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Provision #581: Inside Out

by Bob Tschannen-Moran

Laser Provision

Real change is possible, but only if we start from the inside out. Instead of scurrying around reacting to all the squeaky wheels, it's better to get centered before proceeding. To come from that place, it helps to start the day with deliberative rituals. The more we take time to think, imagine, write, breathe, dream, notice, meditate, walk, and otherwise connect with what's stirring on the inside, the more impact we will have on the outside. If you want to develop a rhythm in your life between contemplation and action, then I encourage you to read on. It's not impossible, even in our busy-busy world.

LifeTrek Provision


Today is a perfect day for inside out activities. Tropical Storm Hannah moved through the area, closing area institutions and canceling scheduled activities. It was one of those good ole' rainy days, especially since the storm didn't pack its expected punch and most areas suffered only minimal damage. What a great day to stay inside, look out the window, and marvel at the changing face of mother nature.

Most of us don't take that time often enough. Introverts and extroverts alike are busy, busy people with little time to think, reflect, dream, wonder, savor, or otherwise appreciate our experiences. We no sooner get done with one thing than we move on to the next, constantly juggling multiple balls and dealing with inputs galore. We multi-task our way through life, coping to the best of our ability, but seldom paying attention in the here and now to what we are feeling and needing.

Although such multi-tasking may get a lot of things done, it does so at great cost both to ourselves and to the work itself. For one thing, it's easy to burn out when we're always on the go. For another, it's easy to miss the mark when we don't have time to steady ourselves and aim. We scatter both our sense of self and our productivity when we take a rapid-fire, shot-gun approach to getting things done.

The key shift is from the outside in to the inside out. People who are too busy to stop and think, to take care of themselves, to move their bodies and focus their minds, are constantly buffeted by outside-in pressures. They have no way of knowing when to say "Yes!" and when to say "No." They just respond to whatever comes their way, as best they can, without the calm alert that comes from recognition, appreciation, and reflection.

How we start our days is a critical factor in how we live our lives. If we take time at the start of our days for inside-out activities, then our chances improve for living centered and focus lives. That, at least, has been my experience.

The easiest way for me to start my days is to get up and get going. I can go from 0 to 60, from sleep to whatever has to get done, in the blink of an eye. But that's not the way to take advantage of morning treasures. It's better to get up to speed slowly, paying attention to our night dreams and day desires before starting on whatever must be done. The closer we do that to the time we actually wake up the better, since our spirits are especially receptive to inside out discoveries.

David Whyte makes clear how this works in his poem, "What To Remember When Waking:"

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the waiting desk?


So pay attention to the "urgency that calls you to your one love," especially when you first wake up. Then, and only then, is the small opening wide enough for you to crawl through. Don't jump immediately into outside-in activities like surfing the net, reading the news, checking email, listening to the radio, or watching television. Such activities have their time and place, but not when we first wake up.

Instead, take time to think, imagine, write, breathe, dream, notice, meditate, walk, and otherwise connect with what's stirring on the inside. Two things are always there: an awareness of how things are and a vision of how things might be. Those are the two ingredients, awareness and vision, that coaches work with in assisting our clients to move forward. You can just as easily use them on your own, however, as long as you take the time to pay attention to them.

Awareness. Awareness is different from opinion. Opinion is laced with judgments and evaluations, both positive and negative. They are things we like and don't like. Although it's impossible to jettison such judgments at all times and places, it is possible to jettison them whenever we consciously choose to simply notice what's going on. We can observe both external happenings and internal dynamics in the spirit of scientists, who don't evaluate the results of experiments as "good" or "bad" but who observe the results as fascinating data for continued learning and growth.

It's easier to step into that space first thing in the morning. Something there is, as David Whyte notes, that makes that time special. We are not yet fully out of our dreams nor fully into our plans; we are, instead, receptive to the possibilities life has in store. Learning to observe without evaluating is the first step to inside-out change.

Vision. Vision is different from purpose. Purpose is broad and general. Vision is specific and compelling. It's one thing to want to explore outer space; it's another thing to put someone on the moon by the end of the decade. It's one thing to want to save the planet from global warming; it's another thing to break our reliance on crude oil by the end of the decade. When visions come they give us energy, direction, excitement, motivation, inspiration, and hope. They lift our lives out of the mundane and make them extraordinary.

This happens, however, only when we combine vision with awareness. We have to look without prejudice or presumption. We have to gather ourselves in the here and now, without haste or judgment, in order to see ourselves in the future.

The most active of people, as it turns out, are also the most contemplative. They are, to quote a famous phrase, "too busy not to pray." They are not afraid of solitude and they do not get attached to their ideas of what they think should happen. Instead, they pay attention to what is happening in order to increase their awareness and bolster their visions for success.

Coaching Inquiries: How do you start your day? What is your pattern of action and reflection? Would you like to develop a different rhythm? How could you do so through awareness and vision? What things are stirring in your soul right now?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. To learn more about LifeTrek Coaching programs, Click Here.

LifeTrek Readers' Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor's Note: The LifeTrek Readers' Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


I liked your writing about the spontaneity and curiosity of little children Click. You've probably heard the story about how, if you ask a bunch of kindergarteners, "who can draw a horse?" they'll all raise their hands, ask a bunch of sixth graders and a few will raise their hands, ask a bunch of adults and it's unlikely more than one or two will raise their hands! Apparently artistic ability decreases with time! Top

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers

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