Provision #645: The Power of Appreciation

Laser Provision

What have we learned about appreciation in the past fourteen weeks? There are two ways to find out. One would be to go back and read each of the past fourteen issues in the Provision Archiveon our website. The other would be to read this one Provision which reviews and summarizes them all. Why not let me do that work for you! Scroll down to read in one fell swoop how you can put the power of appreciation to work for you.

LifeTrek Provision


It is both interesting and wonderful that my series on the power of appreciation has run its course and wraps up today, the Sunday of the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the United States. Thanksgiving. Gratitude. Appreciation. Wonder. They all go hand in hand, representing different aspects of the same generative energy we have been writing about since last August. Like all our Provision series, you can read every past issue in the Provision Archive on our website.

Just in case you missed an issue in this series, however, I went back through them to capture the main points in highlight form. I seldom know what those points will be in advance of writing my series. They just kind of emerge and take on a life of their own. So I enjoy these summaries as much as anyone else. I hope you will take away a few points that can make a difference in your life today and stay with you over time. The power of appreciation is not a last resort; it’s a lifestyle one cultivates and embodies on a daily basis. I hope you join the quest to make it so.

1. Appreciation Appreciates. By definition, what we focus on gets more of our attention. If we focus on problems, what’s wrong, and what we don’t like, then that will get more of our attention. That’s the way the world will be for us. If we focus on possibilities, what’s right, and what we do like, then that will get more of our attention and that will be the way the world is for us. What we appreciate, appreciates. So what kind of world do you want to live in? I, for one, choose life. That’s where I put my attention and I enjoy the way it grows.

2. Frame the Positive. It’s easy for the positive to go by unnoticed. That’s partly because of the “squeaky-wheel” phenomenon: pain and problems speak loudly and carry a big stick. It’s easy to forget all about the good stuff. Appreciative people, however, do not succumb to this temptation. We look for, celebrate, and frame the positive no matter what. Do you want to learn how to do that for yourself? Carry a camera. When we look for things to photograph, we naturally seek to frame the positive. It works every time; it cultivates the appreciative eye that makes all the difference in life.

3. Reframe the Negative. So what do we do with all those pains and problems that speak loudly and carry a big stick? The power of appreciation does not suggest that we ignore them or pretend they don’t exist. Appreciation is not a Pollyanna approach to life. Even as we work on them, however, it’s possible to keep them in perspective by noticing what else there is to celebrate. In every situation, no matter how bleak and barren, something always works that we can leverage, build on, and appreciate. From optimistic vantage points we can reframe and even transform the negative.

4. Play With Possibilities. Research documents that we see more possibilities when we’re feeling positive. That’s not exactly breaking news. When we feel good, we’re more open and receptive to new approaches and directions in life and work. But did you know it works the other way around as well? If we’re feeling discouraged, troubled, constricted, and negative, we can shift our attitude by playing with possibilities. The mere consideration of alternatives is enough to put us on the right path. We may have to “fake it until we make it,” but brainstorming possibilities is a great way to feel better and move forward.

5. Broaden Your Focus. It can be hard to play with possibilities in the thick of the fray; that’s when it’s time to step back and look the situation over from a distance. Viewed from the right vantage point, opportunities become visible in ways that might be otherwise unimaginable. When we unplug from the daily grind, stepping back to the 10,000 foot level, we can better appreciate our strategic advantages and better maintain our positive attitude. When broadening our focus generates positive energy and emotion, our zest for life returns and our engagement becomes much more productive.

6. Narrow Your Focus. Ironically, we can accomplish the exact same thing by zeroing in on and paying attention to whatever is in front of us directly. Like a horse wearing blinders, we can exclude peripheral distractions in order to embrace mindful engagement. By setting aside those worrisome, nay-saying voices, and by focusing on whatever is going on in the present moment that we can learn from, influence, and play with, we calm down and become more willing and able to live our lives the best we can.

7. Deepen Your Focus. There’s at least one more way to focus our attention. In addition to stepping back and zooming in, we can also go deep. This is where we learn to appreciate the wonder of life, no matter what. We can connect with its deep mystery and get lost in its magical unity. If those notions sound rather lofty and poetic, that’s because they are. To see the inner wisdom of life is to go beyond surface level descriptions as to whether things are working or not. It is to appreciate the perfection of life, even when life is obviously not perfect. That may not be easy, but it makes a huge difference whenever we are able to come from that place.

8. The Gratitude Gain. When I’m running a marathon, I like to thank the spectators. I don’t just mean in my mind; I mean vocally, with a “High Five,” and a smile. Connecting in this way with a young child buoys my spirit and gives me strength. It takes my mind off the challenge of the race and puts my mind on the collective will to see it through to the end. I’ve never not finished a marathon, and I think it has to do with the gratitude gain. Such appreciation gives me a boost in running as well as in any other endeavor. Don’t just feel gratitude • let it out and watch it work.

9. The Novelty Nudge. It’s great to look around and notice something wonderful, but gratitude is not the only way to put the power of appreciation to work. We can also look around and notice something new. Most of the time, we go through life on autopilot. We see what we’ve always seen and what we expect to see. There’s no way to change that, but we can interrupt the pattern by intentionally noticing novelty. New things surprise, confound, teach, uplift, confuse, challenge, and disorient us. And that’s just for starters. If we suspend the urge to judge and evaluate those things, if we become more mindful and curious, there’s no telling what things we will learn to appreciate.

10. The Help of Hope. In addition to gratitude and novelty, hope plays a major role when it comes to the power of appreciation. In the absence of hope, the spirit dies. In the presence of hope, the spirit thrives. We become more confident and competent in life and work. The key, then is to define a winnable game so that we can throw ourselves into life with enthusiasm. That is always possible to do, no matter what situation we may find ourselves in. It may take major tweaking, but there’s no substitute for cultivating the hope that everything is going to be all right.

11. It’s All Good! That’s another way to talk about the perfection of life, even when life is obviously not perfect. How can we say that? Try it this way: life can always be appreciated as a learning laboratory. No matter what happens, we can learn, grow, and stretch for the stars. “It’s all good!” communicates that sense of wonder that I seek to cultivate on a daily basis; I would invite you to do the same through meditation, prayer, breathwork, visualization, relaxation, or whatever practices speak to your spirit.

12. Work Your Attitude. My practice of thanking the spectators that line the routes of major marathons is but one example of working our attitude. It’s not enough just to feel appreciation on the inside; we also have to communicate appreciation on the outside. We saw that in so many ways during our trip to southeast Asia. Time after time, people were smiling and going out of their way to be friendly. That may sound like a small thing, but it made a big difference to us and, I hope, to them. For appreciation to take hold, we have actively and courageously work that attitude.

13. Appreciate Beauty. We can always notice beauty because beauty is everywhere. If we fail to notice beauty it’s not because there is nothing beautiful to see, hear, taste, smell, or feel. It’s just because we are choosing to look the other way. Don’t do that. Don’t let that happen. Step back and smell the roses. Find something beautiful to appreciate. Then find ways to enhance that through your own effort, choice, and creativity. You and the world will be glad you did.

14. Like Attracts Like. You may have heard about “the law of attraction.” It’s the simple notion that our attitude, intention, and energy influence and attract the things that come our way. Although some people reduce this “law” to what sounds like a magical formula for getting more stuff, the power of appreciation makes clear how it really works. What we appreciate, appreciates. When we orient ourselves around the good things in life, when we connect with and trust that our needs can and will be met in life and work, then all kinds of good things happen. It may not go exactly as we have planned, but it will go and it will be wonderful.

That’s the energy I have been writing about and encouraging for the past fourteen weeks. I hope it resonates with you and I hope you learn to become more appreciative. It is the universal key to a wonderful life, and it is available to us all. I hope you join me on the quest.

Coaching Inquiries: What does the power of appreciation mean to you? How have you seen it working in your life? What could you do to cultivate an even more appreciative spirit? Who could become your appreciation buddy in life and work? How can you make it so today?

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 HereTop

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.


I just finished reading my first issue of Provisions, “Like Attracts Like” • great stuff! I really liked your take on The Secret. I’m actually working with my two children (6 and 11) on the Ask > Believe > Receive concept and the appreciation overlay you suggest is a great one to put in the mix. Thanks.


I’m just finishing up an eBook called •Finding Time for Fitness.• In one of the chapters where I’m writing about staying inspired for regular physical activity, I cite an example you wrote about in one of your Provisions several years ago. I’d like to get your permission to use this summary in the eBook before publishing it. Copied below is the paragraph as I’d like to include it. When you have a chance, please let me know if you•re OK with me including this. If you need to see a draft of the entire eBook before deciding, I’ll be happy to send you a copy. (Ed. Note: Permission granted. We appreciate it when people see value in our work and seek to share it with others. Thanks.) 



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

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #644: Like Attracts Like

Laser Provision

Have you heard about “the law of attraction”? It was featured in a movie and a book called The Secret. I’m not too keen on interpretations that reduce “the law of attraction” to a get-rich-quick scheme or to any other incantation with magical powers to make the universe bow to our demands. But there is another way to understand this secret, and it has to do with the power of appreciation. When we appreciate the mystery of life and the way the universe works to meet both our needs and the needs of others, then “the law of attraction” really comes into play. Sound intriguing? Read on.

LifeTrek Provision


We’re coming down the home stretch in our series on appreciation, having written now about the importance of cultivating an appreciative eye and an appreciative heart in good times and bad. Before summarizing the series, however, I want to make clear that appreciation is not just a feel-good practice. It’s also a transformational practice. Cultivating appreciation transforms us which, in turn, transforms others. When we radiate the power of appreciation, others get on the same wavelength. We launch an appreciation party that makes life more wonderful for one and all.

This isn’t rocket science, of course, since it’s no more complicated than the old adages, “like attracts like,” “what goes around comes around,” “ask and it shall be given,” and “we find what we expect to find.” The difference, for those who understand the power of appreciation, is that we choose how we are in order to attract what we want. It also comes down to intentionality, application, and practice • or what some call “the law of attraction.”

“What’s that?” you ask. Anyone who has ever read or watched The Secret knows what I’m talking about. Do you want happiness, health, and wealth? Do you want to realize your wildest dreams? Do you want to find your soul mate, the love of your life? Then Rhonda Byrne, the creator, author, and producer of The Secret, reveals how to make “the law of attraction” work for you.

In many respects, The Secret or “the law of attraction” are just other ways of describing the power of appreciation. By focusing on and appreciating what we want as if it were already true, “the law of attraction” holds that the universe aligns and brings those things into being. Such appreciation is quite different from yearning after or pining away for something. It does not radiate the energy of neediness.

The power of appreciation rather adopts a proleptic frame, a forward look, that envisions a desired future state and trusts the universe to deliver that state. It’s no more complicated than asking for what you want, believing it will happen, and being open to receiving it.

That, in a nutshell, is The Secret or “the law of attraction” revealed. Ask. Believe. Receive. If it sounds too good to be true, then Byrne suggests that you may not have tried it or tried it correctly. The process can break down at any step along the way:

  • Ask. Do you know what you want? Have you pictured it clearly? Can you describe it in detail? What does it look, sound, taste, smell, and feel like? Once you get the details straight, have you asked the universe (or God or a Higher Power or life) to deliver them to you? Have you said, “Yes! This is what I want!” both to yourself and to at least one other person? If you don’t know what you want, and if you don’t ask for what you want, then don’t be surprised • The Secret holds • if you go through life feeling rather unfulfilled, aimless, and needy.
  • Believe. Once you’ve put your desires out into the world, once you’ve held them firmly in mind and communicated them to at least one other person, do you take a “Yeah, right, I’ll believe it when I see it!” attitude? Or do you take a “For sure, I’ll see it when I believe it!” attitude. The first attitude should be familiar to those from Missouri, the “Show-Me” state. Such people take a skeptical attitude when it comes to promises like The Secret. Others, however, are more confident that the universe responds to our intentions. Trusting the universe to align, truly trusting, is the key to receiving.
  • Receive. Although trust is the key, mindfulness is the cylinder. No amount of trust will work if we feel unworthy or if we fail to notice and respond to what the universe is doing. Asking and believing provoke all sorts of intuitions and synchronicities, both internal and external, for those who have “eyes to see and ears to hear.” The universe rarely delivers what we ask for in one fell swoop, on a silver platter, without our having to lift a finger. The universe is more subtle than that. Things surface and happen. As they do, we can see our desires being fulfilled.

So what do you think of The Secret? On a certain level, it’s not that much of a secret. “Thoughts become things,” to quote Mike Dooley, is not exactly a new idea. Coaches spend our lives working with people to create new mental frameworks which generate new behavior patterns which lead to new outcomes over time. That’s The Secret in action, and if you’d like some help with that, then I’d invite you to give us a call.

If you decide to call, however, please be advised that LifeTrek is not as inclined as some organizations to turn The Secret into a get-rich-quick scheme. I’m not suggesting that we can’t use the Ask-Believe-Receive formula for health, money, and love. We can. But I am suggesting that if we make those things our goal, the power of appreciation will not prove to be very powerful when it comes to “like attracting like” or “finding what we expect to find.”

That’s because health, money, and love are not ends in themselves; they are byproducts of a well-lived life. The power of appreciation works best when we focus it on universal human needs rather than on particular strategies for meeting those needs. Shelter, security, and safety are, for example, universal human needs. The more we appreciate those needs being met, the more the universe will meet those needs both for us and for others. That’s the power of appreciation at its best. It opens us up to new possibilities and fulfillments.

A six-bedroom house with two fireplaces in a gated community, on the other hand, is a particular strategy for meeting those and many other universal needs. Putting a picture of that house on a vision board, asking the universe to deliver it, and trusting the universe to make it so is where I begin to part company with some practitioners of The Secret, “the law of attraction,” or the power of appreciation.

Not only does such an approach make it easy to blame the victim when the universe fails to deliver the house (you must not have trusted or been open enough); it also makes it easy to forget what the power of appreciation is designed to do: to make life more wonderful for one and all. It’s not a magic formula for getting our desires met; it is a magic formula for getting our needs met. The difference is critical.

When we ask the universe to meet our needs for subsistence – transcendence, safety – challenge, work – rest, honesty – empathy, and autonomy – community, and when we trust the universe to find a way to make it so, that’s when the power of appreciation can work its magic. When we imagine the details not in terms of the number of bedrooms but in terms of the wonderful feelings that spring forth and flow when needs are being met, that when we start to resonate in attractive and meaningful ways. And when we resonate in those ways, when we resonate with appreciation, the universe indeed resonates back.

So I’m arguing for an open and adaptive understanding of The Secret. It works best when we come to appreciate what Robert Gonzales describes as “the living energy of needs.” Even when needs are not being met, we can nevertheless appreciate how wonderful it feels when needs are being met • and that is the vibration that calls forth The Secret, “the law of attraction,” the power of appreciation, the gratitude gain, the novelty nudge, the help of hope, and all of the other good things that I have written about in the past few months.

That is the vibration I wish for you this day and every day forward.

Coaching Inquiries: How would you describe your relationship to the universe? Do you trust it to meet your needs or do you doubt that it takes any real interest in you? How could you become more active in asking, believing, and receiving? How can you resonate the power of appreciation, in good times and bad? With whom could you share your enjoyment of the living energy of needs?

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 HereTop

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.


Since we finished our work with you, our lives have moved in very different directions. I now run my work through a small office in the back of my camper via cell phone modem, with the Rocky Mountains out my window. Works great! As dreams start to come true, they rarely look like they were initially envisioned. But with my wife’s income and the company floating itself, we will be in a great place for the revival of the economy. Capitalist, socialist, or somewhere between, there will still be the need for production • so I will take it as it comes. Thanks for all that you did to help us move forward. We’ll stay in touch.



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

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #643: Appreciate the Beauty of Life

Laser Provision

The optimist looks at the glass and calls it half full. The pessimist looks at the glass and calls it half empty. The appreciative person looks at the glass and calls it beautiful. We can always find that perspective from which we can understand, see, and contribute to the beauty of life. It may not be obvious, but it is always there. I invite you to join me on the quest.

LifeTrek Provision


It is ironic, but every time we have gotten onto a plane over the past two weeks, our landing has been preceded by serious tropical storms. First, there was Typhoon Mirinae in southeast Asia. It arrived in Manila just three hours after we landed. As the typhoon passed over the South China Sea, on its way to Vietnam, it weakened to a tropical storm but still managed to devastate many areas to the north of Ho Chi Minh City just prior to our arrival. Between the Philippines and Viet Nam, some 150 people were killed by the storm.

One week later, we returned home to southeast Virginia just as the remnants of Hurricane Ida were stirring the pot with more winds and rains of destruction. Our landing in Richmond had the lowest cloud ceiling and visibility of them all. A slow-moving nor’easter, with wind gusts up to 75 miles an hour, brought near-record storm surges to low-lying areas, downed trees, and widespread power outages. Our region was not as devastated by this storm as it was by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, but there has still been significant flooding and damages. I appreciate the pain and mourn the losses that many have suffered.

That is one more way appreciation works. It’s not just about celebrating the positive; it’s also about empathizing with the negative. It’s not about putting on rose-colored glasses, trying always to see the glass as half full. It’s rather about understanding life as it is, seeing its intrinsic beauty, and working to make it better. No matter what happens in life, from the best of times to the worst of times, we can always do those three things. Let’s take them each in turn.

Understanding Life As It Is. This may be the hardest and yet it is certainly the most important part of appreciation. What is really going on? Most of the time, to quote Ana’s Nin, “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” In other words, we see what we expect to see, what we want to see, or what we have been primed to see. Most of the time, perception is projection. It is a mindless activity that happens routinely without much thought or conscious awareness. Like breathing, we just see.

Also like breathing, however, we can choose to see differently. I have written many times about the health-promoting effects of conscious breathing. When we shift our breathing from an unconscious, involuntary, autonomic reflex to a conscious, voluntary, somatic response, we change everything. When we choose to breathe slowly, deeply, and rhythmically, our blood pressure comes down, our heart rate lowers, our muscles relax, our stress levels decrease, and our energy levels increase.

These effects are not limited to moments of conscious breathing; they rather spill over throughout the day. Dr. Andrew Weil suggests that sixty seconds of slow, deep, and rhythmic breathing twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, are enough to generate lasting and measurable effects. When I mention this to people in my workshops, and train people in a simple, rhythmic breathing process, there are always reactions of surprise, interest, and curiosity. Few, however, actually shift their daily routine to incorporate such practices. Even two minutes a day can fall off the radar screen.

Conscious seeing works much the same way and can have many of the same benefits. In her book Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility, psychologist Ellen Langer suggests that we can do this by looking for novelty. What can we see that is different from what we expect? Langer tells the story of going over to a friend’s house for dinner and noticing that the fork, instead of being on the left side of the plate, as she expected, was on the right side of the plate along with the knife and spoon.

Langer was surprise by her strong reaction to this simple breach of conventionality. “This table isn’t set right,” she thought to herself. And then she thought again. “Who says the fork always goes to the left of the plate?” By noticing novelty, and her reactions to novelty, Langer was better able to see things as they are. She thereby avoided reaching routinely to left side of the plate, setting her fork down on that side, and she also avoided judging her friend for setting the table wrong. The process of conscious seeing changed everything.

That’s how appreciation works. It gets us to notice new things without reacting in evaluative ways. It makes us more open and receptive to the future as it emerges. It transforms mindless living into mindful living, with demonstrable health impacts in terms of stress and creativity.

Seeing Life’s Intrinsic Beauty. Langer had to let go of long-held assumptions and beliefs, taught to her by her mother, as to how a table was to be set in order to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of a table set in a different way. That was easy. The stakes were low and no one really cares. What about the victims of those tropical storms? What about the times when our own needs go unmet? Is it still possible then to see the intrinsic beauty of life? I would argue it is not only possible; it is essential.

When needs are violated or frustrated, whether by natural disasters or human actions, it is tempting to react with outrage and righteous indignation. There is certainly a time and place for that. But if we stop there, we add to our stress, lower our energy, and limit our options. As Gandhi once said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth makes the whole world blind and toothless.” Seeing only life’s extrinsic ugliness, of which there are abundant examples, destroys the soul and tears the fabric of human relationships. Seeing life’s intrinsic beauty, creates the soul and repairs the fabric of human relationships. Simply put, it makes life better.

One way to do that, as taught to me by Robert Gonzales, a certified Nonviolent Communication trainer with the Prescott Center for Nonviolent Communication, is to focus on what it looks and feels like when life is at its very best. We can hold a mental picture of that image, sense its positive value, appreciate the associated feelings, and immerse our awareness in the goodness of needs being met. When this happens, we not only see life’s intrinsic beauty, we also introduce that energy into our relationships with self and others.

Those who survive the worst of deprivations, humiliations, afflictions, and subjugations often report how they won the mental game by holding on to life’s intrinsic beauty. I remember hearing the story of a POW who survived solitary confinement by teaching himself how to play piano through visualization. Imagining the keys on the keyboard, he went through the motions, both mentally and with his fingers, of practicing scales and playing different songs. Over time, he came to appreciate the beauty of music, and of what it meant to his soul, even though no music was actually being played.

If that can be done in solitary confinement, we can embrace the beauty of life in just about any situation. It’s always possible to move from an awareness of deficit to an awareness of sufficiency or even abundance. When life is not as we would like, we can focus on the needs that are important to us and celebrate the ways in which they give us life. That beauty is always there; recognizing that beauty is always possible and always enhances life.

Working To Make Life Better. In addition to enhancing our attitude and internal resources, understanding life and seeing its beauty also unleashes the energy to make life even more beautiful. Beauty begets beauty in a radiating spiral of possibility. When we focus on the ugliness of life, we can end up hopeless, broken, passive, compliant, and conventional. When we connect with the beauty of life, however, we generate hope, wholeness, activity, choice, and creativity. Those are the energies we need to make life better.

I know how those energies have worked for me in my own life. My most passionate commitments have never come from guilt, shame, desperation, or fear. They have rather come from a place of joy. In college I was passionately involved with the Appalachia Service Project. In Chicago I was passionately involved with community renewal. In Columbus I was passionately involved with historic restoration. As a coach, I am passionately involved with my clients’ success.

On a much smaller scale, I can get passionately involved with just about any interest that makes a life-enriching contribution. Mowing the lawn? Why not! Running a marathon with my kids. Sure! Fixing a computer problem for my wife? Before she wakes up in the morning! Whenever I see how something will make life better, whether for myself or others, and whenever I connect the dots between who I am, what I know, and what might be done I am usually the first one to raise my hand, to get involved, and to do what I can.

It feels good to live in this way, to engage with all life has to offer. It feels good to celebrate the beauty of life, even in the midst of storms, losses, and unmet needs. When we do this, when we understand life as it is and see its intrinsic goodness, life takes on new dimensions and we experience new depths of meaning and purpose. Our way in the world becomes a contribution and we ourselves become a reflection of life’s beauty.

Coaching Inquiries: How do you understand life? Is the glass half full, half empty, or beautiful? How can the appreciation of beauty enhance your relationship to life? How can you make even more of a contribution? How can you come from a place of abundance and joy? Who can join you on the quest?

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 HereTop

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.


What a gift reading this week’s Provision, Work Your Attitude! I finally got to read it tonight. I came home today exhausted from a day of trying to stay positive and appreciative despite some who can’t or don’t or won’t. It may not all be within my control but you remind me to be and show my appreciativeness regardless. Thanks for continuing to share your wisdom and encouragement through the weekly Provisions. I just wanted you to know • I really appreciate you!


It’s hard to keep up with you, you are in so many places, doing so many things! It is now almost the end of a year since we did some coaching together and I continue to grow personally and professionally. Thanks. I wish you well on your journey and continue to read Provisions with interest. 



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

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #642: Work Your Attitude

Laser Provision

We often think of attitude as a mental framework, but in reality it’s so much more. Attitude involves our whole being and we have to put it out in the world if we hope to experience its benefits. That’s especially true when it comes appreciation. Appreciation is no thing to keep to ourselves; it is meant to be shared. When we give it away we receive it back many times over. So why not work that attitude today? Do it, and I’m sure you’ll experience the gift.

LifeTrek Provision


I’m writing this Provision while I am again sitting in a chair in the sky, only this time I’m flying over the South China Sea on my way to Vietnam (the Vietnamese prefer to call it the East Sea). We’ve had a wonderful conference in Manila, making many connections that we expect will develop in interesting and engaging ways over time.

It’s wonderful to be appreciated. Given our strong desire to contribute in meaningful ways to the growth and development of others, especially educators working in primary and secondary schools, the opportunity to connect with the International Schools movement in this way has been especially satisfying. We truly want to thank the many people who have made this all possible.

While in Manila, we spent virtually all of our time at the Conference hotel. Giving a total of eight presentations over the course of three days did not leave us with much time for sightseeing! We did, however, get to know many of the people who work at the hotel, and that was a real joy. Rico, who made the omelets every morning, Raul, who cleaned our room every day, Philip who carted around the luggage, Maria and Daisy, massage therapists at the Chi spa, and Ericka, who worked the morning shift at the health club, all made memorable impressions.

They did so by working their attitude. Now I’m sure they were taught do so by a hotel which boasted having the “friendliest employees in Manila,” but it came across as genuine and it definitely lifted our spirits. It’s impossible to have someone look you in the eye, smile, and greet you with a musical lilt to their voice and not have it rub off in return. I found myself becoming more vocal in my expressions of appreciation with each passing day.

That’s essential to making appreciation work. If we really feel it in our bones, as I wrote about and encouraged you to do last week, then it has to come out in how we approach, treat, relate to, and greet other people. Appreciation is not a concept in theory; it is a way of being in practice. While it is true that we have to feel it in order for it to come out of our horn, it also true that it has to come out of our horn if we hope to feel it.

The inner resonance and the outer expression of appreciation are part and parcel of one reality. They contribute to and feed into each other in mutually constructive ways. They work together. So here’s the secret: it doesn’t really matter where you start, you’ll end up with both if you do either one consistently.

It’s hard for me to imagine, for example, that all those greetings, smiles, and appreciations being expressed by the people at that hotel do not have some positive, residual effects after those folks get off work. I suppose they could resent having to be friendly all day long, grumbling all the way home, but they could also benefit from their appreciative, on-the-job training. I know I, for one, feel better when I remember to smile and greet people in a friendly way. It’s hard to fake that.

Humorist Loretta Laroche likes to make this connection in her presentations. “If you smile or laugh long enough,” she notes, “sooner or later your brain gets the message, ‘I must be happy.'” And so it is. When we work the attitude of appreciation, when we put it out there in the world, when we share it with others in ways that make them smile in return, our own countenance improves.

So let that be our way in the world as often as we can bring ourselves to remember. Every time we meet or interact with someone is not too often! Express appreciation not just when someone does something nice; express appreciation whenever someone comes into your sphere of influence. The common bond of humanity is reason enough. We are not alone. Isn’t that worth celebrating?

Over time, I have come to appreciate that connection much more fully and consistently. I’m still not as good as many people I know, but I’m better than I used to be. Instead of taking people for granted, being impatient, or otherwise acting as though the world owes me a living, I am much more inclined to experience people as gifts, to be tolerant, and to otherwise act as though I owe the world my appreciation.

That’s what I mean by working our attitude. If we want to make life more wonderful, then we have to express an appreciative attitude at every opportunity. I’m finishing this Provision at sea level, after spending several days in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The traffic here is a real inspiration. Sure, it’s crazy. But it’s also beautiful as people give way to accommodate each other on the road. There is no road rage here, because there are no hard and fast rules to follow (except, perhaps, when the police are looking).

It wouldn’t be smart to drive the wrong way on a one way street, but people do it. They also drive on the sidewalks. And they drive in every direction imaginable while on the road. The first time I saw drivers making a left turn, let alone a U Turn, into oncoming traffic, I found myself astonished. There were no accidents, and no flaring tempers. There was simply a gentle giving way as the traffic enveloped and worked its way around us. Beautiful.

To make that work, there’s a lot of eye contact and hand signals in Vietnamese driving. People are constantly checking, flagging, indicating, nodding, asserting, testing, accommodating, and otherwise connecting with those around them in this thing they do called driving. It looks crazy, but it functions amazingly well. That’s because people take an appreciative attitude when it comes to the interactions on the road. They count on and cultivate the cooperation of other drivers to survive and thrive through it all.

Appreciation can do that. When we allow our attitude to show, when we work it for all it’s worth, when we express appreciation to one and all, life has a way of becoming more wonderful. It’s not enough to feel appreciation in our hearts; we also have to let it show in our lives. The inward and outward journey are one; so connect the dots and live!

Coaching Inquiries: How could you express more appreciation in life and work? Who could you reach out to with an appreciative word or deed? How could you work that attitude as your standard mode of operation? What is one specific thing you could do right not to make it so?

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 HereTop

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.


I’m printing out your latest Provision, It’s All Good, to send to my sister. She’s back in the hospital. Thanks for the encouraging words.


After nearly a decade, I am still reading your Provisions. Thanks for all your good words & inspiration! I thought you might enjoy reading about Jim Tornes; remember him from Rotary? Speaking of inspiration! Walking Tall Article 



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

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #641: It’s All Good

Laser Provision

The power of appreciation is not limited to the good times. It’s all good if we just have the eyes to see. That’s not to say there aren’t problems and challenges in life. It’s rather to say that we can find good stuff to celebrate even when times are tough or not going our way. That’s the orientation of those who have made appreciation their standard mode of operation. We have to feel it in our bones if we want good things to come our way. That happened on our way to the Philippines, and this Provision tells the story. Read on to join the journey.

LifeTrek Provision


As I write this I am flying across North America on my way to Manila, Philippines via Nagoya, Japan. My wife, Megan, and I are facilitating eight workshops at a 4-day Administrators’ Conference sponsored by the East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools. For those who are interested, or who may want to bring our work into other settings, here are the titles of our eight topics:

  • Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation At A Time (Bob)
  • Trust Matters: Leadership For Successful Schools (Megan)
  • Stress Proof Your Life (Bob)
  • Building On Our Strengths: Using Appreciative Inquiry In Schools (Megan)
  • Building Capacity For Change Through Compassionate Communication (Megan)
  • How Agile Is Your Leadership? (Bob)
  • Fostering a Positive School Climate (Megan)
  • Designing Schools: Innovation In Action (Bob)

Phew! By the end of all that, Megan and I will not have any thoughts left unshared. 🙂 The Conference has come along at a perfect time, following closely upon the heels of our just-completed manuscript for a new book on how coaching can better serve the cause of school transformation. We have developed tons of new material and we are looking forward to sharing it with others.

Of course, our coaching methodology builds on the work of many others. It is hardly a new creation. But we do work from a strong, well-referenced research base and we do integrate theories into the practice of coaching that have not been brought together and explained in just this way before. So we are hopeful that the book, due in bookstores next June, will make a real contribution.

We know people are interested because we have received about a dozen inquiries in response to our announcement about a pilot coach training program, based on the book, that will kick off next April. People are already signing up, which will be limited to a total of 15 people. If you want to learn more, to ask any questions, and to let us know of your interest, visitwww.EvocativeCoaching.com.

The training program may be of interest even to those who work in settings other than schools. The principles of Evocative Coaching are relevant to anyone who has the responsibility to facilitate the growth and development of others, or even one’s own growth and development. There’s a reason that the words “emotion” and “motion” are so closely related. We ply that connection in our book and in our coaching model to bring out the best in life and work.

That certainly happened today. The miracle of flight has me feeling appreciative in more ways than one. To think that this enormous plane, 10 seats across, with hundreds of people on board can actually get off the ground is amazing. To think that I am sitting in a chair in the sky is incredible; it defies what human beings had long thought was possible. For thousands of years people could only dream of flying through the air. Now, millions of people do it on a daily basis as a matter of course. Amazing.

Even more amazing to me, today, was how the supporting ground logistics worked out. Our first flight, from Richmond, Virginia to Detroit, Michigan, was delayed by about 45 minutes due to a mechanical problem. They actually had to bring in a whole new plane. That would not have been a big deal, except that our scheduled connection in Detroit was only 58 minutes. So things did not look good.

Before the flight we talked with the pilot and the flight crew about our predicament. The pilot smiled and said, “I’ll see what I can do.” Now there’s not much that he can do, given how much is controlled by others including routing and flight speed, but he made it to Detroit in record time. And then, as if by design, our plane taxied up to one of the closest possible gates to our connecting flight.

It was still quite a haul, to get from Concourse C to Concourse A in Detroit — those marathon-ready legs of mine really came in handy • but we made it. And the flight to Manila ended up being delayed due to a roster and luggage complication such that our luggage actually managed to make it on the flight as well. How good is that! What started out looking rather grim and hopeless turned out just fine.

It’s all good! That’s what I mean by the power of appreciation. As we sat and waited in the Richmond airport for our replacement plane to arrive, I had a tremendous sense of appreciation that no matter what happened it would all be good. Whether we made our connecting flight or not, I would have a wonderful story to tell in Provisions and we would, in the end, even we did end up with a 24-hour delay, make it to the Philippines in time for our first session.

So the power of appreciation resonated throughout my body. Instead of freaking out that we were possibly going to miss our plane, catastrophizing a worst-case scenario, I found myself playing with the possibilities one way or the other. No matter what happened: a night on the plane or a night in Detroit, there was still plenty to celebrate and appreciate. I felt that in my bones, and it brought me a peace that passes understanding.

There’s a famous line from a jazz musician that goes something like this: “If you don’t feel it, it won’t come out of your horn.” That’s my message in today’s Provision. It’s not enough to talk about appreciation. We also have to experience and emotionally connect with its radiant energy. We have to feel thankful for the gift of life and all the little twists and turns that come along the way. Until and unless we actually feel appreciative, it won’t come out of our horn.

For that to happen, it helps to have appreciative practices. These are the things we do, be they little or big, intermittent or routine, that reinforce the feeling of wonder. Mindfulness is one such practice, where we consciously pay attention to what is happening in the present moment, including both internal and external happenings, with a sense of wonder. There’s no judgment in mindfulness, and no fear as well, there is only appreciation of life. It’s all good.

That’s not to say there is no stress or strain in life, let alone no evil or terror. Those things exist, but they do not have to define our reality. We can look for both-and solutions that recognize the ways in which life can be better as well as the ways in which life is perfect, just the way it is.

Another appreciative practice is consciously reflecting after the fact on the things that make life wonderful. Those things can always be found, no matter how difficult our situation might be. Some people like to write those things down, in a gratitude journal, others just like to call them to mind. However you do it, it becomes a practice when you do it routinely. Not just randomly, if you remember and get around to it, but habitually, as a matter of course.

Some people have developed the ability to see and celebrate the good in the present moment, no matter what, on a consistent basis. It is their way of being in the world. And that is my hope for you. Whether the connection works out or not, whether you spend a night in Detroit or go on to Manila, it’s all good. Feel it in your bones. Appreciate the best of what is to discover the best of what might be. When you connect with that energy, when appreciation becomes a felt sense rather than just a good idea, that’s when it will finally come out of your horn.

Coaching Inquiries: What practices do you engage in that assist you to cultivate an appreciative spirit? How can you deepen those practices and make them stick? How can you resonate more fully with the power of appreciation? Who could become your appreciation buddy for life?

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 HereTop

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.


The Provision on hope is excellent. It reminds me of the poem by David Whyte, “What to Remember When Waking.” Thanks for the reminder!


I love the YouTube video “piano stairs.” Ever since our coaching together the words that came out of your mouth, “Maybe the meaning of life is just to have fun,” have stuck with me. I want to be an inspiration and catalyst for more fun in everyone’s life 🙂 Thanks for always sharing your best with us!


Thank you for the work you do and for allowing us to benefit from it without a fee. You can be sure that I share as I can with people sent my way who also cannot pay a fee. More power to you and your team.

PS • This is truly serendipitous. After sending you a first-ever reply as a reader of Provisions, I clicked on your training programs and have just read that you will be here in Manila, Philippines this week! I am here in Manila and would like to know what is possible. (Editor’s Note: I hope so too! What a wonder-full world.) 



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

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #640: The Help of Hope

Laser Provision

Is appreciation limited only to the past and present? No! We just call it something different when we look into the future. That’s when we call appreciation, “hope.” The more positive we feel about the future, the more hope we have, the more confident and competent we become in life and work. The key, then, is to define a winnable game so that we can throw ourselves into life with enthusiasm. I seem to do that rather naturally and consistently, with even the simplest and smallest of projects. In this Provision, I share some of how that happens thanks, in part, to the work of Albert Bandura. I invite you to read on and come along for the ride.

LifeTrek Provision


The next few weeks are going to be a lot of fun and work for me. Notice how I put those two words together: fun and work. The two are not mutually exclusive. They go hand in hand. Unfortunately, for many people, work is the opposite of fun. In fact, many people define work as “that which I would rather not be doing but which I have to do in order to make a living.” Coaching seeks to change all that, and coaches seek to model what it looks like to love your work and make it fun.

I certainly love my work and make it fun, regardless of what I am doing. My parents have been in town for a few days this week, and we’ve had fun while working on the garage. At one point, we knocked a hole through a brick wall in order to run a new dryer vent. Noting the work that was going on, my wife, Megan, walked by observing, “There’s nothing that Bob loves more than knocking holes through brick walls.” She said that because 30 years ago, while working in the inner-city of Chicago, I spent three days opening up the space for a double door through a wall that was six bricks thick. Talk about fun!

No matter what I do, I like to turn it into a winnable game. That’s where my passion and gusto for life comes from. That’s how I go through life. Take this weekend. I’m back for another marathon, this time the Marine Corps Marathon, with my son and daughter-in-law. It will be their first marathon and my 39th. Each marathon is a story. Some have been fast, some have been slow, some have been to pace others, some have been to challenge myself, some have been to see the sights (like when I did Rome, Italy), while others have been to run a marathon in yet another State.

Each of those stories represent a winnable game. Doing something well, making something both functional and beautiful (like the dryer vent!), seeing something new, accomplishing something difficult, overcoming an injury, accomplishing a milestone, playing a song • whatever it may be, I have a way of seeing the game within the task at hand. In fact, seeing the game is where my motivation comes from to do whatever it is I’m doing. Unless I find something interesting that I have a reasonable chance of doing well, chances are you won’t find me doing it at all.

That’s what I call the help of hope. When we anticipate a measure of success at a task we find interesting, we become at once more confident and competent. Apart from such positive anticipation, life becomes a chore, our performance degrades, and our reason for being evaporates. The help of hope is that essential.

Albert Bandura, a pioneer positive psychologist from the last generation specializing in social cognitive theory, refers to the help of hope as self-efficacy. The theory can be summarized in that famous quote attributed to Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” When you have hope, all kinds of things become possible. When you don’t have hope, all kinds of things become impossible.

So what contributes to that kind of hope? Bandura identifies four sources:

  1. Verbal Encouragement. The more encouragement we receive, the more hopeful we become. If at first we think of something as impossible and without hope, we may change our mind on the basis of verbal encouragement from others. Perhaps our hopelessness is due to a limited understanding of the problem; perhaps we need some new ideas; perhaps we have to define the game differently. Just because it may be impossible to do something one way, does not make it hopeless. It just makes it a conundrum. And with a little encouragement, we can have fun solving the puzzle and discovering a new way forward.
  2. Vicarious Experiences. Verbal encouragement is one way we can assist others to discover the help of hope; we can make an even more significant contribution when we demonstrate how to play and win the game ourselves. When people see others being successful at a task, they are more likely to think, “Perhaps I could do that too.” That’s how we learned to walk. We saw others walking and, in our fledgling way, we thought to others, “If others can walk, perhaps I can walk.” So we took off to figure out how. Of course we fell over a bunch of times, but that was all part of the fun. It wasn’t a failure, it was a learning experience. As role models, we make huge contributions to the learning patterns of others.
  3. Emotional Engagement. After receiving encouragement and witnessing success, we may still not feel very optimistic about our ability to do something new. The help of hope may still elude us. That’s because our emotions, and the felt senses of our emotions in our bodies, are overwhelming. The mind may be willing, as they say, but the flesh can be weak. Although it’s not really a matter of weakness. It is rather a matter of emotions. The Limbic system is protecting us from ourselves. And sometimes the Limbic system should be listened to; it has been serving our species well for millions of years. But if we never listened to anything other than our Limbic system, we would never have done anything great. What Limbic system would ever go to the moon, for instance? The key, then, is to listen to our bodies, to learn what they have to teach us, and then to allow hope to work its magic. The help of hope can overcome just about any fear. Focusing is one way to do that.
  4. Mastery Experiences. Another way to do that is to have some quick wins. Nothing builds confidence and competence more than success. That’s what I mean by defining a winnable game. We don’t have to run a marathon our first time out; in fact, that could be a dangerous proposition. We have to train and get ourselves ready for the big event. So we go for short runs first, building up to 26. 2 miles (42.2 kilometers). The more successful we become at shorter distances, the more hopeful we become regarding our capacity to run longer distances. Instead of a vicious cycle, we find ourselves in a victorious cycle. We find ourselves benefiting from the help of hope.

I see how that plays out in my work as a public speaker as well. As a coach who works with people around matters related to their motivation and movement in life, I occasionally have opportunities to speak to large groups of people. Now public speaking is a nerve wracking experience for many people. I don’t usually experience it that way, however. I usually think of it as a fun opportunity to connect with other people. And I know that comes from my successful efforts in the past. Nothing succeeds like success. Doing something well on a small scale generates confidence and competence for doing something well on a larger scale.

It also generates the help of hope. Although confidence and competence are part of the equation, along with successful perseverant experiences, hope goes beyond such basic ingredients to a larger conviction that everything is going to be alright. That’s what the Irish poet, Derek Mahon, discovered from his experience of creativity and his contemplation of creation:

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?

There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.

The lines flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart;

The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.

I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.

Everything is going to be all right.

When times are tough, and times are always in some senses tough, we need the help of hope. We need to believe that our efforts can be successful, and we also need to believe that somehow things will work out even if our efforts are not successful. We need to trust the mysterious ways of life’s unfolding. I know that I have learned to hope in this way, and I have witnessed the difference that makes in how life has gone.

I encourage you to adopt that hope for yourself. Start small. Be successful in one thing; fan those flames into many things; then notice how others are doing the same. We are not alone on planet earth. The help of hope is not a private possession. It is a shared reality that makes life better for one and all.

Coaching Inquiries: How strong is your hope? How confident are you that “everything is going to be all right”? How can you bolster that hope? What small thing can you be successful at right now? Who could help you with that? How could you make it so?

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 HereTop

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.


Congratulations on completing your book. I think you may enjoy Alchemy of the Heart and The Presence Process by Michael Brown. His website http://www.thepresenceportal.com. Here’s an excerpt from the website:

“The present moment is valid. Entering it consciously is a portal into authenticity, integrity, and intimacy. Present moment awareness is being fully present within each unfolding moment just as it is • without interference • without binding it with the resonance of fear, anger, and grief arising from our un-integrated past”.

“Only when we are present are we vulnerable to receiving, and therefore able to contain, each unfolding encounter as a divinely ordained opportunity to intimately explore the profound possibilities of our humanity. Entering the moment fully requires a behavioral transformation • a shift from unconscious reactivity into deliberate responsibility. This transformation is only authentically accomplished through integrating the underlying imprinted emotional signatures that consistently distract us from being present. No one can accomplish this on our behalf.” 



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

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #639: The Novelty Nudge

Laser Provision

There are lots of ways to experience the power of appreciation. One way is by looking back on the past or into the present with gratitude. I wrote about that last week in The Gratitude Gain. Another way is by looking into the future with hope and trust that something good will happen. We’ll look at that next week. A third way, however, is to look into the present with mindfulness. Mindfulness is different than gratitude in that it doesn’t judge things as being wonderful or miserable. It just notices things and allows them to speak. That’s what I call The Novelty Nudge; read on to learn more.

LifeTrek Provision


Although we are in the middle of a series on The Power of Appreciation, today’s Provision as well as next week’s were inspired by an article by Jeremy McCarthy in the September issue of the monthly newsletter of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA). The article spoke to me because of how it built on last week’s Provision regarding The Gratitude Gain. Allow me to excerpt two paragraphs from the IPPA article:

Research from the past several years has shown us how our well-being is greatly impacted by our optimism about the future and our styles of explaining the past (Seligman, 2006). Hope about the future (Lopez et al., 2004; Snyder, Rand, & Sigmon, 2005) and gratitude towards the past (Bono, Emmons, & McCullough, 2004; Emmons & Shelton, 2005) have been two of the strongest areas of research that positive psychology has produced to date. For example, both writing down life-goals for the future (King, 2001), and writing down the things we are grateful for (Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson, 2005), have shown increases in happiness among research participants….

But how does all this research … relate to the concept of “mindfulness,” which is generally defined as being attentive to the present (Brown & Ryan, 2003)? Mindfulness is another proven pathway to well-being, usually taught through meditation where practitioners practice nonjudgmental awareness of everything that is going on in the present moment (Shapiro, Schwartz & Santerre, 2002). A recent longitudinal study found that “intensive mindfulness training” was associated with “significant gains” in several indicators of mental health and well-being (Orzech, Shapiro, Brown & McKay, 2009, p. 220). The literature seems to promote two contradictory pathways to wellness: one by staying connected to the present moment and avoiding judgments or evaluations, and two by mental visualizations of, or expressions of gratitude and hope about the past and the future.

That’s where The Novelty Nudge comes in. For the IPPA article, McCarthy interviewed Ellen Langer, a Harvard psychologist who has spent more than 30 years researching the notion and practice of mindfulness and who I just happened to hear a couple of weeks ago when I was in Boston attending and presenting at the “Coaching in Medicine & Leadership Conference.” Langer notes that although meditation can facilitate and encourage mindfulness, it is not the same thing as mindfulness. Mindfulness, according to Langer, is nothing more than noticing differences in the present moment without reacting in any of our normal ways. These ways include:

  • Judging
  • Denying
  • Diagnosing
  • Correcting
  • Comparing
  • Consoling
  • Blaming
  • Interrogating
  • One-Upping
  • Victimizing
  • Shutting Down

In other words, we suspend the temptation to evaluate and educate in favor of noticing. This noticing, according to Langer, “is very different from vigilance; it is a soft awareness marked by an absence of mindless attention.” In other words, it’s not mindfulness if we are forcing ourselves to be mindful. It only works when we open our senses and awareness to whatever is happening, both internally and externally, in the present moment. Then, following Roz and Ben Zander, we can respond with smiling eyes, uplifted arms, and the delighted exclamation, “How fascinating!”

Most of the time, of course, we are not mindful. We either go through life, failing to notice any differences at all or, if we notice differences, we quickly evaluate and educate our way around them. At the Conference in Boston, Langer spoke about an experience she had of going to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. When she sat down at her place, she noticed that the fork was set on the right side of the plate, along with the knife and spoon. She had noticed a difference, but her initial reaction was anything but mindful. “That’s not how it’s supposed to be!” she exclaimed to herself. The fork goes on the left, after all, and everyone knows that.

She could have continued in that frame, either with more internal chatter or by talking with her friend about how she had set the table wrong. Instead, Langer used her evaluative and visceral reactions to facilitate mindfulness. She stepped back from her reactions and started to notice her reactions. She became, in other words, an observer of her own experience in real time. “Who said the fork always goes on the left?” she found herself asking, “What else can I notice about this table and about my felt sense as to how it is set?” She came away with an uplifted understanding of herself and a deeper appreciation of being together with her friend.

That’s why Langer describes mindfulness as “a flexible state of mind” described by “actively drawing novel distinctions.” Such noticing nudges us into a positive, experiential frame because of how it gently pushes aside our more casuistic, narrative frame. Most of the time, as we go through life, we are constantly making up stories to either explain things away (keeping experiences at bay) or put things in their place (forcing experiences into existing categories). Neither approach represents mindfulness and neither approach brings happiness.

This is not say that narrative thinking has no value or should be abandoned (as if that were even possible). It is simply to say that going through life without ever noticing new things until they hit us like a ton of bricks is not the best way to live when it comes to facilitating happiness. We need to mix up our approaches, which often comes only when we give ourselves conscious permission to do so. That is the essence of mindfulness, which underlies all forms of creativity.

Last week a contractor began to put a pump in our lake so that we could water the lawn with free lake water, an abundant source in this case, rather than with metered, city water. I had gone over the job with the contractor and it was all priced out and planned accordingly. The morning work was to start, however, I went outside in a spirit of mindfulness. I wanted to look things over, one last time, to see if everything looked right and ready to go.

The job was planned out to replace an old pump that has not worked in more than a decade. So, naturally, everyone assumed that we would remove the old pump and put in a new pump at that location. We couldn’t see it any other way, because the old pump was sitting there guiding our attention. I had seen that broken old pump for as long as I had lived in the house (more than seven years) and that was the starting point of my perceptions (which also became the starting point of the contractor’s perceptions).

That morning, however, I noticed something new. I consciously gave myself permission to think outside the box. I looked around and asked myself the question, “How else could this go?” I wasn’t evaluating the pros and cons of different options (that came later); I was simply noticing different options as well as my reactions to them. It took a conscious decision, a considerable pause, and a significant amount of perceptive scanning to look up and down my property line to see if there were other options. Then, an awareness dawned: we could come up on the other side.

The dawning of that realization was an act of mindfulness. It was seeing something new in the present moment which, until then, had not been seen. And, once it was seen, it filled me with happiness. “Beautiful!” was my immediate reaction. I just sat back and enjoyed the thought, the discovery, the novelty, before beginning to evaluate its feasibility and practicality. As it turns out, that’s exactly what we did • saving money and time in the process. But before we made that decision • returning to that casuistic, narrative frame • I cultivated the discovery by getting into that positive, experiential frame. And that made all the difference.

So do that today, and every day. Find something that you can look at with new eyes. Notice novelty, differences, oddities, and permutations. Open yourself up to surprise. Don’t judge what you see as good or bad; just see it. Then step back and enjoy the view for as long as you can, before returning to the business at hand.

Coaching Inquiries: Look around right now and notice one thing that you have not noticed before. What do you see? How do you feel? What does this thing have to say? Where do you want to go with this awareness? Don’t try to make meaning of it; allow it to make meaning of you. How can you make this practice a regular part of your daily life? Who could you share your discoveries with?

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 HereTop

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.


Enjoyed your Provision this week, The Gratitude Gain. Best wishes on book and congrats on Baltimore Marathon.


I did want to congratulate you on your success in the marathon and with your book. Thanks, too, all the love and support and kernels of knowledge you’ve shared with me over the years. Your writing does inspire me.


It was great to finally meet you in Boston and you know how much I appreciate your work. Like most provisions, I loved the Deepening Your Focus topic as it related so much to the Star Thrower video we saw in Boston. So many parallels between E. O. Wilson’s nature expedition and the photographer for National Geographic. They have that great thing in common – the practice of appreciation. Thanks for sharing both – as it’s something I’m continuing to learn how to do!


Thank you for continuing to send me your stuff. I am now retired and dealing with my Parkinson’s disease. Your writing helps. 



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

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #638: The Gratitude Gain

Laser Provision

I’ve been writing about the power of appreciation and for several weeks we have been exploring the power of focus to enhance appreciation. Two weeks ago I urged you to step back and broaden your focus to gain perspective on the good stuff. Last week I urged you zoom in and narrow your focus to gain engagement with the good stuff. This week I urge you to drop down and deepen your focus to gain wisdom about the good stuff. No matter what is going on, our focus determines what we appreciate. Go deep, and you’ll appreciate the mystery behind it all.

LifeTrek Provision


We’re going to have a short Provision today for two reasons: first, my wife and I have less than three days to finish the final draft of our book before it’s due at the publisher. It’s close; very close. In fact, as I mentioned to my daughter-in-law today, if this were a 26.2 mile marathon, we’ve reached the 26 mile marker. We probably have about 4 more pages to write, and it’s done. But right now that’s where all my writing energy is going.

Interesting story about that. I was attending my Kiwanis meeting on Wednesday (Kiwanis is an international service organization focused on the needs of children) and I happened to sit next to a German professor from the College of William & Mary. She overheard me mentioning to someone that I was going to bow out of a social function because of our book deadline. “Right now,” I observed, “about all I do is eat, sleep, and write.” I received a lot of empathy for that.

Overhearing this banter, the German professor looked at me and said, “When you’re done, you’re going to miss that.” It sounds crazy, but she’s right. And it all has to do with the experience of “flow.” “Flow” is the word Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a distinguished positive psychologist, has used to describe the experience of full engagement. It can occur whenever we are involved with a project with clear parameters and clear goals that are perfectly suited for our abilities. They challenge us to the limit, but not beyond that limit.

Writing is definitely a “flow” activity for me. I get into “flow” with these Provisions every week. People ask me how I come up with all this stuff, and I do not know. I just sit down, open my mind, put my fingers to the keyboard, and let the words flow. The flow of words leads me into “flow” just about every time. I feel it right now. I had no idea what I was going to write about this week, in part because of our book deadline, but the words are flowing and I am having fun. I enjoy appreciating my experiences and discovering new truths. Writing enables me to do that.

Another way to frame this is that I feel like a conduit when I sit down to write. I discover what wants to be written, I don’t write what I want to write. It’s not about me making something happen, it’s me allowing something to happen. And when that happens, I feel very grateful indeed.

So today I want to encourage you to experience the gratitude gain in your own life with one more example as to how that works for me. Contrary to what I said at Kiwanis, I have actually been doing at least one more thing other than eating, sleeping, and writing. I have also been running. In fact, running is another way that I open myself to the channel of what wants to be written. It’s not unusual for me to come back from a long run so inspired and so full of ideas that I burst in the door, saying to my wife, “Quick, get a pencil and write down whatever I say.” I’m so full that it just spills out.

On top of all the pressure with our book, then, I ran the Baltimore marathon yesterday as the leader of the 4:45 pace team. This is an annual event for me and I wouldn’t miss it for the world, except I did miss it once when my son had a potential medical emergency on the night before the race. I decided to can the race and tend to the family; as it turned out, the medical emergency was a false alarm and I’m grateful for that.

Other than something like that, however, not even a looming book deadline can keep me away from the event. So up we came. This year we had about 50 people in my pace group and it was our best experience ever. We didn’t hit our time exactly on the mark (finishing about 42 seconds too fast) but we had more people stay with us for the entire race than ever before. Most of the time, people drop off the pace, especially after mile 20. This time, a large percentage (probably around 25%) stayed with us all the way through to the end. I’m grateful for that as well.

What made the difference? Why did it turn out like that? It has a lot to do with the social / emotional bond we created in the first 13 miles. We ran. We walked. We talked. We told stories. We breathed together, laughed together, and did funny stuff together (the Zen of running). But most of all we leveraged the gratitude gain.

Early on I explained to the team how the gratitude gain works. “Every time you thank a spectator for coming out and cheering, every time you ‘High 5’ a child, every time you acknowledge a race volunteer or a security guard, you get back more energy than you give. Their energy transfers over to you, and it helps you run stronger.” They had never heard of the gratitude gain before and it seemed to kick in. People were thanking everyone, at every opportunity, and they ran together longer than any pace team I’ve ever led.

This Provision series is on the power of appreciation, and the gratitude gain is a direct expression of how that power works. The more gratitude we give, the more energy we receive. What goes around comes around. I hope you take advantage of that power for yourself today.

Coaching Inquiries: When was the last time you said “Thank you” to someone? What are you grateful for right now? How could you capture that gratitude and share it with others? Who could become your gratitude buddy on the trek of life?

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 HereTop

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..


I really liked your Provision last week and forwarded it to a number of people. Thanks. 



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

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #637: Deepen Your Focus

Laser Provision

I’ve been writing about the power of appreciation and for several weeks we have been exploring the power of focus to enhance appreciation. Two weeks ago I urged you to step back and broaden your focus to gain perspective on the good stuff. Last week I urged you zoom in and narrow your focus to gain engagement with the good stuff. This week I urge you to drop down and deepen your focus to gain wisdom about the good stuff. No matter what is going on, our focus determines what we appreciate. Go deep, and you’ll appreciate the mystery behind it all.

LifeTrek Provision


Lately I’ve been up to my eyeballs in deep thinking. The final draft of our book on coaching in schools (my wife and I are writing it together) is due at our publishers in one week and that means we are having to review and revise the entire project based upon the feedback we received from our reviewers and our continued exploration of the topic. Every time we look at the material, we see new ways to make it better. It is at once a joy and a labor of love. I’ve never worked so hard on a piece of writing and I think the final product shows.

We’ve been talking about the power of appreciation in this series and the topic parallels much of what we are writing about in our book. It is exhausting to think this deeply about a topic, but it is also exhilarating. That’s one more way appreciation works. We can step back and broaden the focus to gain perspective on the good stuff. We can zoom in and narrow the focus to gain engagement with the good stuff. Or we can drop down and deepen the focus to gain wisdom about the good stuff. With this book, I’ve been going deep and gaining wisdom.

The learning process is really quite amazing. Regardless of whether things are going well or going poorly, we can always appreciate learning. That is a universal truth. In all situations of life, people have gone deep and learned more. In even the most difficult and trying of situations, people have found things to celebrate and claim. Viktor Frankl celebrated and claimed his freedom to focus his attention and choose his responses while interred in a concentration camp.

I heard a similar story this past week from a WWII pilot who was shot down behind enemy lines in Germany. What a series of almost impossible to believe coincidences and tragedies! He once thought of shooting himself, only to lose his balance and fall down a mountain with a broken shoulder and no shoes in the dead of winter. “When I finally stopped falling,” he noted, “I was in no different shape than I was before, only now I no longer had my gun.” So he mustered the courage to walk in the sleeves of his jacket for more than 24 hours before getting captured and taken to a concentration camp himself.

What kept him going? Deepening the focus. He got an English Bible and read it religiously. He played mental games while locked in solitary confinement. He refused to cooperate. He ran away whenever he got the chance. He occasionally made friends along the way. He never stopped thinking about his crew. And he never gave up hope that the war would end before he would die. Those were some of his practices for deepening his focus. They were enough to keep him going until General Patton marched into his POW camp. Patton ordered donuts for everyone and, because of this pilot’s poor medical condition, he was among the first ones to be sent home. How’s that for appreciating illness and infirmity as gifts!

That’s the way deepening our focus works. It helps us to transcend the obvious problems and to see things anew. In doing research for our book, I bumped into the following description by the award winning biologist Edward O. Wilson in his book Biophilia: The Human Bond With Other Species. It describes his feelings regarding an inquiry he did near the Arawak village of Bernhardsdorp in the white-sand coastal forest of Surinam. Here are a few excerpts that wonderfully and poignantly capture the spirit of deepening our focus:

I walked into the forest, struck as always by the coolness of the shade beneath tropical vegetation, and continued until I came to a small glade that opened onto the sandy path. I narrowed the world down to the span of a few meters. Again I tried to compose the mental set • call it the naturalist’s trance, the hunter’s trance • by which biologists locate more elusive organisms. I imagined that this place and all its treasures were mine alone and might be so forever in memory…

I focused on a few centimeters of ground and vegetation. I willed animals to materialize, and they came erratically into view. Metallic blue mosquitoes floated down from the canopy in search of a bare patch of skin, cockroaches with their variegated wings perched butterfly-like on sun lit leaves, black carpenter ants sheathed in recumbent golden hairs filed in haste through moss on a rotting log. I turned my head slightly and all of them vanished. Together they composed only in an infinitesimal fraction of the life actually present•. The forest was a tangled bank tumbling down to the grassland’s border. Inside it was a living sea through which I moved like a diver groping across a littered floor. But I knew that all around me bits and pieces, the individual organisms and their populations, were working with extreme precision. A few of the species were locked together in forms of symbiosis so intricate that to pull out one would bring others spiraling to extinction. Such is the consequence of the adaptation by coevolution, the reciprocal genetic changes of species that interact with one another through many life cycles•.

After the sun’s energy is captured by the green plants, it flows through the chains of organisms dendritically, like blood spreading from the arteries into networks of microscopic capillaries. It is in such capillaries, in the life cycles of thousands of individual species, that life’s important work is done. Thus nothing in the whole system makes sense until the natural history of the constituent species becomes known•

As the light’s intensity rose and fell with the transit of the sun, silverfish, beetles, spiders, bark lice, and other creatures were summoned from their sanctuaries and retreated back in alternation… Now to the very heart of wonder. Because species diversity was created prior to humanity, and because we evolved within it, we have never fathomed its limits. As a consequence, the living world is the natural domain of the most restless and paradoxical part of the human spirit. Our sense of wonder grows exponentially: the greater the knowledge, the deeper the mystery and the more we seek knowledge to create new mystery. This catalytic reaction, seemingly an inborn human trait, draws us perpetually forward in a search for new places and new life (pp. 6-10).

I have always loved the concept and the experience of the “naturalist’s trance” or the “hunter’s trance.” It totally changes my perception and appreciation of the forest. I live in a wooded area which happens to be a bird sanctuary. We have had visits from Audubon members who report they see more birds outside our windows than they sometimes see when they go on birding expeditions. With birds all around, it’s easy to become rather mindless about them. We kind of take them for granted.

Yet every once in a while I hear the sound of a bird I recognize: the Pileated Woodpecker. These are grand birds, about 18 inches in length, with a darting flight pattern and a distinctive, loud call. When I hear that call it often breaks my mindlessness and takes me into the “naturalist’s trance.” Everything is instantly transformed as I begin to look for that bird. Sights and sounds that were, a moment before, just a blur, now come into focus. I peer into the forest, up into the trees, around corners, until maybe, just maybe, I find it’s source.

That’s what E. O. Wilson experienced in Surinam. He called it a “sense of wonder” and “deep mystery.” It led him to abandon routine ways of knowing; he willed animals into existence. Everything looked different to him. The forest became a “living sea,” transformed into a magical unity of “extreme precision” filled with living, symbiotic, and intricate networks of relations. By deepening his focus he came to appreciate new meaning in what others saw as just a forest.

That’s what happens when we deepen our focus. We no longer take things for granted. We no longer go through the motions. We are no longer mindless. We are, instead, mindful of the best life has to offer. Life may be difficult, but going deep can assist us to see beauty beneath the difficulty. It can raise us up to unimaginable heights. It can make everything new. And, yes, it can help us find the woodpecker. ☺

Coaching Inquiries: What are you dealing with right now in life? How could you see it in new ways? Would you rather broaden your focus, narrow your focus, or deepen your focus? How could you best come to appreciate the fullness of life?

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 HereTop

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..


It was great seeing you again in Boston, and chatting just a bit with you about your (amazing) LifeTrek Provisions and my challenging 8-year-old daughter. Wasn’t the Conference uplifting, exciting, and positive! Thank you so much for all your contributions. I really appreciate what you say (and write.) It always makes me think on a deeper level, and leaves me feeling hopeful. The conference filled me with a ton of ideas as well as the energy to bring them to fruition. But I specifically wanted to thank you, as our brief interaction, as well as your presentation the last day was very meaningful to me. I wish you the very best, and look forward to the next time we meet.


I want to let you know how much I admire your development, work, and refinement of what you do. I think of you as a model to move forward with my own coaching practice. I admired you when we took coach training together and I admire your work now. You are one of the most consistent coaching professionals I have seen in the field and I will use you as kind of role model. I may even use the services of your webhost. Thanks for the inspiration. 



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

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #636: Narrow Your Focus

Laser Provision

Last week I wrote about one way to notice the good things in life: broaden your focus. Step back and look at things from a 10,000 foot level. That can give you an entirely new perspective. But there is another way for this to happen: narrow your focus. Set aside the distractions and release the nay-saying voices. Zoom in on just one thing and connect with it deeply. Look whatever it is in the eyes, and allow yourself to be absorbed by its mystery. When this happens, when we see the deeper truth, all kinds of things become possible. Today, we learn how.

LifeTrek Provision


It’s easy to get distracted by all the stuff that isn’t going right. Indeed, if it wasn’t easy to get distracted, coaches would be out of a job. And that’s true even for people who don’t suffer from ADHD. Our brains are hardwired for survival, and that means they are constantly scanning for potential threats. Notice something that looks like danger, sounds like danger, smells like dangers, tastes like danger, or feels like danger, and that old limbic system kicks right in. We’re distracted.

That was a great characteristic for most of human existence and it continues to be a great characteristic whenever we find ourselves in hostile environments, whether of natural or human origin. We need eyes in the back of our head, so to speak, to avoid getting taken by surprise and suffering the consequences. Some people have that ability more than others, but all people have it to some extent. If that wasn’t true, we would not be here today either as individuals or as a species.

For many of us, however, our environments are not that hostile. We are not literally facing life or death threats. We are just facing normal, everyday life and stuff crops up that bugs us. Perhaps some of these things bug you:

  • Long lines
  • Bad drivers
  • Messy people
  • Clean freaks
  • Ringing phones
  • Loud talkers
  • Crashed computers
  • Telemarketers
  • Tight deadlines
  • Late meetings
  • Traffic jams
  • Lost luggage
  • Pharmaceutical ads
  • Junk mail
  • Spam
  • Lousy service
  • Chain letters
  • Physical discomfort
  • Strangers

There’s no end to the things that can annoy and distract us from whatever it is we want to do. I’m sure you have your own list. The difference between people who successfully manage such distractions and those who do not involves perspective and focusing.

In last week’s Provision, Broaden Your Focus, I wrote about perspective. Referring to the Inner Game developed by coach Tim Gallwey, I introduced you to the STOP tool:

  • Step back
  • Think
  • Organize your thoughts
  • Proceed

That gives us perspective. The longer the STOP, the more perspective we gain. It’s like going up in an airplane to 10,000 feet, where we can see exactly what is going on. It may not make the traffic jam go away, but when we see the accident and the ambulances and the people on stretchers, we become a lot more understanding of the whole situation. We appreciate dynamics that our immediate circumstances may not afford, and that alone is often enough to calm down our limbic system and bring us back to center.

But there is another way to accomplish the same thing, and it works particularly well in traffic jams and other situations where we have no control over what is happening and how things are going: focusing on details that we can control and games that we can play. In other words, we can narrow our focus to a level of granularity where the joys of autonomy, flexibility, and creativity can be experienced however partially.

I am aware that I do this all the time, even in the midst of pleasurable activities. It adds to the richness of my experience and to my joy of living. Take, for example, running. A couple weeks ago I ran a half marathon as part of a triathlon relay team. So, of course, I had plenty of obvious things to focus on such as my pace and breathing. Along the way, however, I invented a new game.

At a couple of spots they were passing out energy gels (think sports drink the consistency of toothpaste in little foil packets). I actually prefer gels to actual sports drink, so I was carrying three gels of my own. The game I decided to play: could I end the race with more energy gels than I started without going out of my way to grab more gels than were being offered to me? A silly game to be sure, but I had control over that and I even decided to go for the flavors I liked. In the end, I won that game as well as the race I wanted to run which meant my celebration and gratitude were doubled.

Narrowing our focus works the same way when it comes to annoyances. We can always find little things to appreciate and new games to play. One of my favorites is to look at people’s faces. Really look. What can I infer about their mood from the looks on their faces? If I change the look on my face, what happens to their faces? How can I effect situations nonverbally? That game is always worth playing and always interesting, especially when people smile back or otherwise brighten their countenance.

Another game that I like to play during long waits is the memorize-poetry game. I keep about 50 of my favorite poems on my mobile device, so it’s easy to play that game at just about any time. For a less rigorous albeit less inspiring game, there’s always other games to play. Narrow your focus and find something interesting. Occupy your mind. Move your body. Regulate your breathing. Notice your emotions.

The key is to stay engaged with stuff you find relevant, challenging, and beneficial. In the worst of human circumstances, there are always stories of people who find ways to transform those circumstances by choosing to play a different game. The games that work for me won’t necessarily work for you, but we will be meeting similar needs for contribution, connection, challenge, cooperation, competition, choice, competence, creativity, and control (to mention only needs that start with the letter “C”).

So let that be the frame we come from in life and work. It doesn’t help to react to every situation as though it was a matter of life and death. It’s usually not, but our brains can easily react as though it were. And that can lead to full-blown distraction of the “fight, flight, or freeze” variety. By keeping things in perspective and by focusing on those little things that we can influence, celebrate, and appreciate.

Hank Robb, as quoted in the book Curious? by Todd Kashdan, has reworked the well-known Serenity Prayer in the following way: “Let me seek acceptance of life as I find it, even though I may not approve of what I find, wisdom to see what would be good to change, willingness to act as well as willingness to follow through, and gratitude for the opportunity to try to live my life the best I can.”

Now that prayer communicates both perspective and focus! And that’s a combination we can all benefit and learn from.

Coaching Inquiries: How are things going for you right now? How could you make life more interesting and enjoyable? What things could you focus on? What games could you play? What little things would give you a sense of autonomy, flexibility, and creativity? Who could you look at, right now, through new eyes?

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 HereTop

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..


Wow! Your On The Web feature in today’s Provision, Broaden Your Focus, spoke to me! I am a relatively new Wellness Coach, long-time athlete, and firm believer in the effects of exercise on mood. Vigorous, dynamic (preferably moderate to high impact) exercise fuels my creativity and positivity! Thanks for the affirmation. Hoping to get a chance to meet you this weekend in Boston. Love Provisions each week!


Good morning! I love your weekly provisions! Thank you for your awesome inspiration. 



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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