddle strongly when approaching the rapids you can better position yourself for the optimal ride.

5. Sometimes the best thing to do is lean in and hold on!

6. When the big scary rapid has been passed thorough, when you are exhausted and drenched by waves that seemed determined to swallow your raft – you will feel elated and energized for the experience and look forward to the next one.

7. It is important to celebrate your successes with your raftmates.

8. The rivers are unpredictable; no two are alike and no single is the same each day.

9. In the midst of great mountains, the persistence of water has created amazing rivers with abundance and beauty.

10. Staying in your raft is a challenge sometimes.

11. Bringing a cellphone is a BAD idea!

12. The ride is far more fun if you are fully participating and present.

We are just rafts in the rivers of life – Are you enjoying the ride?

Hold Your Own Key

As we venture into a brand new year, many people take this time to assess their past year and their future goals. If you are reading this blog, you too are probably one of those people. Resolutions are designed to bring people closer to happiness or to the idea they hold of what happiness is.

Often times I find that a person’s idea of happiness for themselves includes actions of another. Now that is not to say this is a bad thing, however it bears some exploration. At times when you probe the question, “I am happy when_______________ “and that happiness involves the actions (done or not done) by another person, you are giving your happiness power away. The statement “I will be happy when I am married to a wonderful man/woman” requires many actions to be taken by another individual, for which you may or may not control. This is only one blatant example, but do you see how it might matter?

I often find when looking at an individual’s goals that they are so focused on the end result they fail to see they are giving away their power to be happy or successful to someone else. For example, often sales people tack their goals to the number of customers they have or sales they make. Do you see how that sets them up for an excuse to be unhappy? A sales person has no control over if someone buys their product or service. A more productive option might look like this: I, salesperson, will make 40 calls to prospective customers and 20 maintenance calls to current customers and write 30 proposals for existing or new customers.

Do you see how that goal still puts people in mindset to propel them forward without tying their happiness or success to the customer buying something? This also allows for the little beauty called integrity. This type of goal will allow the sales person to decide that maybe their product isn’t well suited for a particular customer, maybe something else would be a better fit. Do you think that if you goal or happiness is tied to the other person buying the product a sales person will have the same focus? If the sales person has made the call and listened carefully to find out their product didn’t fit the customer, do you think that customer might have confidence for a future, maybe bigger sale later?

So back to the idea of what happiness looks like. I suggest you take a good look at your resolutions and goals for the coming year and see if you are giving away your happiness power. I encourage you to rethink any goals that rely on the action of another to make you happy/accomplished/successful and return that power to its rightful owner.

By aligning our goals with actions under our control we can continue to strive to improve and grow all while maintaining integrity. A goal achieved at someone’s expense never feels as good as one in which you push yourself and achieve it and more people benefit in addition to the goal setter.

I don’t know about you, but I like the power to create my own happiness and not wait or expect anyone else to provide my happiness. In the end, if I own it, I can share it with others and we can enjoy our happiness and success together.

Here’s to you handling your keys and riding that happiness to your goal destination!

Your ride awaits
Your ride awaits
Photo Credit PJ Farinha

Seasons

I am about to make a major move, physically relocating across the country. This means many of my relationships will be changing in some way. I have moved many times, some bigger than others which has given me the perspective that people come in and out of our lives at a time for a reason. Sometimes an old friend will reappear after a long hiatus, and sometimes friends or family members will drop off for a bit, or move quietly out of our lives never to be seen again.

I believe all relationships have seasons. People bring unique gifts to our lives at a given time and sometimes they stay a long time or even forever, but sometimes they don’t and the original friendship takes on a different light or none at all.

I recently spoke to a friend about this very type of thing. He is a wonderful, kind and very giving friend to all whom he bestows his friendship upon. Recently a friendship of his that was once very meaningful was changing and he was having a hard time with the different tone it was beginning to take on. When I shared with him my point of view that his relationship might be going through a seasonal change, he was puzzled by the idea. I explained that as the seasons change outside, it makes no sense to try to hold onto the one that is departing. You wouldn’t see someone trying to tie leaves back onto a tree branch after they had fallen. You see people outside raking and clearing the ground for the next new thing to come – snow in these parts. Putting leaves back onto a tree that has naturally shed them doesn’t make any sense, and neither does holding onto a relationship “the way it used to be.”

Just because the seasons change, and the leaves drop off the tree, does not make the tree dead, it just makes it look and feel different. If the leaves did not come off the tree, the tree would certainly suffer irreparable harm when the snow fell and the leaves caught the snow making the branch buckle and break under the weight of the snow.

Relationships too have their seasons; they ebb and flow, wax and wane with life events. If we are growing, our needs are changing from time to time and different people will fulfill those needs at different times. Allowing and appreciating the new season and accepting the changes it brings opens us up to different possibilities, sometimes even with the same people. Preventing something from following the natural course of change may bring pain or destruction to the very thing we’re trying to preserve.

Each season has a purpose and to miss that is a lost opportunity. Truly enjoying our relationships entails allowing them the freedom to be what they are at any given moment and love them as they are.

The beauty lies in acceptance of the changes each season brings
The beauty lies in accepting the changes each season brings

Finding Your Tribe

Meet some members of my tribe
Meet some members of my tribe

I have heard the comment that you are like the people with whom you spend the most time. This is something that I understand and agree with, but did not make it much of a conscious decision. The people you spend the most time with are sometimes just in that space – your work, your daily to-do’s put these people in your daily life circle, but there are those people with whom you choose to spend your time.

Recently, I decided to really look at the statement and reflect on it (I highly recommend this for everyone). There were some people that I was pleased having in my circle that influences me, and a few that caused me to question if they were indeed the influence and the energy which I wanted to surround me. This is not to say anyone I spend time with is a bad person, but my intention was to align myself with those people who possess the qualities I desire. It was clear that some of the people were not embodying the characteristics of my future desired self.

So I made some very deliberate choices and although I have not dropped out of anyone’s life, I am being very intentional about those with whom I am surrounding myself. I have also spent some time during my morning meditation thinking about my tribe and allowing the universe to direct me – or help me get out of my way so I can find them, or they can find me!

I have continued to participate in events that are aligned with my values, and support what I believe is my purpose. I had hoped between the meditation and the events in which I was participating, I might find a couple people that are the positive spirits I sought. While following this process, I became involved in a movement where I had the chance to interact with a group of people who have the biggest hearts and are so accepting and loving towards each other. Few of us knew each other a month ago, but through an effort to replace the terror of the Boston Marathon tragedy with love, we have bared our scars and bonded as we healed together.

Growing up, I always wanted one of those really big families; I feel like I have finally found it. I am now surrounded by an amazing group of people from whom I believe I will learn and develop to become a better me. If I can be a fraction of the people that have become my family over the past month, I will be the most happy, fulfilled and successful person I have ever known.

By recognizing my time is important, and clearing space by spending less time with those not embodying the elements to which I aspire, I have made room for positive additions. The Universe has brought me a gift wrapped in a community of people I feel so utterly connected to and loved by for no reason except that I am me. I have been lucky enough to have truly found the people with whom I want to spend my time – not only for what I can learn from them, but what we can learn and accomplish together.

What can this exercise bring you? Are you open to the possibilities that your tribe is out there looking for you?

Goals with Feeling

A short while ago I suggested to add a twist to the task of goal setting and affirming those goals (see Spending A Little Time in Bliss – January 2013). I now suggest you build on that and take this one step further.

Often times, when I set goals, I create an exhaustive list of things I want to accomplish. I create a series of goals and then break down the steps I need to take to reach them. These are specific and measurable and all the good things that goals are made of – right?

I have come to understand that when I set goals I am actually working towards a feeling. I am setting these goals with the intention of becoming something – and that by becoming something, or completing that goal, I will feel a certain way. Hmm, how did I not notice that concept for so long? (one of those aha moments!)

I propose to turn goal setting on its head. I suggest concentrating on how you wish to feel. That’s right, how do you want to feel each and every day? Sit with that for a bit and begin to brainstorm all the feelings you will have when you are living the life you wish to have. It’s cliché, but yet belongs right here, start with the end in mind. I want to feel________________.

Every choice a person makes, from the food they eat to the clothes they wear and the career they pursue is driven by a desire to feel a certain way. So truly, how do you wish to feel? Do you already feel this way a little, but want to have a grander sense of this feeling? Is there someone you admire who projects a certain feeling you wish to have?

I suggest you sit with this question for about a week or so. Really brainstorm about how you truly wish to feel. I recommend you carry a list with you and when something hits you, add it to the list, include how you don’t wish feel if that comes to you as well, we can work with that. Don’t worry about the number of feelings on the list, just put everything, silly or serious on this list.

Once you believe you have exhausted this exercise, begin to pare it down to 4 or 5 feelings. You will find that many feelings live within each other and can be encompassed into one feeling statement. I call this the desired state.

Now that you have determined your desired state, you can begin to set your course towards your ultimate desired state. This becomes your touchstone to determine your steps. Will doing _________ move me towards feeling___________? By doing __________ will I feel a bit __________ today? You may find out, as I have, that some of the goals you have been pursuing are not in sync with your ultimate desired state and can begin to re-assess if this is something which needs to be revised or entirely tossed.

I believe the process outlined above will both save you time, and provide greater direction in your life and the pursuit of your true dreams. I believe genuine happiness is a feeling that lives within the desired state.

What step can you take today to move you in the direction of the feelings you wish to experience?

Set your course!
Set your course!

Spending a Little Time in Bliss

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I’m going to ask you to consider adding something to your daily visualization exercises. When you think about reaching for your goals, think about the feelings and intangibles when you achieve those goals.

I am not going to tell you today to stop goal setting – any of you who know me know that I thrive on goals and measuring progress. I am going to ask you to spend a little time this year thinking about and feeling the swell that rises in your chest when you accomplish that really big goal. This is a companion exercise to the measurable, monitored goal – it may indeed encourage you to adjust some goals.

I have been doing a lot of visualization exercises, dream boards, vision boards, goal boards and statements and just got back from a seminar that spoke very passionately about goal setting through dream boards. It has occurred to me that maybe the reason dream boards/books or visualization are so powerful is that they often emit a feeling within the process. When you look at that dream house, how does it make you feel? When you sit and think about your travels, do you feel the sun on your face and hear the ocean waves lapping the shore?

It has occurred to me that visualization, as I have been taught it, may be flawed. One of the issues with visualization is that we are taught to be so focused on the item; the physical car, the exact house – the details. I ask you to take visualization in a different direction. What if you were to focus not on the item you desire, but the feeling you have when you are in that house? Are you proud, are you amazed that this is yours, are you relaxed knowing your bills are paid, do you feel a sense of relief now that you are debt free? Feel the sensation of being loved – do not determine from whom you receive that love, just sit in the feeling of love.

I think I’ve really caught onto something here. If I sit with those feelings a bit and enjoy them “as if” they are my present state – and bonus, the mind doesn’t know any better. This leaves the universe the opportunity to provide me with whatever dwelling that might provide me this feeling, which may not be the one I’ve thought was “the one” for me…(Imagine, maybe there is a more knowing energy out there!) It might lead you to the perfect mate…or help you realize the feeling you seek is already in your life. If nothing else, you’ve just enjoyed a few minutes of happiness and joy.

I think many of us have made the determination of what will make us happy and have defined it so clearly that ONLY that will do it. What if we were to feel happy, I mean really experience happiness at a deep level and just live there for a few minutes each day in thoughtful meditation – would that not provide even more happiness than that fancy car? Would that not begin the process of attracting further happiness in your life (maybe even in the form of fast metal!)? What if, instead of imagining the car – you just sat in it for your few minutes, and felt the steering wheel, adjusted the radio and felt the pride and excitement of owning this fabulous piece of machinery – don’t look for the logo or brand in the vehicle, just enjoy it and feel that in your heart.

I have been contemplating this idea for quite some time, and it has all just come together as one of those, “of course!” moments. I have personally been spending my meditation time inviting the universe to flow through me. I have come to the conclusion that at various times in my life I was so stuck on my visualization or my perceived notion of what I wanted or what I needed, that I forgot to trust the universe believing that my idea was what should happen.

I ask you to experiment with this concept. What do you have to lose by sitting in at least a few minutes of bliss?

I am Enough

I began this year as I do every other year, full of hopes and goals for the upcoming months. This also being the “Year of the Dragon” by Chinese zodiac calendar, I knew I was in for changes. Boy was I right! I never expected so many changes and so much education!

My first epiphany was in the course of reading an atypical financial book which explored my relationship with money versus the typical read, the act of creating income. The realization came to me that I did not feel worthy of abundance. Let me tell you, this was not only an important and difficult realization, but something hidden so deep inside me that it turns out was sabotaging almost every aspect of my life. I went on to attend a seminar put on by the author of the book which unlocked another hidden worthiness block and became the recurring theme of my journey this year.

Realizing I was prime for growth, and had been harboring this unworthy attitude, I began to search for methods to assist me in my efforts to overcome this lack of worthiness. At the same time as I was searching for my own answers, I was developing a business concept to help others with their second stage of life and anxious to help people by using my experiences to move through their own transition. I knew that having a worthiness issue would hinder my ability to assist anyone! So off I went for further answers.

I attended a conference and was drawn to a particular break out session by an author, unknown to me, but I liked the titled of the session. Immediately thereafter I ordered her book from the library and was amazed to find myself between the pages of this woman’s book! Realizing she was local, I contacted her for lifestyle coaching as she clearly already knew me as evidenced by her book. I needed to know how to overcome this pervasive stumbling block to all my future held. I learned a ton during my weeks with her, some of which has been discussed in one way or another throughout this blog.

My discoveries through my life coaching sessions allowed me to understand I did have much to offer and that I was indeed on the right path – ThriveLife was born.

As we never stop growing or learning, I am a voracious reader and knowledge seeker. I happened upon an amazing TED Talk one day which literally moved me to both laughter and tears. Brené Brown was the speaker and her topic was vulnerability. There is so much in that one video (attached below and highly recommended viewing) I was compelled to know more – and of course ordered her book (The Gifts of Imperfection) from the library. As luck would have it, by the time I finished reading her book, it appeared her follow-up, Daring Greatly, was soon to be released and devoured that one too.

As I continue to grapple with the statement I am Enough, and own it, the year is coming to a close and the time for goal setting is once again upon us. As my themed year would have it, I came across an article speaking to this very point and offering a different spin from what I’m used to – counting up my “wins” of the year.

Generally speaking goal setting for me is about what I want to improve (does this sound to you like a field day for unworthiness?) Now that is not to say that goals and continued improvement is not good because I do feel that is indeed the foundation of continued growth – but I now think both are beneficial. We are living in the Gratitude Movement, the reminder to count good and not focus on bad. The counting of accomplishments seems to fit so well into this thought process and lays a foundation for joyful growth and not the ridding of imperfections or areas which prohibit joy, love or worthiness.

As we move to the end of the year, I encourage you to reflect with me over the accomplishments and growth that has been gained over the past twelve months. Giving yourself credit for all that you have achieved and the joy you have shared encourages more of the same by the very act of self love. I am interested to see how setting goals following reviewing accomplishments will be different this year, or if it will at all. I’ll let you know!

I welcome you to share your “wins” here. I would be honored to share the feeling of being enough and the freedom and peace that comes with that knowledge.

Please enjoy the video and feel free to comment on this as well.

Youth and Beauty

I had a conversation with a friend the other day; she is a woman who probably has a couple years on me, but not many.  At one point she stated, “Although it hasn’t happened to you yet, when you lose your youth and beauty…..”  What she said after that, I don’t quite remember, nor does it entirely matter, but the initial phrase struck me and revisited me over the next days.

There were two reasons it struck me.  The first being, the woman sitting across from me making this statement is someone I consider beautiful.  I didn’t get the impression she felt bad about herself, this seemed just matter-of-fact and in no way to be insulting herself – a fact.   The second being that I feel that I have lost my youth, and I don’t consider myself beautiful – I’m fine, and maybe even attractive, but not beautiful and certainly have looked prettier in my younger days.

Over the following days, from time to time this comment would ring in my head – most of the time while looking in the mirror.  I got to analyzing this comment and overall feeling that most women seem to have sometime after 40 (some earlier, some later).

My conclusion is that I don’t think women do lose their beauty – I think they become more consistent between their outward appearance matching their internal essence.  I believe that is why I considered this woman who made the comment beautiful – maybe years ago she received a “cat call” or in some way received clear attention for her physical beauty.  However, those that spend any time with her, see the beauty about her – that her soul is expressed through her eyes and smile, her heart is revealed by her conversations and actions, her child-like excitement over someone else’s anticipated successes and growth is electric, radiant and the entire package is beautiful.

When I look in the mirror and see my reflection, I no longer see the attractive younger me – this is true.  I do believe for any of the outward beauty I had years ago, it was undeveloped and a bit awkward with any careful examination – luckily not something required for cat-calls!!  Today I see an attractive woman of substance.  I walk with confidence, I speak with conviction, I listen with empathy- not anticipation of my next comment, I laugh with my soul and cry with my heart.  True beauty.

As I lose my youth and youthful appearance, I believe I am revealing a beauty of greater substance and one seen and felt without the eyes.  We all like to look good and present well, but this beauty that comes with self-discovery and age is beauty I can own and be comfortable in because it is truly me, and a reflection of all that I am.

The next time you look in the mirror, I encourage you to see your full beauty, the one born through your experiences and knowledge of who you are and willingness to share yourself with others.  I believe this is where the most exquisite beauty lies in each of us.