547: The Community Factor

Laser Provision

It’s necessary but not sufficient to have clear intentions and self-discipline. Our environments represent a third factor that may be the most important of all when it comes to supporting and sustaining Optimal Wellness. When those environments are life-giving and life-affirming, when they have our best interests at heart, they represent a sea of benevolence that buoys us up and pulls us forward. You, the readers of LifeTrek Provisions, are one such environment for me. But there are many other environments, and they all need to work together if we hope to be at our best.

LifeTrek Provision

Six months ago I shared with you my decision to make Provisions a more intermittent publication, in order to better manage my schedule and stress. Since that time, it has not gone unnoticed by many readers that I continue to write and publish Provisions and that we have, in fact, not skipped a single week. What’s up with that?

It’s not that I’m addicted to writing Provisions. I could stop tomorrow if the only consideration was my own schedule and stress. There are others, however, who make it hard to stop writing. For one, there are my colleagues in LifeTrek Coaching, who follow up on most of the Contacts for Coachingthat come in through our newsletter and Website. We’ve already had more than a half dozen inquiries since the start of the New Year, and we appreciate your interest in the services we have to offer.

The real challenge, however, is managing my sense of connection to you, the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. I can honestly say that not a week goes by in which someone doesn’t respond in ways that both surprise and humble me. When people write to say that my words are speaking to their heart, or that my teachings have somehow given them a new lease on life, it’s hard to stop and take that away.

Over the holidays, for example, I had many delightful visits with family and friends. Many expressed empathy and concern over the problems I wrote about in December, after I experienced an unexpected panic attack that landed me briefly in a hospital Emergency Room. Fortunately, it did not turn out to be a heart attack or any other cardiovascular malady, but I have been pursuing a number of possibilities and treatments related to the GI tract. At this point I am encouraged both with my learning and with my progress.

In conversation about this situation, one person encouraged me to take good care of myself, including plenty of time for rest and relaxation. She’s right about that. It’s been a frequent refrain in our current series on Optimal Wellness over the past year. No one knows better than I the importance of a lifestyle that includes a healthy rhythm between periods of exertion and work with periods of relaxation and play. No sooner had she encouraged me to take good care of myself, however, than she went on to say how much she appreciated Provisions, how she reads them every week, and how she hoped I would keep them coming.

The irony was not lost on me. That is, in fact, the challenge of us all. How do we manage our productivity in ways that does not push out our pastimes? The answer will be different for every person, but it always involves some combination of intentionality, willpower, and environment.

Until we decide what we want • intentionality • there’s no way to develop a rhythm. We bounce from one thing to the next, until we eventually crash and burn. We don’t know when to say, “Yes.” and when to say, “No.” As a result, we run ourselves ragged.

But intention alone is not sufficient to get the job done. Such good intentions are the ones that pave the road to you know where. The next piece is willpower: perseverance, tenacity, discipline. Without willpower, we lack the follow-through to stay on the path.

Unfortunately, many self-help programs stop there when it comes to life makeovers. They assist you to clarify your vision (intentionality) and strengthen your resolve (willpower). As important as these are, they’re not sufficient to get the job done over the long haul. Life has a way of getting in the way, and when that happens it takes more than intentionality and willpower to stay on track. It takes supportive and sustaining environments.

That was one of the insights that I gleaned from and appreciated about Thomas Leonard, a founder of the modern coaching movement. Thomas identified nine environments that could be designed in ways that would make it easier for our intentions to be realized and our willpower to be renewed:

  1. Memetic (e.g., slogans, tunes, beliefs, and fashions)
  2. Body (all 10 trillion cells!)
  3. Self (i.e., our persona in the world)
  4. Spiritual (surrounded, as we are, by Life)
  5. Relationships (both near and far, given our interconnectedness)
  6. Network (from computers to every other system)
  7. Financial (including reserves and automation)
  8. Physical (home, work, and every other structure)
  9. Nature (as in the natural world)

So, as coaches, we assist people to align their environments with their intentions. Example: at times in my life I have enjoyed playing the guitar and singing songs. Ten years ago, however, my guitar was stolen and I have never gotten around to replacing it. So guess how much guitar playing I have done in the past ten years? If you guessed “Zero” you were close, although at times I have picked up someone else’s guitar and strummed a few chords.

Soon, that will change and easily enough, as I buy a guitar and place it on a stand in my family room. Once it’s in my environment, the next ten years will witness a lot more strumming than the past ten years. It won’t even take much work. The guitar will be there, I will see it, sit down, and start to play. Who knows, I may even learn to pick! Now that would be fun.

That’s the way environments work, at their best, to support Optimal Wellness. Of course they can also work the other way, to tear us down, but (contrary to popular belief) environments are not fixed and given things. They are mutable and subject to redesign; all it takes is a little imagination and courage.

Where do we find such things? I, for one, find them in the course of conversation. That’s why it’s hard to stop writing Provisions • we have a conversation going that is, itself, a supportive and sustaining environment. Your recent outpouring of support and suggestions vis-•-vis my panic attack is a case in point. Without you, and others in my circle, I would not be as far along as I am in my learning and handling of the situation,

None of us can go it alone. There isn’t enough willpower in the world to make that work! But together with supportive and sustaining environments, our willpower can be magnified into life-giving and life-affirming designs.

May it be so for you. If you’re not sure how to get started, give us a call. Put out your own All Points Bulletin. Once the conversation starts, you’ll be surprised by what comes back. The next thing you know, you too may be buying a guitar (or making other, far more radical, changes). It really is possible to change.

Coaching Inquiries: How well do your environments support your intentions and sustain your willpower? How can you make them more favorable and conducive to life? Who could you talk with about the possibilities for change? Who could join you on the path and support you on the journey?

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 on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

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 Formor Email Bob..

After your poem, Connection, you posed the following Coaching Inquiry: “How could you connect with your own, inner wisdom?” Since starting coach training with Wellcoaches last fall I’ve learned much more about the value of silence in helping me connect to my own wisdom. Since I spend more than an hour each day commuting I now use most of that time for thinking, without the distraction of music, annoying radio hosts, or insipid radio programs. This time to think about and appreciate life’s gifts has made me more grateful for all that I have, rather than trying to chase after all that I don’t.

While searching AI and Coaching on Amazon, I noticed that you have a publication called Appreciative Inquiry in Coaching. However, it does not seem to be published yet. At least it is not available on Amazon and I don’t see any mention of it on your site. Can you tell me if it’s available? I am currently working on a workshop on this topic and I feel your publication would be helpful. May you create many extraordinary moments for you, your family and your clients in 2008. (Ed. Note: That is the May 2007 edition of the online journal AI Practitioner.) 

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

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

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