• “I see beauty all around, and I’m reminded once again…
    Here and now I have all that I need.
    Here and now this is where I am meant to be.”
    ~ Jana Stanfield ~

    A sunset walk at Torrey Pines State Beach Reserve this past weekend and Jana Stanfield’s song “Here and Now,” inspired me to create a photo collage for you from my photos. It’s a great way to take an inspiration break at your computer when you make it a desktop background. [Right click on the photo and then click "Set as desktop background."] Enjoy!

    Torrey Pines State Beach Reserve - photos (c) MaryMarcdante.com

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  • I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees,
    and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.
    ~ e.e. cummings

    In a moment, it was gone. The sunset at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas tonight. Notice, wait, point, press, give thanks. I am grateful.

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  • On my way to Maui for a wedding a few weeks ago, I saw the most beautiful photo of waves on the cover of Hana Hou!, the magazine of Hawaiian Airlines. Turns out the photo was by Clark Little, a surfer turned photographer when his wife asked for a photo of waves over their bed. He said, “I can do that! I know waves.” Talk about bold and inspired.

    For all the years I’ve walked along the Pacific Ocean at Torrey Pines Beach and been blown away by the wave patterns, I’ve wondered how to catch the light, the beauty, the spray, the moment of cresting, through my camera. Never in any photos I’ve taken have I been able to capture the magic and mystery in those waves that I’ve seen with my eyes.

    And it shouldn’t come as a surprise. What Clark Little does to get those photos is beyond my imagination. Having been tossed around by a wave and having a near-death experience as a result when I first moved to San Diego has given me a deep respect for the ocean’s power. The fact that Clark Little is willing to be pummeled and risk his life for that magical moment in the water – well, that to me is the power of the combination of inspiration, passion and testosterone. I’m grateful I can appreciate his talent in a photo and was able to see original prints at the Hawaii Surf Art Gallery in Lahaina, Maui.

    If you want to be inspired, go to Clark Little’s website and view the flash movie of his photos, watch the Good Morning America interview with him, and read the article in Hana Hou!, all on his site. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious, and his website is equally inspiring.

    The inspiration you seek is seeking you. Happy Friday. Mary

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  • After a four year hiatus, today I repeated the VIA (Values in Action) Strengths survey on the newly updated happier.com. Once again, I was reminded of the power of self-discovery and self-awareness, and the immense value of identifying your personal strengths.

    The site highlights research and assessments by the gifted Dr. Martin Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology movement at the University of Pennsylvania and helps you apply that research to your life in very user-friendly ways.

    According to the VIA Institute on Character, this survey is the most scientifically validated tool for measuring character strengths. Over 1.3 million people have taken it. There are 24 qualities that have been validated as strengths that lead to happiness when applied to your daily life. Alphabetically listed, here they are:

    Appreciation of beauty and excellence
    Bravery and valor
    Capacity to love and be loved
    Creativity, ingenuity, and originality
    Curiosity and interest in the world
    Forgiveness and mercy
    Gratitude
    Honesty, authenticity, and genuineness
    Hope, optimism, and future-mindedness
    Humor and playfulness
    Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
    Kindness and generosity
    Leadership
    Love of learning
    Modesty and humility
    Perseverance, industry and diligence
    Perspective (wisdom)
    Prudence, caution, and discretion
    Religiousness, spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith
    Self-regulation and self-control
    Social intelligence
    Teamwork, citizenship and loyalty
    Zest, enthusiasm, and energy

    When you take this free profile online, which I highly recommend, you’ll be asked 240 multiple choice questions. Set aside a half hour to answer – it’s worth the time because what you’ll learn can positively shape everything you do. You’ll be fascinated, I promise.

    At the end of the profile, you’re presented with a personalized list and description of your 24 strengths in order of importance to you. While the list wasn’t new information to me since I’d taken it before, it did show that four of my strengths remained in the top five in a new order and reflected more of how I experience my happiness now, which is a real gift because it reconfirms what has helped me survive some very challenging personal changes in the past four years and is what I can count on and follow when the world around me is in flux (like now!).

    Another powerful reminder of this assessment, similar to Marcus Buckingham’s work and the Gallup StrengthsFinder, is that for a person to feel happy on a regular basis, your day (work and personal time) needs to include activities where you can apply and experience your top five strengths.

    Here’s my Happier.com list of top 5 strengths:

    1. Appreciation of beauty and excellence
    2. Gratitude
    3. Curiosity and interest in the world
    4. Kindness and generosity
    5. Love of learning

    Fortunately for me, my work as a speaker and writer committed to helping people stay inspired through challenge and change allows me to use these strengths every day. But…that doesn’t mean I’m always aware that I am doing so, or actually using those strengths, and therein lies a major key to feeling happier – a written daily strengths checklist and journal you can review and act from, especially when you’re going through a difficult time.

    A few other interesting insights:

    The profile lists your strengths in order of preference and while it’s not stated, you can presume that your 24th strength is also your greatest challenge.

    Not surprisingly, I share #24 with most other people who take the profile. (When I went through Seligman’s six-month “Authentic Happiness Coaching Program,” they mentioned this research fact.)

    Drum roll, please: my #24 is Self-Regulation and Self-Control. While there many areas of my life where this is not true, where it does fit is with time management. I have a hard time sticking to my own self-defined schedules for getting projects done (which is another reason why I love accountability partners and client timelines).

    But here’s the good news in identifying and applying your strengths: On the occasions that I do get stuck, if I apply even one of my strengths to getting something done that I’m avoiding that is important and not urgent (Covey’s Key Success Quadrant), magic can and often will occur.

    For example: First thing in the morning, I love to walk at Torrey Pines Reserve and Beach, take photos of moments that inspire me (here’s one from today), and then journal, all of which I do almost every early morning before I start my work day. These activities energize and nurture me and as I was reminded again today, tap into my strengths.

    Once I get to my desk, if it becomes challenging for me to stick to my daily work plan (what plan!?), and I find myself clicking on the Mahjong Titans computer game or stepping away from my desk for a sugar-fat snack attack, it’s a sign I’m off track. While fun, those actions don’t move me forward in my day or life. The key to my success in that moment (and long term) is to catch myself in that .5 second that researchers say a decision occurs, and do the following: smile, take a deep breath, review my strengths list, and ask myself, “How can I apply at least one of these strengths to this task?” In the case of a marketing call, I simply have to remember how grateful I am to get to do the work I do, how much I appreciate my audiences, and how curious I am to learn more about a new client, and voella!, the calls get made and I’m using my strengths in service to my higher purpose and vision.

    And, sometimes, honestly, playing Mahjong Titans and hiking to the store for a king-size Reese’s Crispy Crunchy Bar still do the trick.

    You can take the VIA Happiness Strengths for free at Happier.com. Go take it now. You’ll be glad you did. And if you’d like this type of information presented at your business or organization, or would like a complimentary coaching session on how to apply this in your life, email me at mary (at) marymarcdante.com.

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  • As I finished my meditation early this morning I had this really pleasant wave of gratitude flow through me for the gift of being alive. It’s amazing to me that such a little moment, “a fleeting nanosecond actually” compared to all the “Big Moment” experiences I’ve had out in the world, can bring on such a deep feeling of peace and fulfillment. It’s as if my whole body is smiling.

    After this swell swept through me, I had this thought: what if the next adventure after death is even better than this? I felt excited, rather than afraid as I normally feel. Not that I want to die anytime soon to find out what’s next. This life, even with its challenges, is still so full of inspiration, especially when I choose to pause and be present to it, that it brings me to tears. Did you see the full moon the other night! And that sunset! And the clouds at sunrise yesterday morning over the ocean as a storm was rolling in at Torrey Pines Beach!

    I’m reminded of my friend Krista Green, a brilliant personal branding coach and equally wise and bright light in my world.

    Shortly after I met her, we went to a concert at Humphrey’s at the Bay here in San Diego to hear the awesome singer/songwriter Keb Mo. After the concert, which was so full of good juju, we were walking out to the car and I asked her a question I like to ask new people I meet:

    “What do you do to stay inspired in difficult times?”

    She responded without a pause, “I don’t.”

    I was stunned. In all the years I’ve asked that question, I’ve never heard that answer. The circuits in my brain literally jammed for a second. When my mind came back, I asked, almost a little indignantly, “What do you mean you don’t?”

    She smiled and said, “I just live in what is and that always inspires me.”

    Thanks, Krista. Now I remember.

    This moment, I live in gratitude for the gift of being alive and I am inspired. What about you?

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