Provision #502: S.T.R.E.T.C.H. YOURSELF

Laser Provision

In this series, I have encouraged you to make Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, andTimely choices as to your goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties. When you do that, you dramatically increase your chances for success and satisfaction in life and work. But it’s not enough for your goals to be S.M.A.R.T. They also need to be Stimulating, Transformational,Reinforcing, Exciting, Targeted, Chosen, and Hopeful. Those are the energy dynamics that will make S.M.A.R.T. goals work for you. Read on to learn how.

LifeTrek Provision

One of the seminars that I have developed and enjoy facilitating is called “Stress Proof Your Life.” The title and, to some extent, the content was developed in reference to something called “rust proofing” which is done to cars (or at least used to be done to cars) in colder climates that are likely to suffer high rates of corrosion due to the salt and chemicals used on the roads during the winter months.

“Rust proofing” involves four protections: (1) Research & Development (R&D), where scientists and engineers conduct experiments both in the lab and on the road to discover and develop materials that are corrosion resistant. The process of R&D is ongoing, as ever more corrosion-resistant materials are discovered and developed. The protection of R&D is universal, as corrosion-resistant materials get incorporated into the manufacturing specifications before vehicles are shipped and sold.

After-market protections, available to consumers but not universally utilized, include (2) coating the external parts, (3) coating the internal parts, and (4) moving to a warmer climate where there are less salt and chemicals used on the roads during the winter months. Options (2), (3), and (4) are progressively more expensive. Coating the external parts takes no more work than spraying what can be easily seen and reached. Coating the internal parts requires the drilling and plugging of holes in order to get to those hard-to-reach places; it also requires the use of significantly more sealant.

The ultimate protection, of course, is to move to a less-toxic environment, where many people have never even heard of nor considered using “rust proofing.” It would be a waste of money, because under such conditions the cars are factory-ready to wear out before they rust out.

The point of “rust proofing” is not to prevent rust • that happens universally, even in warmer climates; the point of “rust proofing” is to slow down the process of rusting in order to extend the life of the car. In addition to extending the life of the car, “rust proofing” also improves the appearance, safety, and functionality of cars. Long ago I can remember owning and driving a car with a rusted-out hole in the floor of the driver’s seat. Thanks to my floor mat and careful foot placement, my foot never went through the floor while driving down the highway! If the car had been more rust-resistant, however, that problem would never have developed in the first place.

My seminar on “Stress Proofing Your Life” works with all four protections to slow down the process of stressing out in life and work. We consider how to adopt an R&D mindset, how to develop healthy routines, how to get emotional support, and how to design healthy environments. By the end of the seminar, most participants have had some fun (always a good thing when it comes to stress reduction) and have learned a few new techniques for preventing and managing stress. Let me know if you would like to learn more about bringing this seminar to your organization or workplace Click.

This past week, I had the opportunity to share this seminar with a group of high school teachers who, like many others in American public education, are pretty stressed out when it comes to juggling not only the demands in their personal and professional lives but also the dynamics of working with students who are themselves pretty stressed out. No one is at their best under these conditions, which made our topic both timely and engaging. Are there ways to “stress proof your life,” other than to move to a warmer climate (that is, to leave public education altogether)? By the end of our time together, people had some glimmers as to how that might be possible.

One of the keys was the honest and empathic sharing that we did with each other throughout the workshop. There is precious little time for people to connect with each other in this way (in any workplace let alone in the pressure cooker of public education); the mere fact that we set aside and took that time was a supportive act that made people feel better. Even the person who was operating on two hours of sleep managed to stay awake! That’s because we were speaking from and to the heart about things that matter.

We actually ran out of time before we were able to talk about designing healthy environments. We spent most of our time giving each other empathy and discussing ways to change both our mindsets and our routines so that life and work would be less stressful. Progress was made and a good time was had by one and all. I ended the workshop by challenging them to make these mindsets and routines a regular part of their daily lives. It doesn’t help to go on a diet for a day; it’s the consistent application of lessons learned that makes the difference between success and failure, between satisfaction and disappointment.

In setting forth this challenge, I was, in effect, asking these teachers to implement all of the suggestions around Changing for Good that we have considered in the past few weeks. I wanted them to make Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely choices as to their goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties. The more they can break things down into achievable steps, “baby steps” as many coaches like to call them, the closer they will come to their vision of less-stressful and more-satisfying lives.

To make S.M.A.R.T. choices, these teachers began in the right place. By giving each other empathy and then by getting educated as to how stress works, what it does to health, and how we can stress-proof our lives, these teachers had both their consciousness and their capacity raised for change. Until we know what we don’t know, there’s no way to design the learning experiments that go on in the R&D lab of life. Once we know what we don’t know, we can move ourselves forward more quickly and easily than most people suspect.

That is my hope for these teachers. I hope they will continue to give each other empathy and to develop the mindsets, routines, and environments that will make them more successful. For that to happen, however, their choices, goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties need to be more than just S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely). They also need to S.T.R.E.T.C.H. themselves in order to master both the motivation and mechanisms for change.

That may sound like a contradiction in terms when it comes to stress-proofing your life. When you’re already maxed out in terms of all the balls you’re trying to juggle and all the people you have to consider, how could it be good to S.T.R.E.T.C.H. yourself any further? The key lies in the acronym itself. S.M.A.R.T. goals work only when they are Stimulating, Transformational,Reinforcing, Exciting, Targeted, Chosen, and Hopeful. I know that’s how we left things at the end of our workshop, so let’s consider each in kind:

— Stimulating. Let’s face it: if the thought of doing something doesn’t stimulate you, you’re probably not going to do it. That’s as true for stress-proofing as it is for anything else. Ironically, “stimulation” is my definition of stress. The key is to find the sweet spot of stimulation where the load is balanced to your capacity. Neither too much nor too little will get the job done. Both overload and underload just add stress to the mix. Trying new strategies that are just within reach, however, will give us the quick wins needed to keep moving forward.

— Transformational. Goals can be S.M.A.R.T. without moving us into new territory. When that happens they’re not much good. We don’t need goals to keep doing what we are already doing. We need goals to go where we have never or at least seldom gone before. S.M.A.R.T. goals kick that up a notch, assisting us to boldly go where we have never or at least seldom gone before. They change both our self-concept and our capacity by introducing us to new ideas, patterns, and possibilities.

— Reinforcing. This is the one that I look and yearn for with all my coaching clients. I want S.M.A.R.T. goals that build upon themselves in a spiral dynamic of improved performance, learning, and satisfaction. S.M.A.R.T. goals that work become easier rather than harder to maintain over time. If they move in the opposite direction, or if we abandon them altogether, then they probably weren’t very S.M.A.R.T. in the first place. Time to come up with new goals! When we catch one that works, the wind will fill our sails and move us forward.

— Exciting. Can you remember being with someone who just figured out a S.M.A.R.T. routine that is really working for them? Perhaps they have figured out how to eat differently in order to lose weight, how to exercise differently in order to improve their fitness, or how to quit smoking. What do these people have in common? They usually can’t stop talking about their newfound commitments and practices. There’s nothing worse, they say, than a reformed smoker.  That’s because they are so excited, a common trait among those who have adopted S.M.A.R.T. goals.

— Targeted. Targeted is what we get when we combine Specific and Relevant. It’s already implied by the acronym for S.M.A.R.T. goals, but Targeted makes clear the intent: we target the possibilities with the most likelihood of moving us forward in the direction we want to go. Such is the Holy Grail of all great solutions. They work on exactly what they need to work on, without negative side effects. It doesn’t help to decrease stress in one area of life only to increase stress in another area. We need targeted solutions that work.

— Chosen. We spoke to this last week in terms of S.M.A.R.T. choices Click. It bears repeating. S.M.A.R.T. goals are only S.M.A.R.T. if they are intrinsically motivated. It doesn’t matter how many other people have made something work, if you are being forced, told, coerced, or manipulated into doing something your life will be miserable in the pursuit of S.M.A.R.T. goals. That, in fact, lies behind the art of great coaching. A relationship gets built and conversations happen that warm up people to the possibility of change. Eventually, when the time is right, people make the choice to try something new.

— Hopeful. When that choice is right, it fills people with hope. That is one of things I listen for in my work with individuals and organizations. Where is the hope? What is stirring inside people? What wants to be said that can interrupt old patterns of thinking, being, and doing and instigate new patterns of thinking, being, and doing? S.M.A.R.T. goals fill people with hope. If you despair of your ability to realize your goals, then they are not S.M.A.R.T. and they will not stretch you in helpful ways.

So that’s what I mean when I write that we need to S.T.R.E.T.C.H. ourselves with S.M.A.R.T. goals. Yes, they need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. But they also need to be Stimulating, Transformational, Reinforcing, Exciting, Targeted, Chosen, and Hopeful. With that mix of attributes, just about anyone can change for good.

Coaching Inquiries: What is the energy in your life right now? Is it on the upswing or on the downswing? What is happening in terms of your own stress? How could you move into the zone of perfect stress, where you suffer from neither overload nor underload? Who do you know who seems to do a good job managing their stress? When could you talk with them to learn about their mindsets, routines, supports, and environments?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

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

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


I think you will enjoy this quote by Steven Woodhull: “You’ve got a lot of choices. If getting out of bed in the morning is a chore and you’re not smiling on a regular basis, try another choice.” (Ed. Note: That’s a perfect summary of the R&D mindset, discussed in today’s Provision. Thanks!)


Are there any classes in Ohio to be a life coach? I would love to have any info you may on this. Thank you. (Ed. Note: Most coach-training programs are not geographically based; for starters, I would review the listings available at the ICF Website Click.) 



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 #501: S.M.A.R.T. CHOICES

Laser Provision

For goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties to be successful, they not only need to be S.M.A.R.T. they also need to be chosen. No one can successfully implement someone else’s goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties • regardless of how Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, andTimely they may be • with full satisfaction. Only through intrinsic motivation can we build our strengths into the life of our dreams. Sound attractive? This Provision offers a simple, three-step process for making it so.

LifeTrek Provision

Those of you who read along from week to week know that the current series on Changing for Good is set in the context of our Optimal Wellness Prototype Click. Before making the turn from the Input side of the equation (what we put into our bodies) to the Output side of the equation (what we do with our bodies), I decided to proffer some coaching tips on the change process itself.

How does anyone successfully initiate and maintain one or more changes in life and work? For the past five weeks, I have encouraged you to adopt goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties that areSpecific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. Those are the ones that can spell the difference between success and failure. Instead of general, vague, unrealistic, irrelevant, and wishful pipedreams, S.M.A.R.T. goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties produce mastery experiences that lead directly to our best selves.

What lies behind each of these areas • goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties — are choices. We are neither the victims of circumstance nor the pawns of manipulation; we are rather the products of our conscious and unconscious choices. It’s the balance of our intentions and attentions that determines whether or not we play at the top of our game. When those choices are S.M.A.R.T., they make life easier. When those choices are D.U.M.B. • Dysfunctional, Uninspiring, Misfit, andBurdensome • they make life harder.

The purpose of coaching is to assist people to make S.M.A.R.T. choices. If you would like to work on that, please don’t hesitate to let us know Click. Even without a coach, however, you can easily make S.M.A.R.T. choices by looking at your goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties. These are the areas that set the context, terms, and likelihood for success.

I’ve tried to illustrate how that works over the course of this series in reference to healthy eating and optimal wellness. It’s not enough to say, “I want to lose weight.” What does that mean? What will we do differently? What’s our first step? And how will we keep the weight off once we lose it? “I want to lose weight” is an example of a D.U.M.B. choice. It’s not S.M.A.R.T. enough to get us where we want to go.

“I want to start each day with a Healthy Fruit Chewy Click” is a S.M.A.R.T. choice. We know the who, what, when, where, why, and how of that choice. It supports optimal wellness not as a weight-loss strategy but as a lifestyle. It’s something we can do yesterday, today, and tomorrow for the rest of time. It organizes our goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties. It leads us, for example, to purchase a blender, to stock up on certain foods, to structure our time, and to make requests of other household members.

That’s the way all S.M.A.R.T. choices work: they become organizing principles for life itself. They are so Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely that they bolster our intrinsic motivation for change. In the presence of a S.M.A.R.T. choice, we are pulled forward as though by an invisible hand or a target that beckons. In the presence of a D.U.M.B. choice, however, we have no urge to move forward apart from extrinsic systems of punishments and rewards. Once those systems decline or disappear, we lose interest and slide back.

We can imbue virtually any activity with the intrinsic motivation that comes from S.M.A.R.T. choices. As many of you read this, for example, I will be running the Colonial Half Marathon in my hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia. It’s an annual event that I make a point of running whenever possible. I don’t run this or any other race to set records. I put races on my calendar as S.M.A.R.T. choices, in order to promote my training throughout the year. Those dates on the calendar provide a tug to keep me going.

I’m not suggesting that your choices need to be the same as my choices. Everyone on the planet doesn’t need to eat the same thing for breakfast or run long-distance races! I am, however, suggesting that everyone on the planet needs to make S.M.A.R.T. choices that are self-reinforcing for optimal wellness.

How do we do that? First, we choose to make wellness one of our core values. Since wellness is a universal human need, I don’t expect much of an argument when it comes to that choice. Without health and wellness, everything else suffers. With health and wellness, everything else prospers. Even though wellness is a universal need, it helps to make wellness a conscious part of our personal value system.

Second, we choose S.M.A.R.T. goals that support and stem from our value of wellness. To come up with these goals, I like to broaden and build on people’s strengths. Most people can remember a time when they were at their best, a time when they felt fully alive, a time when life was good. Such times are the seeds for S.M.A.R.T. goals in the here and now. We may not be able to do what we once did, but we can identify Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely goals that will make life more wonderful.

Which leads to the third, all-important choice: we choose to implement S.M.A.R.T. strategies that support and stem from our goals. Unfortunately, many people fail to make this all-important choice. They may have the values and the goals, but without the strategies • without the S.M.A.R.T. habits, stuff, systems, and ties • they will fail to turn their goals into gains.

One reason this happens is that people fail to see a connection between their values, goals, and strategies. On a certain level, people may discount or doubt their ability to make a difference. Au contraire! There may be no guarantees when it comes to wellness, but there are ways to increase the probabilities. There’s a reason health departments require restaurant employees to wash their hands before returning to work! It’s all about those probabilities.

That’s why the process of Changing for Good so often begins with consciousness raising. The more we know about the probabilities, the more we trust the connection between our values, goals, and strategies, the more likely we are to take action. If we don’t know, for example, that hydrogenated vegetable oils lower our probabilities for health and wellness, then we will probably muster neither the powers of intention nor attention to avoid them. The same holds true for high fructose corn syrup. We mindlessly go on living, with no awareness of the impending catastrophe.

Since you are reading these words, my guess is that your consciousness is already raised around the many S.M.A.R.T. habits, stuff, systems, and ties that increase the probabilities for health and wellness. To mention a few of the ones we have covered recently, written in S.M.A.R.T. terms:

  • Get at least six hours of sleep a night, nodding off and waking up at about the same time every day.
  • Take at least 10,000 steps every day, wearing a pedometer if it helps you do so.
  • Avoid eating milled grain, dairy, and processed food products.
  • Drink at least two liters of filtered water per day, removing rubber bands on water bottles if that helps you to keep track.
  • Raise and lower your heart rate, at least 60 minutes per day, through exercise and relaxation.
  • Consciously acknowledge, say, or write down at least three things for which you are grateful each and every day.

Those are the kinds of strategies that rev up anyone’s goals for health and wellness. They are also the kinds of strategies that can lead to S.M.A.R.T. project planning. I will never forget, for example, the client who totally rearranged his house in order to promote six hours of sleep a night. The television and computer went out of the bedroom and he programmed two alarms into his PDA, alerting him to 60-minute and then 30-minute intervals before his chosen bed time.

When that didn’t work, he gave his television away, because it was proving to be too much of a distraction! After several months, with his new sleep pattern established, he felt ready to bring television back into his life. Through reflection and conversation, however, he decided to let it be. His life was better, he concluded, without any television at home.

Those are the levels of transformation that come upon us as we make S.M.A.R.T. choices. By choosing our values, goals, and strategies, we end up with the intrinsic motivation for change. And once that motivation is in place, there’s no telling the races that we will run.

Coaching Inquiries: What are the values, goals, and strategies that govern your life? Are theySpecific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely? What actions have they inspired? Who could you talk with to sharpen them up? How can your choices be more fully your own? 

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

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

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


I have read LifeTrek Provisions for some time now and always find your insights thought-provoking and inspiring. Listening to your feelings about Appreciative Inquiry as a starting place for the coaching relationship was a breath of fresh air. It is so much easier for me to come from the positive rather than to dissect and focus on the negative.


Here’s what I am taking away from the Optimal Wellness Prototype Click and my own experience with prediabetes:

  • It’s the food • stupid! Exercise has a lot of benefits in its own right, but when it comes to weight loss I need to get serious about limiting the caloric intake.
  • A whole new lifestyle awaits me. This isn’t just something to get through, until I reach my goal. To maintain my desired weight and remain free of diabetes I am buying into a new pattern of eating and activity, a pattern for a lifetime.
  • Glycemic load matters. It’s probably impossible to eat too much in the way of dark green/orange vegetables.
  • Watch the nuts.
  • Happy animals make better food!
  • My goals are definitely do-able!

(Ed. Note: Thanks for the great summary! That’s what makes S.M.A.R.T. goals so smart: they are definitely do-able!) 

Provision #500: S.M.A.R.T. TIES

Laser Provision

It’s not just goals, habits, stuff, and systems that need to be S.M.A.R.T. if we want to be successful in life and work. It’s also the people that we are bound to in life. It’s the quality of our relationships with others that makes the difference. Nothing makes life more wonderful than having people assist us to stay on track, be more creative, do a better job, maintain positive values, and have fun. If your ties aren’t doing all that for you, then I invite you read the rest of this Provision. It may be the spark you need.

LifeTrek Provision

Provision number 500 is actually our 400th edition. All the same, it represents something of a milestone that I want to acknowledge, celebrate, and express gratitude for. Since early 1999, more than eight years ago, I have been blessed with the gift and the opportunity to share my thoughts with a growing community of readers whose comments and feedback make everything worthwhileClick. There is no charge for Provisions; the idea that it gets read and makes a difference in someone’s life is payment enough. Thanks for the opportunity.

LifeTrek Coaching was started at the end of 1998, a few months before we launched our newsletter. Our mission then as now was to assist people to become the best they can possibly be. From the outset we have been concerned not only about individual success but also about our success as a species and, indeed, of our entire planet. This means we have always recognized at least two dimensions regarding our work. To quote Dewitt Jones, photographer and motivational speaker, we not only want people to become the best in the world, we also want them to become the best for the world.

The distinction is subtle but significant. The best in the world means that we play at the top of our game, whatever that game may be. If all LifeTrek was concerned about was assisting people to be the best in the world, we could find ourselves coaching people to be the best warlords or drug runners in the world (to mention only two examples). We have never done that, however, because it would conflict with our value system. We do not want to assist warlords, drug runners, or anyone else to learn how to better tear apart the fabric of human community. Most of us know how to do that without any assistance from professional coaches!

The best for the world means that we fully use our gifts and talents to contribute to the enrichment of human life. Simply put, LifeTrek Coaching wants to make life more wonderful for people. We not only assist people to develop Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely (S.M.A.R.T.) strategies for getting things done, we also assist people to develop their motivation and vision for getting things done that make a positive difference in the grand scheme of things. To paraphrase a famous line from the Christian scriptures, we assist people to think about their relationship to whatever is true, noble, just, authentic, compelling, gracious, and valuable.

When the connection is made between playing at the top of our game and contributing to the enrichment of human life, between being the best in the world and being the best for the world, amazing things happen. I have seen people totally change their approach to life and work. Sometimes they change their way of living and working without changing their circumstances, other times they do change their circumstances. Either way, they change their way in the world for the better.

That’s part of the reason that LifeTrek Coaching has developed its capacity to integrate both Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and Nonviolent Communication (NVC) into our coaching and consulting work with individuals and organizations. These bodies of knowledge and practice have made powerful, positive contributions both to my life personally and to our ability to work with others. By focusing on strengths (AI) and connecting with needs (NVC), people and organizations can change far more quickly, deeply, and sustainably than they ever imagined possible. Once these processes take root, it’s a wonder to behold the unfolding and growth.

I have written before about the philosophy and practice of Appreciative Inquiry Click. Through reading and training, several of us in LifeTrek Coaching have learned how to use AI to assist individuals and organizations to broaden and build on their strengths. Instead of problem-solving, which can devolve into endless arguments over causes and strategies, AI promotes possibility-searching, which can evolve into purposeful spirals of dreams and designs. Let us know if you would like to retain LifeTrek Coaching to facilitate your own AI process Click.

Even though Nonviolent Communication has been around for more than 45 years, as developed and taught by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. Click, LifeTrek Coaching has only recently added NVC to our repertoire. Like AI, NVC is more than just a method or a series of steps for communicating cleanly and compassionately. NVC is a philosophy, consciousness, intention, and approach to being with people in life-affirming and possibility-generating ways. By honestly and empathetically connecting with what’s alive in us, our feelings and needs, we awaken people’s natural interest to make life more wonderful for one and all.

Recently, LifeTrek Coaching has had the opportunity to work with two school systems, one in Virginia and the other in Ohio, using NVC. Because of our fledgling familiarity with the NVC process, we brought in a fellow coach and friend, Jay Perry, who has more extensive NVC training to collaborate in both the design and delivery of our work in Ohio. Doing so made the process much more enjoyable, reliable, and successful. It demonstrated exactly what I mean by S.M.A.R.T. ties.

S.M.A.R.T. ties are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely connections with other people that enable us to stay on track, to be more creative, to do a better job, to maintain positive values, and to have fun in the process. We all need people like that in our lives. It’s D.U.M.B. •Dysfunctional, Uninspiring, Misfit, and Burdensome • to go it alone or to surround ourselves with people who distract, control, detract, destroy, or compel. Let’s consider each in turn.

1. Stay on Track. What I liked about working with Jay is that he did not add noise to our project. It’s hard enough to stay focused in life; it’s D.U.M.B. to make it even harder by collaborating with people who fail to respond on a timely basis, who go off on tangents, or who use others to work their own agenda. S.M.A.R.T. ties clear out the noise in order to let the synergy of human connection shine through. That happened with Jay, both in our meetings and in our email communications.

It’s not just internal dynamics that lead to attention deficit problems. It’s also conversational dynamics that get in the way of coming from a strong sense of purpose and connection.  When our ties are germane to the Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely challenges set before us, they make life better for one and all.

2. Be More Creative. This is one area where Jay really added value to our collaboration. Since I was doing the heavy lifting on the PowerPoint slides, we needed someone who could step back and think creatively about how to use the slides and whether they would actually work. Out-of-the-box thinking is not a distraction when it seeks to make a contribution to the cause and when it does not insist on its own way. That’s a critical dimension to S.M.A.R.T. ties. Those who seek to dominate do not inspire creative expression.

As coaches we know the integral connection between freedom and creativity. S.M.A.R.T. ties may sound antithetical to freedom and creativity, but Specifics, Measurability, Achievability, Relevance, and Timeliness do not lead inevitably and inexorably to excess control. They do not doom us to micromanagement. On the contrary, S.M.A.R.T. ties facilitate creativity by creating a context for people to contribute.

3. Do a Better Job. When it comes to the ties in your life, you can ask yourself two critical questions: Do they make me better in the world? Do they make me better for the world? If you can say that about someone, then that’s a S.M.A.R.T. tie. If not, then it may be a D.U.M.B. tie that either needs to be smartened up or shaken loose. Both AI and NVC offer strategies for smartening up our D.U.M.B. ties. By searching for strengths and connecting with needs, many people are able to infuse their ties with life. Don’t let them bring you down. Work to make your ties S.M.A.R.T. and then move on when the energy isn’t right.

We certainly did a better job because of our collaboration with Jay. Each one of us brought our strengths to the table. Jay’s experience made us better in the world; his passion made us better forthe world. That really came through as he worked both in the design and in the delivery of our program. Each of us did a better job because all of us did a better job. It was S.M.A.R.T. ties that made the difference.

4. Maintain Positive Values. The people who call you to be your best self are the ones worth hanging around with. Spending time with D.U.M.B. ties will tie you up in knots when it comes to living from a place of positive values. Spending time with S.M.A.R.T. ties will enable you to clarify your thinking, engage your empathy, and muster your courage for life-enriching actions.

This can be hard for many people to hear, since we often don’t filter our friendships and partnerships through the lens of positive values. Friends tend to remain friends, even when they lead us in the wrong direction. Not so with S.M.A.R.T. ties. They lead us in the right direction. They increase our awareness of as well as our commitment to the best life has to offer. Jay’s positive values were a gift not only to us but also to many others. His values bolstered our values for life.

5. Have Fun. In the end, S.M.A.R.T. ties make everything a joy. I wish that all of us could come from that place with everything we do. It’s no fun to do things begrudgingly, because we “have to.” It’s no fun to be motivated by anger, guilt, shame, or anxiety. Yet these are the very things that fuel many people, many workplaces, and many homes. We “should” on ourselves until life becomes a chore that is not worth living or doing.

Jay had a way of keeping these light even when there was a lot of work to do or a lot stakes on the table. Work becomes a joy when we choose to do it. It’s not about the expenditure of effort that determines whether or not we’re having fun. Several times a year I like to run marathons, not to mention all the training in-between. That’s a lot of work, a lot of effort, but it’s also pure joy. Why? Because I want to do it. Because I choose to do it. Because I can.

That’s my wish for you in the continued search to find things that motivate and make life easier. It’s not just goals, habits, stuff, and systems that need to be S.M.A.R.T. It’s also the people that we are bound to in life. Nothing makes life more wonderful than when those people help us to stay on track, be more creative, do a better job, maintain positive values, and have fun. Anything less sells everyone short.

Coaching Inquiries: What is the quality of the ties in your life? Do they make life more wonderful or more stressful? How you could work to smarten up your ties? Are their relationships that need to be changed? How could AI and NVC assist you to do that? How could you be known, in your circle of influence, as one who contributes to 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 on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

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

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


I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed reading LifeTrek Provisions, they have been so meaningful to me. I am really grateful that I am getting to read Provisions and I really respect the work that you do. I have been getting my coaching practice up more this year, networking, putting myself out there, doing it awkwardly, stumbling, falling, getting back up, doing it all over again, and having fun with it. That’s the key thing. Provisions is proving to be a source of great wisdom and encouragement on the journey. Thanks for that!


Having recently finished reading your material on Appreciative Inquiry, I wanted you to know that your comments made a lot of sense and were much appreciated! So too with your current series of LifeTrek Provisions. Tonight I am catching up on a lot of back reading and I am particularly taken by the S.M.A.R.T. stuff article. Just what I have been trying to do for the last few months! Now I have a theory to back it up. Here in Spain, I don’t live in the land of plenty to consume and store…but I certainly can relate to reducing or adding to make one’s work space essentially S.M.A.R.T.


A S.M.A.R.T. system that I’ve developed with my morning smoothie is to have two containers/pitchers for my blender. I originally had two blenders on my counter, but then realized all I really needed was too pitchers for the same base. This admits to my laziness in avoiding cleaning the pitchers after each use, but I know my reality and having a clean backup pitcher gives me the conditions conducive to making my smoothie! When they are both used I run them through the dishwasher and I’m ready for another two unobstructed smoothie days. 



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 #499: S.M.A.R.T. SYSTEMS

Laser Provision

It’s not enough to have S.M.A.R.T. goals. That can still take a lot of will-power, discipline, and work. We also have to undergird our S.M.A.R.T. goals with S.M.A.R.T. systems. By setting up as many things as possible to run without us, in accord with our values and purposes, we’re more likely to achieve and to maintain our goals over the long term. If your New Year’s Resolutions are beginning to slip or fade from view, then perhaps you should read on in order to make your systems Specific,Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.

LifeTrek Provision

After sending out last week’s Provision, I came up with a new acronym with which to contrast S.M.A.R.T. goals, habits, stuff, and now systems. The opposite of S.M.A.R.T. things • Specific,Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely things • which move us forward and assist us to realize our resolutions is D.U.M.B. things • Dysfunctional, Uninspiring, Misfit, and Burdensome things • which hold us back and make it harder for dreams to come true.

How would you describe the things in your life? Are they S.M.A.R.T. or D.U.M.B.? The point of this series is to help us get smart. We don’t want everything to rely on will-power and self-discipline, which for most people are neither very powerful nor very dependable. We set out with the best of intentions, only to wear down in a matter of weeks. If that is happening to you, if your New Year’s Resolutions are beginning to slip or fade from view, then perhaps it’s time to look at your support strategies. Perhaps it’s time to paint S.M.A.R.T. systems into the picture of how you follow through on things and get things done.

In the past two weeks, I have written about the importance of S.M.A.R.T. habits Click and S.M.A.R.T. stuff Click. In their own ways, both habits and stuff are systems that either support or hinder our progress. Habits are systems of routine behavior that become so familiar and ingrained as to be virtually automatic. Making my morning fruit smoothie Click is one such habit for me. I know the drill, the what, when, where, how, and why of my breakfast routine. It never becomes boring, because I enjoy both making and drinking the smoothie. The fact that it both tastes good and is good for me seals the deal. This is one habit, like brushing my teeth, that’s here to stay.

And it doesn’t take much work. That’s what makes it a S.M.A.R.T. habit • I don’t have to force myself to do anything or even think about it ahead of time. Most of the ingredients can be purchased in bulk quantities and stored for long periods of time. I keep about a month’s supply on hand, with preset shipping instructions so that inventories are replenished automatically. Only the fresh pineapple and banana need to be purchased at local stores, as part of our weekly shopping routine.

Do you see how effortless this has become? We know what we want • so there’s no decisions to make • and we set up systems so that things come to us with a minimum of human intervention. S.M.A.R.T. systems will beat S.M.A.R.T. goals every time.

Probably the most famous S.M.A.R.T. system is the plan made popular by David Bach in his book,The Automatic Millionaire. With a title like that, you may think this is another fraudulent and specious get-rich-quick scheme. But nothing could be further from the truth. Bach recommends automatic, “set-it-and-forget-it” savings and investment plans that will add up, over the course of a lifetime, to a seven-figure retirement.

Here is what Bach calls the philosophy behind The Automatic Millionaire:

  • You don’t have to make a lot of money to be rich.
  • You don’t need discipline.
  • You don’t need to be “your own boss.” (Yes, you can still get rich being an employee.)
  • By using what Bach calls The Latte Factor, you can build a fortune on a few dollars a day.
  • The rich get rich (and stay that way) because they pay themselves first.
  • Homeowners get rich; renters get poor.
  • Above all, you need an “automatic system” so that you can’t fail.

If you read no further in this Provision, Bach’s seven principles already capture everything we need to know about S.M.A.R.T. systems. They don’t require a lot of money, discipline, effort, or gumption. They are S.M.A.R.T. precisely because they handle the details for us, once we set them up. Bach describes the process in these terms:

“What it all boils down to is this: if your financial plan is not automatic, you will fail! An investment plan that requires you to be disciplined and stick to a budget and write checks manually every couple of weeks simply will not work. You have a busy life. You don’t have time to sit down every few weeks and figure out how to save and whom to send checks to.” This just doesn’t work. “Yet this is what most Americans are trying to do. It is a recipe for frustration and failure.”

“What do I mean by a plan that is automatic? I mean a plan that, once you’ve set it up, allows you to go about your life and not spend a lot of time thinking • or, worse, worrying • about your money. You know why this matters? Because ultimately what is missing in our lives today … is a life! Make your financial plan automatic and one of the most powerful things you will get out of it is worry-free time • which ultimately means getting back more of your life.”

 

You can read the details of Bach’s plan by visiting his website, at www.FinishRich.com. But you already get the idea. Decide how much is enough for retirement. Set a figure. Then work backwards and calculate how much you would have to put away out of every paycheck to end up with that amount, including a reasonable annual return on your investment (that is, factoring in what Albert Einstein called the most powerful force in the universe • compound interest). Once you know the figure, arrange to have that amount automatically deducted out of your paycheck and deposited into your retirement fund. Pay yourself first • usually about 10% • then live and give on the rest.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? In fact, S.M.A.R.T. systems always appear disarmingly simple. That’s what makes them S.M.A.R.T.! They take the effort out of reaching our goals. As Bach writes, it’s far easier to figure out how to live on the rest (like skipping that expensive cup of coffee each morning) than to figure out how to live on a budget (watching what we spend in order to have enough left over to save.) The latter is a formula for disaster; the former is a formula for effortless success.

The more S.M.A.R.T. systems we can introduce in our lives, the better our lives will be. Here are some examples that come from my own life. My sister-in-law has been a blessing in many ways, but I cannot thank her enough for introducing me to a S.M.A.R.T. system for dealing with the inevitable paper statements, invoices, receipts, and bills that get stuffed in pockets and arrive in the mail daily.

For years I filed these items in folders labeled by vendor or type. I had folders for the gas bill, the mortgage payment, bank statements, and every every other receipt that came in the door. If I did not have a folder, then the bill went into a to-be-filed pile which would build up and contribute to some bills not being paid on time. Enter a S.M.A.R.T. system. My sister-in-law’s process, which I have effortlessly and successfully followed for years, files all this paperwork by year and month. At the beginning of every year, it’s out with the old and in with the new.

In my case, I like to save things for four years • in case disputes, questions, or audits arise. After four years, however, they all get discarded. The process is disarmingly simple. It takes less than an hour to throw out the oldest year and to recycle the folders for the current year. The system guarantees that everything always fits in the same filing cabinet. I know exactly when to throw things away, and nothing accumulates forever. With less than an hour of effort, I end up with 12 months of ease.

Another S.M.A.R.T. system is online banking and electronic bill pay. For most of my life, long before there was electronic banking technology, I wrote paper checks and reconciled my bank statements by hand. No more. Whatever can be automated has been automated. I literally do nothing on a monthly basis for routine bills, like utilities, to get paid. Even the bills I still authorize are paid electronically. The interface with my accounting software (Quicken for personal, QuickBooks for LifeTrek) means that I only have to touch things once. Enter it in the ledger, synchronize electronically, and it’s done.

Paychecks are the same way. Enter, click, done. All reporting, filing, and hassles are handled by others. So too with most other financial affairs, including bank reconciliations. Enter, click, done. I would never want to go back to a D.U.M.B. system, because of the time and support staff required to keep such systems alive.

My daughter-in-law recently introduced another S.M.A.R.T. system into my life. As an avid and longtime reader of LifeTrek Provisions, she knows that our blog has been poorly maintained Click. She also knows the kinds of things that we are focusing on from week to week. She has therefore offered to become our virtual blogger. Instead of adding blog updates to my own to-do list, I have discharged that responsibility to someone I trust. When she finds appropriate links, she adds them to the blog. I, in turn, get automatically notified by the blog of her posts, enabling me to do a quick scan for consistency, integrity, and quality.

Such assistants, whether virtual or real, are great examples of S.M.A.R.T. systems. The more you can delegate and share responsibility with other people, the more you can get done in the world and still have a life. That, as David Bach has already noted, is the real tour de force of S.M.A.R.T. systems: they make possible a healthy rhythm between work and rest. By eliminating the “should” from getting things done, they free people up to do what they love and to love what they do.

Coach Phil Humbert describes S.M.A.R.T. systems as “personal ecosystems.” Here is what he has to say about them:

The fact is, that too many people are trying to create beauty while surrounded by chaos. They are trying to achieve wonderful goals, but their energy and focus are on running errands or “swatting mosquitoes.” It’s very hard to achieve great things when you’re swimming up-stream all the time!

To create the life you truly want, you need systems that automatically carry you down-stream toward your ultimate goals. Design your office, your home, your schedule and your relationships so they “conspire” to help you get there! Talk with loved ones so they actively support you! Eliminate clutter and replace it with equipment, furnishings and tools that make you smile, that energize you, and keep you focused. Design a schedule that includes time for your most important daily priorities. 

I trust you get the idea. It’s not enough to have S.M.A.R.T. goals. We need S.M.A.R.T. systems to undergird the process of reaching and maintaining our goals. When that happens, there’s no end to the progress we can make.

Coaching Inquiries: What are the systems like in your life? Do they make it easier or harder for you to move forward? How could you make your systems smarter? How could you put more things into a set-it-and-forget-it mode? How could you stop working so hard and worrying so much? Who could assist you to audit your systems and collaborate on designing new ones?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

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

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


You make an amazing job!! I think I am becoming a better human being, right here in Argentina, thanks to your Provisions. Thaaaaank yooouuuu LifeTrek Team !!!!!!!!


Thanks, for your continually fresh and helpful coaching.


I really appreciated your Provisions on the topic of setting and achieving S.M.A.R.T. goals. However, I was a bit concerned about the example you gave of the person who sets a goal to remove all grain, dairy, and processed food products from his or her home. Although I understand the health benefits of setting such a goal, I was concerned by the mental picture you offered of the person throwing away all of the unwanted food.

How about an alternate picture of throwing away the perishable items, but setting the non-perishables aside to donate to a local food pantry or homeless shelter? I realize that you may not believe these foods are appropriate for anyone to consume, but those who are fighting to survive on the street, or those who have dedicated their lives to helping them, might disagree.

From my perspective, simply throwing away food that might be used to feed the hungry is poor stewardship. I believe that those of us who have been blessed with the privilege of being able to choose exactly what we eat have an obligation to give of our surplus to those who are not so fortunate. (Ed. Note: I stand corrected. The archive edition, Click, has been modified in accord with your suggestion. 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 #498: S.M.A.R.T. STUFF

Laser Provision

When was the last time that you did a thorough “spring cleaning” of all your stuff? Stuff in your homes, offices, vehicles, lockers, and other places. If it’s been a while, then perhaps it’s time to make a date with yourself. Put it on the calendar. Then go through your stuff to be sure it is S.M.A.R.T. • Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. S.M.A.R.T. stuff supports both our intentions and our performance by making things easier.

LifeTrek Provision

While many people on this planet suffer from too little stuff, including the basic stuff for human subsistence, most people who are reading this suffer from too much stuff. Dan Pink calls this the age of abundance. To keep our interest, producers generate thousands of new products every year. Lured in by the promises of bigger, faster, and better, consumers gobble them up at a record pace. As a result, total debt in the United States • $147,312 per person or $589,248 per family of four • is at an all-time high (63 times more than it was 50 years ago).

What are we doing with all the stuff we consume? Storing it! We have more cars than we have licensed drivers and more stuff than we know what to do with. The self-storage industry, a business devoted to providing people a place to house their extra stuff, has revenues approaching $20 billion per year • almost twice that of the motion picture industry. Of all the Real Estate Investment Trusts in 2005, self-storage posted the largest returns of any real estate sector, 23%, beating malls by 4%, multifamily residences by nearly 10%, and hotels by 13%. We build houses for our extra stuff while countless people go homeless.

Self-improvement is no stranger to the glut of stuff. Consider the following products, randomly culled from health and fitness magazines:

  • To whisk away fat while keeping foods moist, we can buy vertical indoor grills.
  • To reduce cholesterol, we can buy foods enriched with phytosterols.
  • To keep us moving, we can buy wireless running trackers for GPS-enabled phones.
  • To fully equip a home gym, we can buy 12 must-have and 9 nice-to-have elements (including peppermint candles).
  • To ease aches and pains, we can buy countless products promising a world of relief.
  • To relieve stress, we can buy a variety of computer-based biofeedback devices.

At the same time as we encounter ever more stuff to help with our nutrition, fitness, and stress levels, the epidemics of obesity, depression, and anxiety rage on. All the stuff in the world is apparently not enough, and may even be partially the cause, of why so many people fail to move forward in the direction of optimal wellness. It’s easy to get swept away and lost in the ever-rising tide of stuff.

That’s what happens when our stuff is D.U.M.B. • Dysfunctional, Uninspiring, Misfit, andBurdensome. It holds us back more than it moves us forward. The key is to make our stuff S.M.A.R.T. Specific stuff that supports us in reaching Measurable and Achievable goals isRelevant to their Timely realization. That’s the kind of stuff that’s worth having around.

Cheryl Richardson, a well-known life-makeover coach, recently wrote about how this works in an article called “One Tweak = Big Change” Click. To quote Cheryl:

“For the last few months I’ve been attending spinning classes at my local gym in an effort to accomplish my goal of increasing my strength and endurance. Spinning is when a group of people on stationary bikes ride in unison to great music. One evening, just before the class, I had a conversation with a gentleman next to me who was putting on special spinning shoes • sneaker type shoes that clipped into the pedals. I asked if they really made a difference and he replied, ‘Absolutely. This one little adjustment improved my performance, allowed me to increase my intensity, and gave me a more efficient and effective workout. You really ought to give them a try.'”

“So I did. I went out and got me some new spinning shoes, and during the next class I was amazed at the result. I had no idea how much harder my workout had been without the right equipment. By using the correct shoes, I had more stability, greater strength, and I left with an unexpected gift • a renewed sense of motivation about working out. That one little adjustment made a huge difference in the pursuit of my goal, and it inspired me to look at how this lesson might extend to other areas of our lives.”

“Is there something you need to add to or subtract from your life to improve your chances of achieving an important goal for 2007? To answer that question, try this. First, identify a goal. Then, think about what you need — equipment, support, information, etc., • to increase your motivation by making the process easier.”

That’s a great description of how S.M.A.R.T. stuff supports us in reaching our goals by making the process easier and more fun. Here are some other examples:

The LifeTrek Optimal Wellness Prototype Click encourages the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as lean, local, pasture-fed meat, wild game, skinless, free-range poultry from birds that scratch in the open air, and wild fish. To cook these foods, the Prototype encourages the use of water and steam rather than oil or open fire.

Even though I love to cook, with plenty of well-used pots and pans, I recently purchased a steamer from Black & Decker Click that has had the same effect on me as the bike shoes have had on Cheryl: it has increased my motivation by making the process easier and more fun. I particularly love the timing guide, printed right on the side with settings for both fresh and frozen vegetables as well as meat, so as to avoid both overcooking and undercooking. When you get it right every time, with affordable, “set-it and forget-it” technology and easy-to-clean parts, what’s not to like?

An inexpensive pedometer can serve the same function when it comes to maintaining an active lifestyle. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, that lifestyle includes taking 10,000 steps a day. Want to know how many steps you take? Put on a pedometer after you wake up in the morning and watch what happens as the day goes on. I know people who thought they were active enough, only to discover they were coming up short. By wearing a pedometer, they began to effortlessly keep an eye on their progress. They also began to make different decisions to get in a few more steps, before the end of the day, when necessary.

The same goes for tools that can assist you when it comes to breathwork, mindfulness, and meditation. There are plenty of expensive, computer-based biofeedback devices to support these important practices. Some of these are stand-alone products, like the Resperate Click, while others work with your computer, like Journey to Wild Divine and Freeze-Framer Click. If such tools increase your motivation, get you doing breathwork on a regular basis, and are within your budget, then they are S.M.A.R.T. stuff for you. Go for it!

But a simple stethoscope can work just as well, at far less cost. By listening to your own heart as you rhythmically breathe in and out, you can enjoy the slowing rate and quietness that comes from paying attention to what’s going on inside you. Put the stethoscope next to your favorite chair and it won’t be long before it starts calling out your name.

When I travel, the clothes I pack for running work the same way. I review the weather and put the appropriate clothes, the S.M.A.R.T. stuff, in my suitcase before I pack anything else. This way my stuff works with me and my intentions rather than against me. At that point it becomes easy to get into gear.

The list of S.M.A.R.T. stuff is not universal. What works for one person will not work for another. The key, as Cheryl says, is to think about what you need in order to improve your chances for success. Everything else is unnecessary excess. It contributes to the glut of stuff that undermines our effectiveness and our way in the world.

We would do well to review and to thin out our stuff with these criteria in mind: does the stuff make it easier or harder for us to realize our intentions and to achieve peak performance. If it makes it easier, then it’s S.M.A.R.T. stuff that should be kept around and in great condition. If it has no effect or makes it harder, then it should be eliminated or donated to someone for whom it would make a difference.

I did that this past week with my files. It’s an annual ritual: to eliminate the stuff that no longer counts, makes a difference, or supports my intentions and performance. There’s no reason to increase the amount of storage space. It’s far better to decrease the amount of stuff. By reviewing and thinning out the stuff, I make room not only in the filing cabinets but also in my life for new possibilities.

That’s what S.M.A.R.T. stuff will do for us: it works for us and helps us to realize our goals. When we have the stuff we need, both in terms of quantity and quality, we will have taken one more step in the direction of realizing our resolutions for the New Year.

Coaching Inquiries: What’s the condition of the stuff in your life? Is it S.M.A.R.T. stuff? Does it work for you or against you? How could you change your stuff to make sure that it optimally support both your intentions and your performance? Who could work with you to get it done?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

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

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


Given your recent Provision on S.M.A.R.T. Habits Click, you will be interested to know that my newest habit is to read your Provision every week. I often would skip them for weeks at a time, but when I read them they are always uplifting, thought-provoking, or in some way “worth spending time on.” So now I read them every week. Also, “acting as if” is one of my favorite techniques – and it sure works for most things!


Your last Provision is very timely and really rings true. My number one goal is to set up Healthy Habits in a daily routine that become nearly subconsciously automatic. I understand that the basis for healthy living is to have these beneficial behaviors, but I haven’t seen it written so concisely before. I especially like the example of putting on your exercise clothes to help ensure the exercise to follow. Thanks. 


It has been a while since I replied to your Provisions. I just wanted to say “Hi!” and to let you know that I continue to greatly appreciate the work you do. 


Your site offers great advice. Thanks!


Thanks for the quick recap on Thursday! The new LifeTrek Digest is a great idea. 🙂  



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 #497: S.M.A.R.T. HABITS

Laser Provision

Many people set and reach goals, such as New Year’s resolutions, only to slide back into their old ways after a period of time. When this happens, we erode both self-esteem and self-efficacy. Developing S.M.A.R.T. habits • habits that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely • is a way of making changes stick. If that sounds relevant to you, then read on. This is one Provision that just may change your life for good.

LifeTrek Provision

As a coach who assists people to change their lives for the better, often with a concern for Optimal Wellness, I have long been intrigued by the habit of brushing our teeth. The vast majority of people engage in this healthy practice on a daily basis, if not more frequently, without any effort, grumbling, or backsliding. We just do it and, as a result, we reap the benefits which range from fewer dental problems to sweeter smelling breath to lowering our risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

How does that happen? No one is born with the habit, nor even the urge, to brush their teeth. Indeed, no one is born with teeth at all! So how is it that the vast majority of people master the art of doing something so unnatural and yet so good for themselves on a daily basis, day in and day out for their entire lives, that takes time, resources, memory, and discipline? If LifeTrek Coaching could bottle that formula for other healthy practices, we would have more business than we could handle. The world would be beating a path to our door.

The secret lies in the fact that brushing our teeth is a habit, and a S.M.A.R.T. habit at that.Dictionary.com includes the following eight definitions for habit:

  1. an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary such as the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street,
  2. a customary practice or use such as the habit of daily bathing,
  3. a particular practice, custom, or usage such as the habit of shaking hands,
  4. a dominant or regular disposition or tendency such as the habit of looking at the bright side of things,
  5. a mental character or disposition such as a habit of mind,
  6. a characteristic bodily or physical condition such as the habit of slumping forward,
  7. an addiction such as the habit of smoking, and
  8. the garb of a particular rank, profession, or religious order such as a monk’s habit

All eight definitions have something to teach us about habits and how they work. The key concepts are repetition, routine, culture, attitude, posture, compulsion, and signs. When those become S.M.A.R.T. • Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely • we have a lot to work with when it comes to initiating and sustaining new behaviors.

I like the concept of S.M.A.R.T. habits even better than S.M.A.R.T. goals. People think of goals in temporal terms, as though they are projects that we want to check off our list in order to move on to other things. That’s why people lose weight and gain it back, run a marathon and never run one again, or take a class only to forget about it as time goes on.

The concept of a habit conveys something entirely different. We don’t develop the habit of brushing our teeth in order to forget about it as time goes on. We don’t get bored with or resent having to brush our teeth. We don’t think, “I need more variety in my life so I’m going to stop brushing my teeth.” This is one habit that we expect to do for as long as we are able; it is a self-care regimen that most people embrace without duress.

So, too, with all self-care regimens. Through repetition, routine, culture, attitude, posture, compulsion, and signs we can make just about any habit a natural part of life.

— Repetition. I don’t know how you learned to brush your teeth, but chances are that parents and dentists showed you how to do it and then told you to do it, over and over again. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, it does make things easier. The more often we do something, the more likely it will become a habit. At the beginning it takes more discipline and reminding; over time, it become almost involuntary.

Dewitt Jones, a photographer and motivational speaker, calls this acting “as if.” Long before something is a habit, we act “as if” in order to make it so. To do that, we need to be S.M.A.R.T. about our plans. To say, “I want to eat better.” or “I want to exercise more.” offers no guidance as to the habits we want to develop. To say, “I want to start every day with LifeTrek’s healthy fruit smoothie.” Click begins to lay out the parameters of the project. We can then be S.M.A.R.T. about the project plan (e.g., purchasing, storing, preparing, drinking, and cleaning), repeating ourselves until it becomes routine.

— Routine. Routine is the essence of habit. The things we do over and over again, on a regular basis, define not only our ways in the world but also our identities. Modern culture is so attracted to the latest and greatest, it is so accustomed to continual upgrades and overhauls, that many people are actually embarrassed to admit they have any routines at all. Unfortunately, this adds precipitously to the stress of life. From the passing of seasons to the rising and setting of the sun to countless other rhythms and patterns, our genetic inheritance expects and appreciates routines to give life order, significance, meaning, and purpose.

The behaviors we practice routinely define who we are as persons. I was not born a runner, for example. Indeed, I hardly ran at all until I was in my forties. Once I started running, however, almost on a daily basis, I began to think of myself as a runner. The routine led me to become someone different. So too with many Eastern traditions. They encourage the practice of sitting still for extended periods of time because it is the routine, not the philosophy, that transforms the spirit. S.M.A.R.T. routines lead to effortless, life-enriching habits.

— Culture. Habits that become part of the culture, on both micro and macro levels, are easier to maintain. When the entire culture breaks for afternoon tea, for example, who are we to keep on working? Given the creep of culture destruction on a global scale, it becomes even more important to develop healthy micro-cultures in our homes, offices, and communities.

I remember a friend many years ago who went back to work after a heart-bypass operation with a prescription from his doctor to take a 20-minute nap each day in the early afternoon. At 1:00 PM, he went to a private area, asked to be undisturbed, set an alarm clock, rolled out a yoga mat, and laid down. Sometimes he rested awake, others times he slept. As the practice continued, other people in the office started to ask if they, too, could take a 20-minute nap. Soon a micro-culture had developed that supported this habit for as many as were interested. And guess what happened to productivity? It went up rather than down as healthy habits were encouraged by one and all.

— Attitude. I love the fact that the word “habit” refers not only to behaviors but also to attitudes or ways of looking at things. Positive psychology continues to research and validate the connection between the two. Positive attitudes support positive actions, and vice-versa.

Two simple action strategies are to end each day by writing down at least three good things that happened during the past 24 hours and to start each day by writing down at least one good thing that might happen during the next 24 hours. By cultivating attitudes of gratitude and positive expectation, all kinds of good things start to happen. The connection is compelling. To make these strategies S.M.A.R.T., you might want to clear your nightstand of everything except a notebook and writing instrument. No clutter. Just a clean invitation to write.

— Posture. S.M.A.R.T. habits make good use of the body. There’s no way to sit still for extended periods of time, for example, without good posture. To ease the mind we need to ease the body. The latter supports the former and vice-versa.

This applies in every area of life. There is a body-mind connection that we ignore at great peril. Unfortunately, the modern propensity to sit at desks in front of computer screens for extended periods of time is undermining the health of both the body and the mind. Never in the history of the world have so many people been so sedentary for so much of the day. We see it in the faces and bodies of everyone we meet. Taking a break at least every hour, if not more frequently, to walk and to stretch are examples of S.M.A.R.T. habits that can put us back on track.

— Compulsion. Marty Seligman, one of the founders of positive psychology, has said that he is more or less addicted to the practice of writing down three good things that happen at the end of every day • he calls them “three blessings” • because he has discovered that doing so makes him feel better. And isn’t that why we brush our teeth? That’s what happens when habits become S.M.A.R.T.: they eventually become so much a part of our lives that we cannot imagine living without them.

There’s nothing wrong with having positive compulsions! I hope brushing your teeth falls into that category for you; I know it does for me. Running and healthy eating are the same way. They are a part of my life; I would not be who I am without them. It may take effort, repetition, and practice in the beginning before a habit becomes a compulsion, but wellness has as much power to lock in its ways as weariness. We need only to give it a chance.

— Signs. It’s interesting that the root meanings of the word “habit” include behavior, custom, and clothing. Why clothing? Because it sets people apart as being devoted to certain causes and conditions. Uniforms may not make the person, but they sure have an influence. The first thing I do in the morning, every morning, is that I put on my workout clothes. Those clothes remind me of my S.M.A.R.T. exercise habits: one hour a day, with a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic activities.

Something literally comes over me when I put on those clothes. I think it’s a combination of the compression shorts and the orthotic inserts. They feel different than my regular clothing. They make me want to run. They are signs that promote my best intentions. They are part of making my routine work.

So don’t be afraid of getting into a rut. If the rut is healthy and happy, then it’s a great place to be. S.M.A.R.T. habits are important ways to realize our goals. The more they become part of our lives, the more success we will enjoy.

Coaching Inquiries: What are your S.M.A.R.T. habits? Have they become second nature? Or are you still having to act “as if?” How could you make better use of repetition, routine, culture, attitude, posture, compulsion, and signs? What little tricks could you develop to get on track? Who could share the journey with you? What is one healthy habit that you could start working on 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 on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

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

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


Thanks for your reply about vegetarianism. I’m leaning toward making a huge dietary shift and starting to eat select meats again. I even had a dream about it last night, which may be a sign. I spent some time tonight on the web sites you recommended ordering shredded coconut, egg white protein, etc. I’m almost finished with the “Paleo Diet” book. What an exciting and scary time!


I just subscribed to your channel on AvantGo and I really enjoy reading Provisions that way on my handheld device. I am glad that there is a pocket version that I can take with me where ever I go. Thanks for the encouragement through this site.


Thanks for you and your team’s Provisions delivered via AvantGo. Your messages often times say just the right thing about thoughts in life. I tried to access your Provision on “How To Be Happy” through the web, so I could show my wife. But I could not find it on your web site. Can you help? (Ed. Note: That essay was adapted from Provision #423 Click. Enjoy!)


What is the cost of the life program and creativity programs? (Ed. Note: That depend on many factors, including who you work with and how frequently you meet with a LifeTrek Coach. I encourage you to contact us for coaching to see what’s possible! Click.)  



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 #496: S.M.A.R.T. GOALS

Laser Provision

New Year’s resolutions often fail to be realized because we do not bother to answer the basic questions that turn dreams into deeds: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? How much? and How often? The process of turning New Year’s resolutions into S.M.A.R.T. goals can avoid that pitfall, making us more successful in life and work. What are S.M.A.R.T. goals and how do they work? Read on to learn the details.

LifeTrek Provision

Last week’s Provision focused on the millions of people who made New Year’s Resolutions a few weeks ago. Perhaps you are among that number. Those resolutions often include self-improvement goals, such as the following:

  1. Spend more time with family and friends.
  2. Improve fitness.
  3. Lose weight.
  4. Stop smoking.
  5. Enjoy life more.
  6. Quit drinking.
  7. Get out of debt.
  8. Learn something new.
  9. Help others.
  10. Get organized.

Such resolutions are good but not sufficient. They are good because they represent a positive intention. That alone can shift the playing field, and many have written about the power of intention. To quote Sonia Choquette, “Your thought creates.  Therefore if you want to create an experience, you must begin by having a clear, focused thought of that experience.”

The reason this works is because an intention represents a decision that shifts our attention. Once we decide to do something, such as to lose weight, we suddenly see the world in a different way. We notice the foods in the house, the foods we order, and the foods in the news like never before. As this noticing continues, it grows in both quantity and quality. Once it reaches a critical mass, changes start to happen for good.

There is, in fact, no way to make a self-directed change without making a decision and setting an intention. Our choices and desires are that important. They manifest themselves whether we want them to or not. Like weeds growing through the cracks in a sidewalk, clear decisions and focused intentions find ways break through even the toughest of barriers. They just need to be “clear” and “focused.”

That’s why those ten common New Year’s resolutions are good but not sufficient: they are vague and diffuse expressions of a heartfelt desire. What does it mean to lose weight? If I lose weight today and gain weight tomorrow, does that satisfy my resolution? Technically, yes. I did, in fact, lose weight. But if I gain more weight than I lose, chances are I will neither feel satisfied with the outcome nor good about myself. Chances are I will throw up my hands in frustration, failure, and fear.

So I encourage you to be clear and focused about your resolutions. I encourage you to get S.M.A.R.T. about your goals. Are you familiar with the acronym for S.M.A.R.T.? It’s quite common in many work settings, but people often fail to take this one home from the office. That’s too bad, because it’s part of the secret to making dreams come true. Clear and focused goals, the kind that create experiences, are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. Without those qualities, goals fail to gain traction.

— Specific. Specific goals define the specific details of what is going to happen. There are no details behind any of those New Year’s resolutions. That’s the problem. They do not paint a clear picture, or any picture, as to what it looks like to lose weight, to stop smoking, to enjoy life more, or to spend more time with family and friends.

S.M.A.R.T. goals don’t make that mistake. They provide enough details to write a good short story. Example: “I want to get rid of all the grain, dairy, and processed-food products in my house and I want to replace them with fresh fruits, vegetables, lean-meat, and wild fish.”

Can’t you just see that goal taking shape? I can see a big garbage can, with a black plastic liner, and a cardboard box in the middle of the kitchen floor. I can see someone going through the pantry, then the refrigerator, and finally the freezer, shelf by shelf. I can see him reading labels, looking at ingredients, and putting perishables into the can (for disposal) and non-perishables into the box (for donation to a food pantry).

In the background, I can hear loud music playing, perhaps with Patti Labelle singing, “I’ve a got a new attitude!” I can then see him visiting several different food stores, comparing quality, sources, pricing, and availability, before purchasing the fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish they need to restock and reload.

Another example: “I want to write in my journal when I first wake up in the morning, before I do anything else. In my journal I want to write down at least one thing that I am looking forward to in my day.”

Can’t you just see that goal taking shape? I can see a bound blank book sitting on a table next to someone’s favorite chair. As they wake up, I can see someone stretching her toes and recollecting her dreams. Once she is more fully awake, I can see her going over to the chair, sitting down, picking up the pen and book, and starting to write. She writes whatever comes to mind, then pauses, takes a few deep breaths, thinks about her day, and writes down her favorite outlook. She closes the book. It’s time to get moving.

When goals are specific enough, they will immediately generate such images and visualizations. As a result, they will also generate movement and action. When goals become targets that beckon, when they spawn clear and specific pictures as to our way in the world, it’s easy to get ourselves into gear.

— Measurable.  Measurable goals define the measures we will use to track what is happening and when the goals are finally achieved. In the case of the above examples, we might check the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer every Sunday to audit the presence of grain, dairy, or processed-food products or again we might put a gold star on a visible calendar whenever we start our day as specified.

Notice the way those measures are worded: they could be used both before and after we achieve the goal. They support both the action and the maintenance stages of change. It’s great to identify measures that can become a permanent part of our routine. That’s why people use pill boxes, for example: at a glance, it’s easy to answer the question, “Did I take my pills today?” We don’t use that measure just while we are learning to take our pills. We use that measure forever, because it assists us to stay on track.

— Achievable.  Achievable goals define the limits of what is going to happen. They take current realities into consideration. They don’t ask someone to run a marathon before they can walk around the block.

There are many factors to consider vis-•-vis the achievability of a goal, both internal and external. These include one’s current situation, financial resources, past achievements, risk tolerance, available time, and social support. For any number of reasons, for example, it may not be feasible to eliminate all grain, dairy, and processed-food products from the house or to start the day with journal writing before doing anything else. Those feasibilities need to be discovered, explored, tested, and respected in the setting of goals. Working within the realm of the possible is critical to setting S.M.A.R.T. goals.

— Relevant.  Relevant goals define the importance of what is going to happen. They take the path of development into consideration. They do ask someone to walk around the block before they run a marathon.

If we fail to see the relevance of our immediate goals to our long-range plans, if we do not understand how meters lead to miles which lead to marathons, we will never give our immediate goals more than half-hearted attention. With a clear line of sight as to how one thing leads to another,  it’s easy to not only get started but also to stay on track.

That’s what I like about marathon training schedules: they give you a steady progression of distances and workouts until race day. Make the plan and work the plan. Follow the schedule and you’ll be ready. Each day is relevant to the next. Apart from personal mastery experiences, there’s nothing that builds confidence like having relevant goals that define the importance of what you are doing.

— Timely.  Timely goals define the timeframe of what is going to happen. All the specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant goals in the world may never happen if we forget to answer the basic question: “When are we going to do this?” “When are we going to clean out that kitchen?” “When are we going to start the morning routine?”

S.M.A.R.T. goals answer all the important questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? How much? and How often? When you answer those questions, New Year’s resolutions will get into high gear. When you answer those questions, you will truly be intelligent as well as successful about your goals.

As an example of how this works, consider the following comments from a reader in response to last week’s Provision:

I love your commentaries and look forward to reading them each week. Last week’s discussion about resolutions was particularly interesting to me since none of the top resolutions included mine: drive less. I had recently watched “An Inconvenient Truth” and decided I could make some changes to reduce my personal carbon footprint.

I had always driven to work since the train option got me back to town later than the hard deadline for picking up my children from their after school program, for which I paid $20 per day. I decided instead to hire a local, responsible, 18-year-old to collect my children after school and pay her $25. The train costs me $7 and I don’t drive, I don’t pay $18 for parking, I am guaranteed 20 minutes of brisk walking to and from the station to the office, and I don’t have to fight Boston traffic with all the stress and uncertainty that entails. All told, my bank account, my psyche, the environment, and my conscience are all better off. The kids didn’t like the aftercare program all that much and are happier at home.

(The key to this is of course the wonderful 18-year-old. How did I find her? For me the the obvious place to start is a conversation with the ladies who run the local library and know everyone in town, their children and their reputations.)

I usually think of change as requiring expense or sacrifice and I am shocked to find that my previous habit of driving was born from a lack of imagination and was a far less sensible solution than the one I have today. Perhaps your readers might be able to look at the cost of their own driving habits and assess if they are also falling into the same trap I was in?

What a marvelous example of turning a New Year’s resolution into a S.M.A.R.T. goal that is now accomplished and becoming routine. I hope that you, too, can light a fire under your goals by making them S.M.A.R.T.

Coaching Inquiries: How S.M.A.R.T. are your resolutions? Are there areas where you would like to tighten them up? What questions do you have in mind? Who could you talk with about your goals to help make them more specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely? When and where could you have such a conversation? 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 on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

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

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


Hello and thank you for your weekly Provision. I like the word Provision • not sure why • it just sounds right. I found your site on AvantGo and it sounded worthwhile. I am not disappointed, unlike a lot of websites that offer similar promises. I read the provision on “How to be Happy” It made a lot sense, so much so that I want to share it with a friend. Please point me to the link on your site, even better, how I can search the archive more effectively so I can find it on my own. Again Thanks for being present. (Ed. Note: That was adapted from provision #423 Click. To find something on our site, go to our search engine Click and type in key words or expressions. You can also scroll through the archive Click, looking at the titles.)


I’ve been reading the provisions on the Paleo-based diet, and recently sent for the book you recommended. I have two questions: (1) What is the difference between flax oil, flaxseed oil, and fish oil? Do they all have Omega 3? Can I grind flax seeds instead of using the oil? (Ed. Note: There is no difference between flax and flaxseed oil. They are just different names for the oil that comes from flax seeds. Fish oil comes from the tissues of fatty fish. Both flax and fish oils contain Omega 3 fatty acids, but they are different types (ALA in flax, EPA and DHA in fish). The fatty acids in fish oil have more health benefits than the fatty acids in flax seed oil. To get the full health benefits of flax, it’s best to grind the seeds, as you suggest, adding them to smoothies or salads.)

(2) I have been vegetarian for over 10 years, though I eat some fish and eggs. (used to eat dairy – but have cut way back). How can I make the Paleo diet work without eating beef, chicken, etc.? Thank you very much for your important work. (Ed. Note: I don’t know of a vegetarian version of the Paleo diet. For what’s it’s worth: I was a vegetarian for years. What got me to switch to the Paleo diet was the discovery of local and free-range meats. Eating meat from happy animals resolved my ethical issues.)


Your last Provision is very nice and true. I wish it were a reality for the majority. It should be taught by your parents, teachers and mentors when you are a child but that’s very hit and miss. In truth, we live in a me, me, I, I world that very few really care about unless something negative impacts them directly. It’s a sorry state of being.


To inspire goal setting, your readers might want to watch the 212 movie Click.


I have been to your site many times, reviewing the info. I am currently a dietitian working in a hospital setting counseling outpatients and I love what coaching can do for this work! Thanks for all that you do to teach and share the coaching profession with others.   



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 #495: The Resolution Revolution

Laser Provision

New Year’s resolutions have gotten a bad rap. Because resolutions can be made and broken, many people scoff at the making of resolutions and throw up their hands at the prospect of changing for good. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap. Resolutions make a difference, particularly when you work on them with family, friends, coaches, and other positive partners. As people in the personal and professional development business, LifeTrek invites you to use the power of intention for a great New Year.

LifeTrek Provision

Welcome to the first regular edition of LifeTrek Provisions for 2007. It’s good to be back after a refreshing break. It was a pleasure to hear from those who missed us, when our server went down after Christmas, and to receive your encouragement for last week’s poem, The Well of Well BeingClick. May we all learn to draw ever more deeply from that well in the New Year.

Speaking of 2007, have you made any New Year’s resolutions? If so, you’re not alone. Research indicates that the advent of a New Year triggers both reflection on the past and planning for the future for millions of people (the University of Washington estimates that more than 100 million Americans will make at least one New Year’s resolution). That’s enough individual resolutions to qualify as a cultural revolution.

But do such resolutions do any good? Estimates vary, but the following statistics are often cited as evidence of their failure to make any lasting difference: 75% of all resolutions are still being maintained after one week, 71% after two weeks, 64% after two months, and 46% after six months. On a related note, 40% of all resolutions are successful the first time around while 17% will take at least six tries to reach success.

Now I don’t know about you, but I see those statistics as evidence that New Year’s resolutions make a big difference. If the statistics are right, some 40-50 million Americans will successfully change some aspect of their lives in the wake of a New Year’s resolution made just two weeks ago. Wow! That’s a lot of people who will be successful in the process of changing for good. No wonder I support the making of resolutions.

What do people make resolutions about? Here’s a list of the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions, which reads like a laundry list for personal and professional coaching:

  1. Spend more time with family and friends.
  2. Improve fitness.
  3. Lose weight.
  4. Stop smoking.
  5. Enjoy life more.
  6. Quit drinking.
  7. Get out of debt.
  8. Learn something new.
  9. Help others.
  10. Get organized.

Did any of those make your list? If so, after two weeks, how are you doing? 71% of you • that’s 71 million Americans • should still be going strong. The resolution revolution is still having it’s way with the world.

To support that way, I’m going to spend a few weeks focusing on what we can do to improve our chances to still be successful six weeks, six months, and six years from now. One reason for that is because the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions map perfectly to the LifeTrek Optimal Wellness Prototype Click. I like those resolutions! The point of the Prototype is to optimize nutrition (the input side of the equation) and fitness (the output side of the equation) in the context of benevolence (the throughput side of the equation). It’s not hard to look at those 10 Resolutions and to figure out which goes where.

Another reason for my interest in writing this interlude is because I am among those who have made it through the six week, six month, and six year milestones. In April of 1998, I was sedentary, unemployed, and obese (my Body Mass Index was almost 34). By November of that year, I ran my first marathon in more than 13 years, had a vision for LifeTrek Coaching, and got my Body Mass Index down into the normal range (less than 25). Since that time, I have run 3-5 marathons per year, developed LifeTrek Coaching into a benevolent actor on the world stage, and maintained my weight. I have always enjoyed sharing that story with others, along with my insights as to how to make it happen.

Finally, I have been touched by the many reader replies from people who have begun to implement our nutritional recommendations with great success. The Prototype works because it supports the body’s natural inclination to maintain a healthy weight. When we overeat, it’s not because we are weak-willed people who can do no better. It’s because we are eating foods that undermine the body’s natural instinct for health. By eating the right foods, we get ourselves back on track.

The replies of one reader in particular, who I do not know personally and who I have not worked with as a coaching client, speak to how well this works:

  • August 2006: “What peer reviewed journals do you base your recommendations on?” (I referred him to www.ThePaleoDiet.com as a reference for the LifeTrek Optimal Wellness Prototype.)
  • October 2006: “I have really enjoyed your series on nutrition. The point of view from which you speak really makes sense! I bought the Paleo Diet book and have since lost 15 lbs in about 4 weeks.”
  • November 2006: “I can’t thank you enough for the life changing series on nutrition. I have adopted the Paleo diet and now have lost almost 21 pounds since you started the series. I feel amazing!”
  • December 2006: “It’s time to get the ‘LifeTrek Nutrition Manual’ published in PDF. Here’s to a very Merry Christmas as well as a joyful, peaceful, and healthy New Year.”
  • January 2007: “Even through the holidays I have continued to shrink! Clothing is becoming expensive, because it does not last very long. I am trying to spread the word by forwarding your complete wellness series to a few people and offering my support. I may have to turn them over to you for coaching! Thanks again.”

I consider that a wonderful and even an amazing testimony to the power of LifeTrek Provisions. Although Provisions goes out to more than 50,000 people in 152 countries, I have rarely had a sense of it making such a difference in someone’s life. Imagine what it would mean for you to right-size your weight. For most people, it would mean a lot.

That’s why I want to put out some pointers regarding the process of change itself. Before we jump into the fitness recommendations of our Prototype Click, I hope to provide a few good ideas on how we can turn resolutions (promises to change) into revolutions (actual changes). Whether you’re trying to lose weight or make any other change, the strategies for success are tried and true.

Success begins when we start going down the right path in the first place. A resolution to lose weight on a diet filled with grain, dairy, and processed-food products, for example, is a resolution doomed to frustration and failure. Limiting our intake of addictive foods still has us consuming addictive foods. Sooner or later, that will catch up to us when it comes to optimal wellness.

Once we start down the right path, however, there are many strategies for staying on course and making our intentions more efficacious. If anyone ought to know those strategies, it ought to be a coach. Coaches are, first and foremost, personal change assistants. No one comes to coaching without some desire to learn, grow, improve, and change things for the better. Coaching is all about assisting people to discover their strengths and to design better ways of using their strengths in the service of life.

In all my years of coaching, I have never had anyone say, “Please help me to stay the same.” I have rather had most everyone say, “Please help me to change. I want to master something I have never mastered before. I want to do something I have only intended before. I want to turn my promises into practices.”

So we get to work. Through the relational and conversational dynamic of coaching, we find not only the motivation but also the movement and the moment for change. When the impetus, plan, and timing converge, the resolution revolution takes place. Eventually, the spiral dynamic takes hold, moving us to another level development.

If you are working with some resolutions of your own, whether they have to do with wellness or any other area of life and work, I encourage you to read these Provisions and to stay with us for the rest of this month. We will identify ways to implement our intentions for the New Year and beyond, making success a habit rather than a happenstance of the heart.

Coaching Inquiries: What resolutions have you made? What resolutions would you like to make? How could your life and work be better? What would you like to realize or accomplish? Who would you like to connect with or love? How could you find someone to coach you to success? What changes would you like to make, for good?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

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

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


Your Website Click is an amazing resource, with all of the archived Provisions, Pathways, Poems, Recipes, and Resources. Kudos to you on all of your obvious dedication and commitment to your clients. Truly impressive.


I have a question about how you manage your morning routine. How do you divide the supplements? (Ed. Note: Most of my supplements Click are evenly divided, and taken right after breakfast and dinner, except for my lose-dose aspirin and 160 mg. of Saw Palmetto, which I take right before going to sleep at night.)  



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