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01 Jul

Jane Addams: The Self-Invention Sage

01/07/2015   |   No Comments »   |   Posted in Inspirational Women, Sage


  Settlement house founder and peace activist Jane Addams (1860-1935) established Chicago’s Hull-House to help the poor. The house became not only her home for the rest of her life, but also a center for philanthropy, political action, and research into social science. Jane had to take time, however, to discover herself before she could immerse herself in her calling by establishing the settlement house and conducting her influential work. We learn from her that traveling the path to discovering our true callings and talents can take time. It is, after all, though, in the journey that the treasure lays. Let’s face it, when we are in the midst of our self-discovery zone, endeavors don’t always pan out and our interests sometimes fizzle. Even the most successful achievers have experienced dead-ends and many trial and errors before hitting the mark. Jane Addams, one of the first female Noble Prize Winners, is a wonderful example of embracing the self-invention phenomenon. Here are six reasons we can still look to her today as a self-invention sage when we hit a wall of self-doubt.
  1. She overcame the disappointments in her college years. Jane wanted to attend Smith College, newly established for women. Her father, however, required her to attend the nearby Rockford Female Seminary. She had always wanted to do something to help the poor, and after her father’s death, along with her sister, she began medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. Because of grief when her father died suddenly and the need for a spinal operation, Jane completed only one year of medical school before she withdrew. Do you find yourself clinging to a specific focus because of your degree even if there is another route to achieving goals that may have drawn you to the subject area?  We might take Jane’s lead, realizing there are many ways to use an education. The way we choose to use it must entail our heart, mind and body to be right for us.
  1. When in doubt, she traveled. At the time, Jane was devastated by not only the loss of her father but also by not finishing medical school, something she considered a big failure at the time. On the advice of the surgeon who operated on her back, Jane traveled to Europe with her stepmother and realized she did not have to become a doctor to help the poor. Even with this idea, upon her return, she fell into a depression. But that offered her time to read and in her reading, she found an article about the new social idea of a settlement house. This time she travelled to England with a friend and visited Toynbee Hall, a community of University men living among poor people and sharing cultural experiences. She knew she would return to the US and begin a settlement house of her own to elevate the poor in a democratic society. Travel is good for the soul, mind and creativity juices. Life epiphanies often happen within the experience of travel. My first book Unbridled chronicles my self-discovery through Ireland (where I traced my roots and learned about the culture that shaped me) and Jamaica (where I serendipitously discovered a way to help young women)  so I can vouch for Jane’s learning style. Take that trip!
  1. She took time to “be.” Most of us would have a panic attack or suffer disruptive guilt if we sashayed to Europe to “find ourselves” and learn about new cultures and ideas.  But life is not a race, nor are we meant to be its racehorse.  Life meanders and those twists and turns might be upsetting and disorienting, but they can greatly enlarge our vision of ourselves in the world. After Jane took her first Europe sabbatical, she spent an additional two years reading and writing about what her future objectives would be.  Our society heavily pressures us to “know” what we want to do at a young age, but the truth is that is like demanding a baby to skip the crawling phase so she can start walking. We may know what we think we want to do, but how we end up doing it often looks very different than what others have told us it should look like. Even as adults, we need to respect the phases of inner growth.  Discovery takes time.  It is up to us to utilize that time properly.
  1. Her experimental years paid off. When Jane and her friend Ellen Star visited the London settlement house Jane had read about, something “clicked,” and Jane knew she wanted to form her own home to help educate underprivileged children. Jane and Ellen went on to lease a large home to improve the industrial districts of Chicago via civic, philanthropic and educational activities. Jane grew a notable reputation in civic responsibility, serving on boards, committees and earning honorary degrees. The years you invest in following your heart will pay off when you find the activity that you can’t help but pour yourself into it.
  1. She had her priorities straight. Jane was a passionate feminist.  She believed that women should make their voices heard in legislation and, therefore, should have the right to vote, but more importantly, she thought that women should generate aspirations and search out opportunities to realize them. In other words, action must be apart of the equation. Voting bestows the authority to elect officials and form laws. Self-actualization and a proactive persona provide the power to live your best life, which is the ultimate goal of your precious time on Earth! Equality is, therefore, an “inside” job.
  1. She stuck to her convictions and it paid off. Publicly opposed to America's involvement in WWI, as President of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Jane was attacked in the press and expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution.  But she didn’t let that dampen her spirits or slow her momentum. Jane found a channel for her humanitarian impulses as an assistant to Herbert Hoover in providing relief food supplies to the women and children of enemy nations. This experience became the story of her book Peace and Bread in Time of War.  If someone tries to throw a wrench in your passion plans, use that wrench to build something even better!
Thank you Jane for being a pioneer Sage in soul searching and the civic duties arena.  In you, women see the time they take to find themselves is time well spent. Jane_Addams Stepping Stones
  1. What was it that you thought you wanted to do “for life” when you were in your early 20s? Are you still employed in that field today?  Jane reminds us that our interest “detours” don’t mean we’re lost, just that we’re taking the scenic route in life.  For example, I majored in Physical Therapy, but now I offer “therapy” to others through my written works, workshops and Spa Days for my Wives of Wounded Warriors organization. Relieving pain and helping others to feel better can be accomplished outside of clinics.
  1. Have you ever taken a trip to find yourself?  Describe your revelation process.
  1. All of Jane’s years of traveling, reading, writing and reflecting paid off when she visited that first settlement house in London and knew she had to do something similar with her own life. Are you willing to cut yourself some “just be” slack for traveling or time spent writing, or just looking out a window and reflecting on your life? I realized I wanted to help under privileged girls with their education when visiting Jamaica on a soul sabbatical. If I had never given myself permission to go on that trip, I may still be missing that calling in my life.
  1. Jane not only encouraged women to have aspirations, she wanted to inspire ACTION. What is an area of aspiration in your life that could use some help in the action department?  What is one step you can take this week to get going in the needed direction?
  1. The press attacked Jane and organizations excluded her because of her open distain for U.S. involvement in the war. Remember when the Dixie Chicks faced heat because of their political opinions?  Being true to your convictions gives you something popularity chasing cannot…respect. What area in your life could use more of your conviction muscle?

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24 Jun

Anaïs Nin: Our Dear Diary Sage

24/06/2015   |   No Comments »   |   Posted in Inspirational Women


  Anaïs Nin’s diaries span 60 years. She started keeping them when she was 11 years old and continued writing in them until her death at 73. To date, 15 of these diaries have been published, and they are a package all their own. Anaïs is not alone in having her diaries become part of literature–Anne Frank’s diary and Virginia Wolf’s are among other famous diarists–but the experiences and thoughts of wild, wise-woman Anaïs Nin especially inspire us to understand and appreciate life’s rough edges. Here are five of the most famous quotes from her diaries:
  1. “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Long before Danielle Steel reigned on America’s bookshelves with her steamy romance novels heating up housewives everywhere, Anaïs was publishing erotica in the United States. She was the first woman to do so. Think that isn’t a big deal? Try picturing the movies Ghost or The Notebook without their love scenes. The writers felt comfortable enough to write those screenplays as descendants in a line of erotic writers who followed in Anaïs footsteps, going where hot and heavy romance was now acceptable to share with wider and wider audiences.
  1. “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” If you’ve seen or read Eat, Pray, Love, you’ve experienced a modern model of female living that women everywhere have appreciated as they find commonality in connecting over life’s risky “jumps.” But Anaïs was talking about troublesome relationships and finding herself back in the 40s!
  1. “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.” How true is this description of the mirror effect? The majority of Anaïs’ work was philosophical in nature and pushed readers to understand more and more about their interactions with others and the world. Often, what we see in another is a mere reflection of what we are recognizing within ourselves and our own existence.
  1. “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” Life is all about connection: feeling seen, feeling heard and feeling touched. Anaïs knew the open, “tell-all” approach in her stories (which spanned from incest incidences with her father to numerous female and male partners) would touch the searching souls of the world–and that they did.
  1. “Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” Too bad this quote doesn’t fit on a friendship bracelet. Anaïs was especially gifted at looking at life through the lens of a learner. She knew friends were actually life’s messengers, and they frequently influenced her path and her work.
Thank you Anaïs for being our dedicated diarist and page turning Sage! Stepping Stones:
  1. We often depict courage as an effort that warrants a physical strength, but courage is 100% an emotional feat. Often, we think that only those with physical strength are courageous, but behind every courageous act there is an emotional start. And from there we are ready to take a risk to save someone or ourselves, to develop and share new thinking and change detrimental behaviors in ourselves and those around us.What is an area of your life where you have been mentally courageous?
  1. We all face a risk versus reward threshold in life where the fear of disappointing others will be trumped by the innate desire to live our life in full. What was the last “threshold” you crossed? What mantra did you lean on for support?
  1. Anaïs knew the way we viewed the world was a reflection of how we viewed ourselves. Think of the last positive and negative comments you made about life. How are those projections apart of your own journey? For example when I judged women as slutty who expressed their sensuality I was inhibited myself, I didn’t feel comfortable with my sexuality so judged others who did. As I became comfortable with my own sexuality I was more accepting how others expressed theirs. So the term Homophobic came about, by people who could not accept their own sexuality. As we are comfortable with our own sexuality we are less judgmental of others. Can you see a way in which you are judging yourself in the same ways? Can you find a way to reframe the negative views you have?
  1. Anaïs realized traveling opened doors to the mind. Travel played a dominant role in how I found myself after my marriage ended and I chronicled those educational escapades in Unbridled. What epiphanies has travel offered you?
  1. Anaïs truly valued the sacredness of her friendships. What new “worlds” have your closest three friends opened for you and how has that influenced your path? 2C3AE380-4A69-44CB-85BF-E5AA46170BBD

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Barbara’s contributions

A global vision: BARBARA McNALLY’S
JOURNEY AND her mission to support
women everywhere

Barbara McNally lives in San Diego where she supports organizations and sponsors activities that help women explore their potential for freedom and individuality. To further this cause, she started a foundation called Mother, Lover, Fighter, Sage. Open to receive and ready to give, Barbara continues her own journey to freedom with a daily zest for living large. READ MORE>>


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