How to Find Inspiration in Nature

Most of us would admit to finding a sunset somewhat moving and possibly inspirational. Few of us can walk past a beautifully red and purple sky without stopping to take a look and probably upload a picture to Instagram. The same can be said of star-filled skies and crashing waves.

But what is it about nature that we find so beautiful and so inspirational? Why are poets, artists, and musicians drawn to these scenes? And how can you use this to encourage more creativity in your own life?

Why We Find Nature Beautiful

It’s a mistake to say that we find nature beautiful in particular. In fact, we can just as easily experience a sense of awe looking at man-made things. Try climbing to the top of a high building and looking out over the skyline of a city, and see how you feel. Likewise, many of us would express a sense of awe looking at the pyramids.

We feel awe, reverence, and wonder when we see things that we find hard to fathom and that we can’t quite take in all at once. Things incredibly intricate, incredibly beautiful, or incredibly vast all create a sense of being small in a universe full of incredible possibilities. Research shows that this is a universal feeling, even shared by some animals, and that it appears to be beneficial for any species as a whole as it encourages altruism and community. Researchers often call these moments ‘peak experiences’.

Where the Inspiration Comes In

So why does this lead to inspiration?

The key thing to recognize is that peak experiences involve novelty and scale. They light up lots of areas of our brain as we struggle to comprehend the entirety of what we’re seeing. This lighting up of the brain results in lots of memories, ideas, and thoughts flowing all at once and this is often said to be the perfect condition for ideas to emerge.

At the same time, beautiful scenes and majestic sights trigger the release of neurotransmitters that make us feel relaxed and exhilarated at the same time. Again, this puts us in a state that is conducive to creative thought and mental experimentation.

How to Harness Peak Experiences

So how do you harness these peak experiences to trigger more innovation and creativity in your life? One way to do this is to subject yourself to more beauty. Go on walks, travel the world, even just spend some time on Google images! Another is to try and appreciate the majesty in even your smallest moments. When you see a flower bloom for the first time, or when you see a swarm of bees, stop to think of all that it represents and of the intricate beauty therein. The greatest poets are those who can see inspiration in all they survey.

Five Effective Ways to Get Inspiration

Lost for inspiration? Here are five techniques you can use to try and coax something new and exciting out of your brain! They won’t always work, but give them a go, and you might just be surprised.

  • Go for a Walk
    Walks are inspiring for a number of reasons. For starters, they allow us to take a break from what we’re doing and to change our environment. In turn, this leads to new input that can help us to gain new perspective on whatever problem or task we’re wrestling with. At the same time, walking is a monotonous task that allows our default mode network to kick in. This, essentially, means that we’re daydreaming, which is often a source of great inspiration.
  • Ask the Right Questions
    Sometimes, inspiration is just about asking the right questions which can help to re-frame the problem you’re facing in order to look at it in a new way. For instance, if you’re wondering how to solve a problem and you can’t come up with an answer, try asking yourself how ‘Johnny’ would approach it. Likewise, instead of thinking about what you want something to be, decide what you don’t want it to be.
  • Take a Break
    Sometimes the best thing you can do to spark some creativity or solve a problem is to take a break. This way, you stop trying to force the idea, which simply creates stress, and instead you simply let it come to you now that you’ve entered all your input. This is why we’re often encouraged to sleep on big decisions.
  • Listen to Music
    Music can be highly inspiring as it alters our mood and energy level and takes us to different places. Often, you’ll find that music can leave you lost in thought, so try listening to some tracks while you mull over a subject and see if that helps.
  • Talk it Over
    There’s a myth that ideas take the form of lightbulbs or lightning strikes and that they come in a flash, fully-formed. Actually, when questioned, most people admit that their best ideas formulated slowly, that they gestated for days, months, or even years before emerging. Often, the best ideas are not formed in isolation either but rather when we discuss them with other people. Even if we’re just thinking aloud, this can help us to see new perspectives and will often result in new breakthroughs.
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5 Reasons to Keep a Gratitude Journal

I expect you’ve often been told to be thankful for what you have when something awful happens. Research has shown that being thankful is a beneficial habit. Keeping a gratitude journal is an increasingly popular tool used by those seeking to improve themselves.

Five reasons to keep a gratitude journal are…

1) Changing Thought Patterns: studies have shown a strong mind-body connection. When we are feeling stressed, anxious or another negative emotion it can have a negative effect on our physical health. By considering those things, events or people you are thankful for you are creating positive thoughts and feelings which will help reduce stress levels. It will also remind you that whatever happens to you there is always something to feel thankful for.

Your commitment to your gratitude journal refocuses your mind on positive events, conversations and relationships. This enables you to see more than just those negative ones that tend to fill your mind and dominate your thoughts when they happen.

Another way your thought patterns will change is that you will find that you start pushing boundaries and removing limiting beliefs. This will happen as you not only keep your gratitude journal, but also review it. You will find that your mind opens to new possibilities and you gain in self-confidence and knowledge.

2) Improve Your Health: the fact that there is a mind-body connection means that by focusing on positive thoughts and feelings in your gratitude journal you are helping to improve your physical and mental health. Studies have shown that regular gratitude journaling can:

  • Relieve stress and anxiety
  • Improve sleep
  • Gain perspective

3) Create Optimism: some days it’s just too hard to see the wood for the trees. You’ll find yourself focusing on something that has upset you and that troublesome thought will nag away at you constantly. Taking some time to sit quietly and think about something you are grateful for will help reduce the negative thoughts and feelings and replace them with positive ones.

4) Improved Sleep: regardless of whether you feel the need for eight hours sleep each night, your body and mind do require a regular amount of sleep each night for optimal mental and physical health. Keeping a gratitude journal is fun, calming, and a positive activity that promotes happy thoughts and feelings. By replacing worry and stress, you can sleep more peacefully and have happier dreams.

5) It’s Fun: keeping a gratitude journal should be a fun enjoyable experience; something you look forward to. It doesn’t matter whether you use a plain notebook or a really fancy one, you can jazz it up by using different coloured pens or pencils, or even decorating the pages.

If you want to create a positive change in yourself and your life, then keeping a gratitude journal may just be the tool you are looking for. It’s cheap, easy, and very beneficial to your physical and mental health.

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I’d love to hear from you. Be sure to visit me on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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How Journaling Can Change Your Life for the Better

You may not have journaled since you were a kid. Or maybe you’ve never tried it and don’t see the point. But, the action of putting pen to paper is an extraordinarily beneficial way to improve your life. Journaling is an effortless way to change your life when nothing is going right.

Discover what’s important

When you free write, you end up writing about the things that are most important to you. They may be things that you don’t even think of as that important but looking back over your writings later will give you a strong inclination of what you find the most rewarding in your life.

For example, if you find yourself coming back to the idea of starting your own business over and over again, it’s obvious that it’s a dream that’s important to you. When your life is in chaos, you have less to lose, and you might decide to go for it and see what happens.

Track successes

We get used to living in a routine and frequently overlook the small actions we make that add up to beneficial changes in our lives over time. Journaling helps us see all the successes we’ve had, even when life isn’t going the way we want it to.

Using a journal as a form of tracking our successes can bring us a great deal of comfort when times are tough.

Let go of old emotional blocks

We can share our deepest fears and worries in a journal. When we feel down, we often need a sounding board more than we need advice, and journaling gives us that. We can let out, and then let go of, past hurts and failures, our needs and wants, without having to tell anyone about them but ourselves.

Writing is cathartic and can help us release old emotions and beliefs that are no longer serving us.

Find the answers

People who journal often report that they find the answers to problems within themselves by using journaling to tap into their unconscious. Each of us has the answers to every problem already inside of us and journaling is a way to access those answers in a positive way.

It’s amazing how allowing ourselves to be honest and open to our struggles ends up making the answer we’ve been seeking so obvious – it’s all there in black and white.

Encourage creativity

Many people who journal find themselves writing poetry or drawing to express themselves. A journal is a safe place to be creative. There’s no judgment from others, just an open invitation to express ourselves in whatever way comes up.

Allowing this creativity to spring forth is another way that our problems get solved because we allow our minds to be in a different, creative space that is open to all possibilities.

Give it a try!

I’d love to hear from you. Be sure to visit me on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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How to Enrich Your Life

Can you honestly say that you are happy and satisfied with your life? Or do you feel miserable and have no direction? Unfortunately too many people are not satisfied with their lives. They feel as though something is missing, and they can’t identify what it is.

Let’s look at ways that you can enrich your life. You will be surprised at just how much happier and content you will feel once you have a purpose in your life.

It is possible that you are just bored with your life. You have way too much spare time on your hands. So how can you fill this time?

Start off by thinking about all those things that you like to do. This might be sports related, charity related, health related, or it may just be a hobby that you wished you had more time for.

Select the one that has the most interest for you and find a way to add it into your life. If one of these things was related to your favorite charity look for ways you can help them out. It would be quite easy to help raise money for them. Or start a collection of needed items. Or you may wish to just get the word out about this charity.

As you start spending time on this hobby or activity you will find that your life suddenly has more purpose. You look forward to working on this project and you feel rewarded by it as well.

There are lots of ways to enrich your life and it can be done easily by just helping yourself. You may want to spend time learning a new skill. Or you may want to have time to read more books, or even write a new one!

Sometimes it only takes something small to help enrich your life. Offering to walk a friend’s dog or babysit for a young couple can really make you feel fulfilled.

Other ideas for enriching your life include cooking for a senior, visiting someone in hospital, pet sitting, volunteering at your local school or at an after school club. Once you start thinking, I am sure you will come up with lots of ideas of things you could be doing.

Even if you have a long list start by picking one item and putting it into action. Block off a few hours a week or month and promise yourself to work on it. By doing this you will feel as though you are doing something to enrich your life in some small way or other.

I’d love to hear from you. Be sure to visit me on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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What’s in a Name? How Does Your Given Name Represent and Define You?

For me, it has been Susan/Sue/Susie at the various times in my life. Why the changes? When do you grow into the name that is really you?

When listening to a webinar the other day I had an epiphany.

The speaker was saying something which triggered me to go off on my own musings. It was around the subject of names; the titles we give to ourselves and things and the implicit interpretation this brings.

I was christened Susan – a very straightforward name chosen by my mother as she had taught a good little girl by that name, whom she liked, so thus it was settled: Susan. In Hebrew it means Lily and is representative of the lilies of the field and on learning this I immediately felt beautiful. However, it is a very sober sounding name befitting a good little girl…

Then I became a teenager.

My generation were possibly in the front line of teenagers as our ancestors had been too engaged with the necessities of life, war, and keeping body and soul together to enjoy the pleasures of youth. A hundred years earlier 8- and 9-year old children had been sent out to work for the overall good of the family.

So, here I am a teenager. Susan is not a very teenage name I must have decided, and so I became Sue to my friends. Only my parents and extended family would call me Susan now.

With the change of name came a change of attitude. Things that the good Susan would have found difficult to do were now a sure thing for me. Rebellious? Certainly. And as I reflect back, I am amused by the silly things that teenage me thought were ‘cool’ and – trust me – I’m not about to share any of them as it would seriously dent my credibility.  But we’ve all been there as I’m sure you’ll also recall. 🙂

The next stage of life was when I met Albert, my soul-mate and the man I had been married to since 1970. Somehow I sensed that Sue was no longer fitting me… and very self-consciously I became Susie. What do I mean by that? Well, I think it sounds softer, and more fun – has a lighter touch maybe – and I wanted to be this new person with my future husband.

I didn’t “own” the name to start with; I had to grow into it. Albert was the one who had initially called me that, and when he introduced me to his friends this was the name he used. Gradually, and certainly since marriage, I have become Susie.

It is remarkable looking back at the three stages of my life so far how each name has been fitting for the moment. The good child, the rebellious teenager, and the ‘getting to be more mature’ woman (and even after all these years I don’t really want to be that grown up!). Each incarnation was/is real and each takes on its own personality.

The Susie I have grown into is allegedly mature, has a great sense of humour, and really likes to have fun whilst ensuring that contribution as a value is a very important part of my life. I now own my name in a very real way. Each part of my life has contributed to the me I am today – the making of a real and complex person. Like me, you will have experienced this journey to a lesser or greater degree depending on where you are on life’s journey.

I’m sharing these musings to see how you might interpret this in your own life. How relevant is this for you? What do you feel you have grown into, that has made you the person you have become? How are your thoughts limiting or growing yourself?

I hope this will stimulate your own thinking.  Is this ringing any bells for you?

Do you own your name or does it own you? And what difference does it make in your life?

Let me know how this triggered memories for you and what you are now able to do with them as a result of identifying the reasons, the meanings, and where they originate.

I’d love to hear from you. Be sure to visit me on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Are You Living Your Own Life? – A Quiz

Fulfillment in life is related to how well you are living in alignment with what’s truly important to you. Do your decisions emerge from the essence of who you are — not from who you think you should be?

Take this quiz to see how well you are living a life that is of your own making.

Answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions:

1. I have spent time thinking about what’s important to me, and I can articulate those things.

2. While I have been influenced by my parents, teachers, society, and other outside forces, I have not simply adopted their values and beliefs. My own values and beliefs come from deep inside.

3. I am not easily swayed by others’ opinions. I know my own mind.

4. In order to remain open and flexible, I am willing to re-examine my opinions and beliefs to determine whether something is still true for me. I am interested in other points of view.

5. My spouse/partner is a good match for me. We share in a way that pleases me and have an ideal amount of separate space. We don’t have to agree on everything.

6. I chose my occupation, or choose to remain in it, because it most closely utilizes my skills, strengths and passions.

7. I also choose my friends. I don’t go along with a friendship that doesn’t feel right just because that person pursued me.

8. Any spirituality I practice feeds my soul.

9. I have aspirations. I spend time thinking about them and taking action toward those that are most important to me.

10. Anyone looking at my life from the outside would see what I value.

11. When I or a family member is sick, I listen to the appropriate health care provider. If the advice doesn’t feel right, I get a second opinion.

12. On the rare occasion, when I let someone break a boundary or persuade me to do something, I don’t want to do, as soon as I’m aware of it, I take steps to stop and correct the situation.

Think about your answers. What do you notice?

I’d love to hear from you. Be sure to visit me on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Author’s content used with permission. © Claire Communications

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Live. Love. Matter. – The Power of Random Events

Looking back over your life, how confident are you with your own answer to these questions? The following is my rationale; how does this resonate with you?

I’m Susie Briscoe, the founding chair of Acer Coaching Associates; and I’ve learnt throughout my life the importance of giving back and have been involved in voluntary work for several charities over the last 40 years.

The area I want to focus on now is supporting business leaders and entrepreneurs in attaining clarity around their higher life purpose and showing how they can spend or leave their money to greatest effect.

Brendon Burchard says that when we come to the end of our lives we ask ourselves 3 questions: Did I live?,  Did I love?, and Did I matter? All three get addressed when we make a difference that makes a difference to others and ourselves; I call this “love in action,” as it has us become more fulfilled.

It can come about in many creatively different ways. – i.e. setting up a trust, non-profit, or charity, as well as selecting appropriate ones for clients to support in order to discover their philanthropic passion – how they will manifest the vision, aligned with their values, for their own legacy.

When I was turning over in my mind what I would share with you, I suddenly remembered a completely random connection I made nearly 10 years ago. This was to change my life completely as well as bring me much joy as it combined several of my passions: helping people, personal development, and giving back.

I had just returned from a fact-finding tour in Southern India, but first, let me take a few steps back…

My friend Gloria’s daughter, Flora, had decided to go walk-about for a year and on arrival in Kenya, met and fell in love with Daniel, a Luau tribesman. They married, set up home on the banks of Lake Victoria, and had two delightful daughters.

All was well in their world until Flora and Dan had a tiff, which brought her back to the UK for a short time. Whilst gone, he played away and very sadly caught Aids. Flora returned to the marital home, and Gloria visited to say farewell to her son-in-law whom she had come to love dearly.

Attending a christening for one of Flora’s friends, Gloria asked where she could go to church on the following Sunday; the priest recommended the larger and well-known ‘white’ tourist churches but Gloria wanted to worship in a village with a real community.

That is how the friendship started with Jeremiah Kibobi. Gloria was terribly moved by the work he was doing as a pastor, running an orphanage as well as Magnet High School in a suburb of Nairobi called Ongata Rongai.

She asked me to help her set up a small charity to educate Aids orphans and necessitous children. We were already connected and working with Bishop Kibobi, as he now is, as a result of Christening.

Whilst setting up the charity back in London, we were introduced to another amazing man by chance: Father Xavier Alphonse, a Jesuit Priest. When we met him in 2003 he had set up approximately 78 community colleges throughout all India, and since then this number has reached over 700 and extended into parts of Africa as well. His HQs are in Tamil Nadu, Southern India which is where we began this narrative.

He invited us to visit him in Chennai, India, where he would take us around the various colleges in the local area. We would see what he was actually doing and whether this would translate across to Kenya. I could go on and tell you much more about our amazing 3-week trip, describe all the wonderful people we met, but it is now time to fast forward.

Arriving home, I was on a totally different time clock – 2 a.m. in the UK was breakfast time in Chennai! Coming downstairs, the cats were delighted to see me. Ooo! Goodie, a lap to sit on! I put on the television as all I was seeking was mental chewing gum… white noise if you will … and then made myself a cup of tea.

On returning to the drawing room, I settled with my purring cats, and suddenly realised that my husband had been watching Newsnight before he went to bed, which then led on to programmes for the Open University – definitely not trashy enough for my taste. I was just about to turn the channel over seeking a murder mystery for preference, and suddenly I found myself totally hooked.

For the next 4 hours I was mesmerised by Ros Taylor, a chartered psychologist who was teaching for the OU, demonstrating how she worked with individuals and small groups of people from her London apartment. I sat through 4 one-hour programmes. By 9 a.m. I had looked her up on the web, been on to the BBC website, purchasing every book she had written. By 10.30 a.m. I was having a telephone conversation with her.

At the time my husband was not working, having been found surplus to requirements from his city job and was finding it a struggle to adjust to his new circumstances. I thought that, perhaps, Ros would be just the person to give him a boost. Sadly for me, her fees back in 2004 were two and a quarter thousand dollars ($2,250.00) for 3 hours, and Albert, of course, couldn’t see he needed that help.

However, I shared my experience with our daughter, Lara, who sweetly suggested that I should retrain and do that kind of work. Bless!! I pointed out that I’d probably be very nearly in my grave before I’d finished my training let alone get to the level that Ros was working at.

I thought that was the end of that, but Lara emailed me a link to a coaching college, who were hosting an open day in London. I checked out the link simply because Lara had taken the time and trouble to look it up for me. I booked in, literally signed for the course on the spot and the result was that I had a new career open up for me in my mid-fifties.

Qualified as an accredited Coach, I set up a Coaching Hub in the south of England; I started promoting the College as I was very impressed with what they offered, then went on to do a Marketing Course, followed by a Mentoring Diploma and finally a Coach Supervisor Diploma.

The College held a Health and Wellness Seminar in London, a buzz topic, as it included Work-Life Balance as well as healthy lifestyle and all that that implies. The Daily Telegraph newspaper decided to attend and wanted to do an article on what was a new concept at that time – Coaching had arrived in the UK!

I was fortunate enough to be one of the coaches featured in the article; shortly afterwards another journalist featured me in the week-end supplement of the Telegraph magazine, and this then led to me being interviewed for Psychologies magazine. What a tremendous start for my coaching career!

When I started talking to you about my topic I explained that it was not only to introduce me to you and tell you a little about what I do, but also to demonstrate how random events and people can have a profound effect.

If I hadn’t started the charity with Gloria, I wouldn’t have been visiting India on a fact-finding trip, and therefore wouldn’t have been on the wrong time clock… Normally, I would have been fast asleep ‘zed-ding’ for England at 2 a.m…

I am so grateful for this chain of events. Without it I wouldn’t have had this fantastic career open up for me!

So, the questions I’d like to leave you with are:

  1. Who has helped you in your life?
  2. How has helping others impacted your own life?
  3. What might never have happened if you hadn’t been open to the influence of others?

I’d love to hear from you. Be sure to visit me on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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