Provision #601: Inaugural Poems II

Laser Provision

After writing my own inaugural poem, Inauguration, we finally got to hear the official poem on January 20, 2009. That poem is reprinted below with a few reflections on why the inauguration of Barack H. Obama has taken the world by storm and stimulated the imagination of so many. That’s happened in history whenever there’s been a turning of the tables, and now it has happened again. Enjoy the day!

LifeTrek Provision


Last week I wrote about the relatively recent phenomenon of writing poems to celebrate the inauguration of United States’ presidents. As you may remember, I wrote one myself for Barack Obama’s big day, titled Inauguration.

I was inspired to write my poem both by the import of the occasion and by listening to Elizabeth Alexander on NPR. She was the Yale University professor selected to write and recite the official poem for the inauguration. No one knew what she would come up with and I, for one, appreciated her efforts. For those who missed it, here it is again (• 2009, Elizabeth Alexander and Graywolf Press), titled “Praise Song for the Day”:

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,
picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need
. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

For all their differences in form and length (my poem was a simple set of eight rhyming couplets), I was struck by the similarities of flow and theme. In writing my poem, I, too, was struck by the noise, the spiny words, and the struggle. I, too, was struck by the promise of a better of day where all people are safe. I, too, was struck by the sparkle of love on a widening pool of light. I liked Alexander’s metaphors and I liked seeing the connections between her work and my own.

Literary critics were not so impressed with Alexander’s poem, however. “Too prosy”, said one, “unmemorable” said another. The Los Angeles Times called it “less than praiseworthy” and The New Republic described it as “bureaucratic.” To give but one reviewer’s conclusion: “Even when writing for a public occasion and a vast audience, the poet should be able to renew language by being precise, surprising, unhackneyed. Otherwise, what is the point of such a commission? Alexander is a true people’s poet, but she has written better poems for the people than this one.”

Yikes! I’m glad my own poems will never be reviewed professionally. That’s a tough crew to please • there go those spiny words again • when you’re standing on such a lofty platform in front of billions of people. Perhaps the people know differently. Alexander’s publisher, Graywolf Press, is rushing out an $8 paperback of the poem on February 6, 2009 and it is already the bestselling poetry title on Amazon.com. Those voices probably mean more to Alexander than any other.

What do you make of this thing we have been doing in the United States of America? We have been writing quite a story and people worldwide have taken notice. That happens whenever there is a turning of the tables. Indeed, all the great stories of the world, both political and religious, include such reversals and twists:

  • Buddha abandons his wealth and privilege to become a pauper and find enlightenment.
  • Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego get rescued from the fiery furnace.
  • Jesus gets lifted up from a seemingly ignominious death.
  • Mohammad goes from pariah to prophet.
  • Confucius goes from scoundrel to sage.
  • Gandhi turns the tables on the British in India.
  • Mandela turns the tables on white rule in South Africa.

Revolutions, both violent and nonviolent, are the stuff of history (usually written by the victors). So we tell the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. and honor him with a holiday. Now, however, comes the real honor as Barack H. Obama comes to power. It is the culmination of many “weary years and silent tears.”

Please join me in wishing him well and in doing what we can to make this latest turning of the tables a gift to all. I love Alexander’s vision of love as the mightiest word, particularly “love with no need to pre-empt grievance.” That has been the orientation that President Obama has taken in his leadership to date; it’s not about vilifying the past but vivifying the future. And that will become the focus of my next Provisions’ series, starting next week, on the living energy of needs. I hope to meet you there.

Coaching Inquiries: Where do you turn for inspiration? Who lifts your spirit? What stories and poems speak to you? When have you embraced a turning of the tables? How can your life become richer, more satisfying, and more fulfilling? Who can you talk with about this?

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

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

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

I’ve been reading your Provisions, each week, for more than four years. You are a great inspiration for me. I want to commend you on this inaugural poem. Your writings are pointed and powerful.
As the sister in your last Provision, I am happy to say that our church occasionally joins in worship with the African-American congregation that we share our building with for an uplifting and love-filled worship experience. It is a step in the right direction. I think that a bridge is being built slowly from both directions but indeed we have a long span to still construct before we are truly one-nation under God! Thanks for the Provision and may I be able to add one bolt to that bridge!
I wish I could share your enthusiasm over the future of President Obama and his administration. From everything he pledged to do during his campaign, to the speeches he’s made on his historic train trip, his proposals scare me. We will withstand this, but the consequences and long term costs of Obama’s presidency are the things that keep me up at night.
Can you tell me if there is any truth to this acai berry and bromolite stuff? Does stuff really build up in your colon over the years that requires using this product to clean it out? Will acai berry pills really speed up your metabolism and give you energy? (Ed. Note: No, no, and no. I would not spend the money on them. Stay with a high-fiber diet emphasizing lots of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.)
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 #600: Inaugural Poems

Laser Provision

In years past, I have written and published a poem at the start of each New Year to focus our energy and guide our meditations. This year, however, I decided to write a poem on the occasion of Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States of America. I’m not alone in that pursuit as another, far-more-qualified candidate has been commissioned to compose and recite an official poem on that day. But mine has its place in the family of things, and this Provision sets the context for its meaning and message. Enjoy.

LifeTrek Provision


It is somehow fitting to write a poem not only to celebrate the upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America, but also to celebrate the upcoming publication of my 500th Provision (the numbering started at 101). Poems are like that: they require an occasion, an inspiration, to be called forth.

That said, however, and counting the new poem to be written and read by Yale Professor Elizabeth Alexander at Barack Obama’s inauguration, only four Presidents have commissioned poems to be read on this august occasion. Such poems are, indeed, a rather modern and seemingly a Democratic phenomenon:

  • Robert Frost recited “The Gift Outright” for the inauguration John F. Kennedy in 1961.
  • Maya Angelou wrote “On The Pulse Of Morning” for the first inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993.
  • Miller Williams wrote “Of History and Hope” for the second inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1997.
  • Elizabeth Alexander’s poem for the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009 is yet to be unveiled.

The quality of these poems is, according to the critics, a rather mixed bag. That can happen when poems become a work for hire. The worst of the bunch, some say, is the poem that Frost had written for Kennedy’s inauguration, titled “Dedication.” Ironically, and perhaps fortuitously, Frost was unable to decipher his typescript of the poem in the high wind and strong sun. So, instead of reading the poem he had written for the occasion, Frost pulled one from memory.

Maya Angelou’s poem was the longest and perhaps the most memorable of the bunch. It was an ode to the country’s diversity, struggle, and potential. After a shout-out to a representative sampling of America’s many constituencies, Angelou intoned:

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.

Miller Williams’ poem echoes similar refrains. I like his lines calling the living to account to the dead:

But where are we going to be, and why, and who?
The disenfranchised dead want to know.
We mean to be the people we meant to be,
to keep on going where we meant to go.

In advance of Barack Obama’s inauguration, no one knows what Elizabeth Alexander’s poem will say. Not even the President-elect himself has a copy. She is guarding it, Alexander comments, like a “mother tiger.” That’s the beauty of a poem. It is a work of art and no one, not even Presidents, can squelch its originality and genius.

I happened to hear Alexander being interviewed on NPR in mid-December, who described the commissioning as a challenging rather than a fearful task, and I found myself wondering what I would come up with were I to have been so commissioned.

That thought has stayed with me ever since, and it came into focus when I visited my sister’s church over the Christmas holidays. Martin Luther King, Jr. called 11:00 on Sunday morning the most segregated hour in America, and we have not made sufficient progress in the intervening decades. At my sister’s church, I worshipped with an almost exclusively white congregation. As we were leaving after lunch, however, I saw an almost exclusively black congregation from a different denomination starting their worship service in the same sanctuary. I felt sad, because my needs for community and connection were not fully met.

The election of Barack Obama represents a significant chink in the armor of human tribalism. My niece, who attends my sister’s church, will also be attending the inauguration. How different that crowd will be from her church back home! Faces and voices, races and religions, creeds and cultures, nations and orientations representing the entire human family will be in attendance at what is predicted to be a record turnout. That is the hope and promise of it all and that is the context for my own, whimsical poem titled, “Inauguration”:

What is this thing we do?
Each one standing in a different queue.
What is this thing I see?
Each one singing in a different key.

What is this thing we fear?
Each one shouting a different cheer.
What is this thing we yield?
When each one seeds a different field.

Yet standing in this place
We do embrace the human race.
And singing with this crowd
We see beyond the human shroud.

Since shouting for this cause
Strips fear from human claws.
And deep within this change
Lie seeds of hope in fertile range.

I’m sure Professor Alexander’s official poem will be much grander and more transcendent than my simple, rhyming couplets. Yet all attempts to capture the profundity of the moment will ultimately fall short since, as Alice Walker wrote last November in an Open Letter to Barack Obama, it is “almost more than the heart can bear.”

We are, indeed, the ones we have been waiting for. In this time of global travail, may we take comfort in and responsibility for the seeds of hope that are being planted this week. Whatever our political ideology, may we rest and work together for the good of all.

PS • You can also listen, if you want, to a follow-up interview on NPR with Professor Alexanderafter she had completed her poem. It’s an enjoyable 6 minutes. All that’s left is to hear her recite the poem on Tuesday, January 20, 2009.

Coaching Inquiries: What feelings do you have at this moment in history? What hopes inspire you to full engagement? How can you express those feelings and more fully meet those needs? How can you rise to the challenges we face? Who can join you on the journey?

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

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

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


Thanks so much for your recent series on Being Fully Alive. It has really spoken to me over the past year and has guided both my husband and me to pay attention to more important things. We are looking forward to what you come up with next! 



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 #599: Surprise! It’s A Series

Laser Provision

What does it mean to be fully alive? I asked that question in early August, 2008, because I wanted to explore the answer in all its fullness. At the time, I said it meant to be filled with life, energy, joy, freedom, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, and self-awareness. That’s my definition of being self-actualized. I then went on, however, to explore the concept using 19 frameworks put forward by L. Michael Hall in his book, Unleashed! We’ve come to the end of this series, so this Provision summarizes them all. Whether you want to catch one you missed or read one again, this Provision is for you. Enjoy!

LifeTrek Provision


On August 3, 2008 I announced the start of a Provision series on what it looks like to be fully alive. The psychologist Abraham Maslow described such people as being “self-actualized.” What does that look and feel like? Everyone would no doubt answer that question in different ways. But L. Michael Hall, in his book Unleashed!, described the following 19 capacities, attitudes, and states of self-actualization.

That’s the outline I’ve been following in my series. My wife tells me that most people probably forgot long ago that it even was a series. So before we move on to our next topic, I thought I would wrap-up the series with brief summaries and links back to each Provision. Enjoy!

1. The capacity to tolerate uncertainty. Embrace Uncertainty (Provision 577). To be fully alive it’s important to embrace, rather than to fear, uncertainty. Why? Because life is uncertain. There are no guarantees and no absolutes. There are only degrees of risk and understanding that represent our best efforts to be successful and happy over time. Once we embrace the fact that life cannot be controlled and that our understanding is always incomplete, everything comes alive. Read this Provision to explore how to make it so for you.

2. Acceptance of self and others. Who’s Right? (Provision 578). It feels good to be right. We can gloat and throw our weight around in our dealings with others. We can hold our head high and strut our stuff. But the game of “Who’s right?” takes a toll on all who play. Whether we play it with ourselves, in our minds, or with others, in our words and actions, the game is filled with judgment and ego games that ultimately do more harm than good in our world today. If you are riddled with thoughts of what’s wrong, then perhaps this Provision will assist you to break the cycle.

3. Genuine caring and love. A Beautiful Mosaic (Provision 579). It’s easy to love people who are similar to us and who are doing what we want in the way we want them to do it. Most of the time, however, we are dealing with those who are different from us and who have their own ideas and strategies about how to go about things. That’s when the going gets tough when it comes love, understanding, and respect. The more we object, however, the more conflict ensues. The more we appreciate the needs people are trying to meet, the more community emerges. I, for one, hope and strive for the latter. Read this Provision to learn how to make it so for you as well.

4. Spontaneity and creativity. Grab The Mike (Provision 580). Everyone enjoys the spontaneity and curiosity of little children. We laugh and play along. So what happens to that joy as we grow older? It gets replaced with judgmental voices of what can and should be done. Unfortunately, those voices interfere with developing our full potential. It’s important, therefore, to learn how to set them aside in the service of natural learning. Then, and only then, will we become the change that we seek. This Provision shares a few stories on how to make it so.

5. Need for private and solitude, detachment. Inside Out (Provision 581). Real change is possible, but only if we start from the inside out. Instead of scurrying around reacting to all the squeaky wheels, it’s better to get centered before proceeding. To come from that place, it helps to start the day with deliberative rituals. The more we take time to think, imagine, write, breathe, dream, notice, meditate, walk, and otherwise connect with what’s stirring on the inside, the more impact we will have on the outside. If you want to develop a rhythm in your life between contemplation and action, then I encourage you to read this Provision. It’s not impossible, even in our busy-busy world.

6. Capacity for deep and intense relationships. Outside In (Provision 582). In the last Provision I wrote about the importance of connecting with the life that stirs and flows within. We all have dreams, energies, vibrations, rhythms, flows, inhalations, exhalations, circulations, imaginations, and other movements that are worth noticing, exploring, and appreciating. But it’s not enough to go it alone, from the inside out. We also need to connect deeply with others in ways that restore and enrich life. Sound inviting? Then read this Provision to find the courage to make it so.

7. A more philosophical attitude about things. Step Back (Provision 583). When life is swirling and twirling, it’s important to step back and stay calm. That’s not always easy to do, especially when you have evidence to the contrary (and we’ve had plenty to go around). But there are practices that can bring us back to center. This Provision explores three simple yet challenging steps: shifting perspective, seeking connection, and studying meditation. I hope they will mean as much to you as they mean to me.

8. Autonomy: independence of culture and need for conformity. Step Out (Provision 584). There are times to step back, especially when life is swirling around us, and times to step out, in creativity, courage, and collaboration. The two movements are integrally related. Stepping back gives us the perspective we need to see new possibilities. Stepping out gives us the experience we need to explore new possibilities. If your life lacks a rhythm of stepping back and stepping out, then perhaps this Provision is for you.

9. A sense of humor and lightness. Laugh Lines (Provision 585). What gets you to laughing? We don’t always have to wait for something to strike our funny bone. We can become proactive laughers, by noticing the ironies and beatitudes of life. There’s always something to discover, celebrate, and enjoy. Laugh lines are so important that I went back and reviewed some of my own from the past 10 years worth of Provisions. It was a fun reconnaissance of my own material and I reprinted the best excerpts in this Provision. I hope at least one item strikes you that way as well. Enjoy!

10. More efficient perception of reality. Panic No More (Provision 586). The headlines scream of a worldwide panic attack. With every passing day, more and more people are succumbing to the stress. What about you? How are you doing? If you are not doing as well as you would like, it may be time to develop new routines for stress management and sleep enhancement. This Provision describes a few approaches that have worked for me, including supplementation with melatonin. If that sounds interesting and relevant, then read on for the details.

11. Altruistic. Contribute Your Joy (Provision 587). When people are fully alive they bubble over with joy. This joy is neither silly giddiness nor ignoring reality. This joy is rather the full engagement that comes from doing what you love. At its best, such engagement is not only self-serving (there’s nothing wrong with that) it’s also life-serving (bringing joy to many others in the process). When was the last time that you bubbled over with joy and blessed others in the process? If it’s been a while, then perhaps this Provision will inspire you to turn over a few new stones.

12. An inner directedness and absences of artificial dichotomies (love/hate, weak/strong, work/play, etc.). Probably No God? (Provision 588). Did that title get your attention? If so then the campaign to put secularist posters on the sides of British buses may achieve its intended result. But I think the posters miss the mark. The problem is not with God; the problem is with parochial ideas of God. That’s what Abraham Lincoln had to say in his Second Inaugural Address. It is also what I understand to be the true nature of here, now, and forever. God is no Judge; God is Understanding.

13. More democratic in attitudes and dealings with others. Election Energy (Provision 589). The election between Barack Obama and John McCain engaged many people, on both sides of the aisle. To say that it was “energizing” is an understatement. Yet that’s exactly what it takes to become fully alive. If you have been lacking passion, direction, and understanding in life, then there’s no better time than today to turn things around. Get involved. Act on your convictions. Make a statement. Find your voice and be heard!

14. Continued freshness of appreciation. You Gotta Love It (Provision 590). The US election is over and, whether you are pleased or displeased with the outcome, you gotta love the expressions of solidarity, hope, and cooperation that have been lifted up by many Americans, on both sides of the aisle, let alone by people and leaders around the world. There are many things to celebrate in this situation, if only we give ourselves the permission and time to take a look and call them out. That is, in fact, a pretty good way of approaching any situation. If you have any doubt or need a little encouragement, read this Provision to think it through and make it so.

15. Self-transcending. Beyond Self-Service (Provision 591). The poet Rumi once wrote, “Out beyond right and wrong there is a field. I will meet you there.” This Provision moves beyond self-service to that place of self-transcendence. It is not about right and wrong; it is about connecting with others in ways that are life-giving and life-affirming. It is about going beyond the experience of self to the experience of others and the Other. Many have been innervated recently with such passions; if it’s been a while since you felt that way, then I hope you will read this Provision and open yourself to the possibility.

16. Spontaneity, simplicity, naturalness. Say “Yes!” To Life (Provision 592). What’s the secret of life? I think it has to do with connection, generosity, and joy. The more focused we become on self-protection the harder it is to experience laughter, love, and luxury. It may be tempting in these difficult economic times to hunker down with a wary-and-weary mentality, but we do so at our peril. Not only does this cut us off from that which makes life worth living, it also endangers the well-being of us all. So don’t let that happen. Reach out and touch someone. Be extravagant with your generosity. Take time to notice the little things in life. Find ways to celebrate the wonder of it all.

17. The ability to discriminate between means and ends. Do The Right Thing (Provision 594). It’s tempting, when times are tough, to start cutting corners or to justify doing whatever it takes to get where you want to go. It’s a slippery slope, however, when we start justifying means by ends. It’s far better to live by positive, life-giving values, whether in good times or bad. As you go through your days, ask yourself this question: “What would make life more wonderful right now?” Let your intuition be your guide. It will often make clear the way.

18. Mystic or peak experiences. Beyond Survival (Provision 595). Between bankruptcies, job losses, foreclosures, and scandals there’s plenty in the news to stimulate panic and fear. When that happens, we often shut down our higher-level functions in favor of the lower-level things that will protect our interests and enable us to survive. Although it’s important to pay attention to our survival needs, it’s also important to go beyond survival when times are tough. Otherwise, we may lose our soul in the process of finding our way through the forest. This Provision will assist you to make it so.

19. A greater sense of the sacredness of life. O Holy Night (Provision 596). There is, in life, a Spirit worth celebrating. Many traditions call us to celebration, especially around the December solstice. But we don’t have to wait for a special occasion. It’s possible to see and to appreciate the beauty of life in good times and bad. That is the call of this Provision. If I had but one holiday wish come true, it would be that we put on the glasses of faith. Not the faith of a particular religion, but the faith that looks at life and calls it good. Will you join me in this adventure? Read this Provision to appreciate its nature and scope.

I hope you see how the past 19 weeks, with a couple interlocutions, have indeed followed L. Michael Hall’s outline of self-actualization. The outline is neither exhaustive nor definitive, but it is suggestive of what life looks and feels like at its very best. That’s what we strive to co-create with our LifeTrek Coaching clients and that’s what we hope you will create in your own life. It’s not beyond anyone’s reach at any time and in any circumstance. Even the current economic situation does not preclude self-actualization. On the contrary, it makes it all that much more important for those who want to thrive.

Coaching Inquiries: What have you gotten out of this series? How does self-actualization apply to your life? On a scale of 0-10, how engaged are you? Why didn’t you pick a lower number? What would elevate you to a higher number? Who could coach you along the way? What other partners and resources are at your disposal? How could you take full advantage of them? Where would you go if you did?

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

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

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


At a time of year when lots of people are resolving to eat healthier I wanted to share with you a strategy that has worked for me. About a year and a half ago I started reading a blog written by a registered dietician, hosted on Self Magazine’s website: www.self.com/fooddiet/blogs/eatlikeme

I started reading it because it was interesting to me and started out with no intention of dieting or changing my habits (I was (and am) happy with my weight so didn’t think they needed changing). The blogger, Cristin, writes about her daily life as well as the food choices she makes and the nutritional reasons behind them. She also includes a photo of everything she eats all day every day.

Daily exposure to these visual images of how a dietician feeds herself took some time to begin impacting my choices, but after 6 months or so I found my whole approach to eating to have evolved to include all that I have learned from her. Most of the information was basic and something I already knew (such as fiber + protein leads to feeling satisfied, sugary foods leave you hungry sooner, vegetables and fruits are important etc.) but somehow this low -pressure constant exposure to healthy eating information + visuals has impacted my habits in what I believe is a life-long and sustainable way.

If I were to set the goal to change my eating habits on my own I never would have thought of reading a blog as more powerful than my own will-power, but I believe it has been. Since I know you help others who are trying to make long term changes in their lives I thought you might find my experience interesting. (Ed. Note: Thanks! I’m sure that one will work its way into more than one conversation. Excellent.)  



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 #598: New Year’s Resolutions

Laser Provision

What’s the difference between therapy and coaching? The answers are many but here’s a distinction that’s easy to remember: therapy helps people to resolve past hurts while coaching assists people to realize future hopes. Get the difference? Therapy spends more time looking in the rear-view mirror while coaching spends more time looking at the road ahead. That’s why many people choose to hire coaches at this time of year. The New Year is a time for resolutions and coaching can assist you to make those resolutions stick. Sound intriguing? Read on to learn how it works.

LifeTrek Provision


‘Tis the season to set goals for the year ahead. We call them New Year’s Resolutions and most of them are never fully realized. Specifically, 25% of all New Year’s Resolutions get abandoned after one week, 29% after two weeks, 36% after one month, and 54% after six months.

Does that mean we shouldn’t bother to make resolutions? Hardly! Most people make resolutions regarding problems they want to solve. After six months, 46% of those who make resolutions report progress compared to only 4% of those who do not make resolutions. Although it may be harder than it looks, and although it’s seldom a magic cure, life responds to human intentions.

Life responds more effectively when those intentions include the necessary infrastructure. It’s not enough to say, “I want a new job.” or “I want to lose weight.” One must also develop appealing strategies for making it so. They must be appealing because motivation is essential when it comes to making changes and developing new habits. They must be strategies because making changes and developing new habits progress over time. No one can lose all the weight they want to lose, for example, in an instant. Most things, especially things of value, take time.

Understanding this, the media are prone to share many helpful tips at this time of year for people who are making New Year’s Resolutions. The Daily Press, for example, recently included nine tips from local therapists on putting bad habits to rest. Given the distinctions between therapy and coaching, I found it interesting to look at these tips through my lens as a LifeTrek coach. If the coach approach sounds intriguing, then perhaps it’s time for you to give us a call.

1. Make a list. Write down all of the reasons why you want to stop a certain behavior • how it’s hurting you and why getting rid of it will help. Look at that list often.

Coach Approach: Write down how your behaviors are serving you. All behaviors, including destructive behaviors, are designed to meet constructive needs. The more we understand about the needs we are trying to meet, the more open we become to developing and trying alternative strategies.

2. Become more aware. Many habits are hard to break because they are unconscious impulses. Turn them into choices instead: Make a written or mental note every time you do something unwanted such as biting your nails or yelling at your kids.

Coach Approach: Make every moment a conscious moment through mindfulness and choice. The more conscious we become of the choices we are making to meet our needs, including the choices we affirm and celebrate, the more motivated we become to make even better choices in the future.

3. Substitute other activities. It’s easier to replace a bad habit than stop it. If you lose your temper often, for example, practice deep breathing or go for a walk.

Coach Approach: It’s easier to do what you love than to do what you ought. Doing something because you “should” is a recipe for failure. So imagine your ideal life, make sure it’s something you would enjoy, and arrange to sample that life regularly. The more often you try the good stuff, the more often you’ll go back for more.

4. Break it down. Think of the steps needed to shed a habit and tackle them one at a time. To stay motivated, keep your goals simple and realistic.

Coach Approach: Make sure your first steps, no matter how small, are great steps. Baby steps are for babies; adults need to see a connection between the road ahead and the final destination. The more you connect the dots between point “A” and point “B” the more success you will have.

5. Reward yourself. Before you take on a bad habit, decide what you’ll do to celebrate with every baby step you complete.

Coach Approach: Success, as they say, is its own reward. You risk losing both motivation and integrity when you set up systems of external rewards and punishments. The more pleasure you take in the process of change the more you increase the likelihood of making changes stick.

6. Remove temptations. If you overeat, keep junk food out of your house. If you crave cigarettes with coffee, switch to tea • and avoid smoky bars or friends who light up.

Coach Approach: Design environments that support your best intentions. Nature abhors a vacuum and will-power is not very powerful. So surround yourself with the places, things, systems, technologies, and conveniences that will make it easier to be successful. The more you focus on what you want, rather than on what you don’t want, the more possibilities you will see.

7. Be patient. Bad habits develop over years, so you likely won’t be able to ditch them immediately. The average smoker, in fact, tries to quit about seven times before being successful.

Coach Approach: Miracles can be arranged. Although it’s true that big changes take time, the best changes generate quick wins and immediate gratification. When we see the fruits of our labors in the moment, not just as stepping stones to some desired future state, we build excitement and hope. Did-do generates can-do every time.

8. Find support. Tell family and friends about your goal. If there’s a local or online support group for people with your problem, join it.

Coach Approach: Human resources are yet another environment to be designed. Support groups, while helpful to many, reflect a victim mentality; special interest groups, which focus on things people love to do, encourage a mastery mentality. The more you engage with others who share your interest, the more excited you will be by the process and prospect of change.

9. Get help for addictions. Some habits, particularly substance abuse and smoking, involve a real physical or emotional dependency and may require professional attention.

Coach Approach: Many people break free of addictions and other serious problems, without medical assistance, once they become passionately interested in something new. That’s where coaching starts: with the assumption that mobility is within everyone’s reach. The forward look, made tantalizingly real, has transformational properties. The more we experiment, the more we discover. That’s as true when people work with other professionals as when they work with coaches.

I hope you had as much fun reading those distinctions as I had describing them. There is certainly overlap between coaching and other professions; we do some of what they do and they do some of what we do. But the orientation of coaching is towards the future. That is what we do best! And I hope, in the New Year, that you will find ways to get some coaching for yourself. It really is rewarding, enjoyable, and productive all at the same time.

Coaching Inquiries: How often do you find yourself looking backwards to solve problems? How often do you find yourself looking forwards to seize opportunities? How could you nurture more forward-looking conversations? What changes would you like to break open? Who could be your coach, professional or otherwise?

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

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

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


Great Provision on O Holy Night. I am thankful for your insight.


I’ve never connected O Holy Night to the fact that it’s sung on my birthday • Dec 24 • how wonderful that its meaning is to celebrate the beauty of life to which I will dedicate my entire day! Thanks.


I liked the audio version! I hope you’ll be doing more of these 🙂


Wow, what a treat to hear your voice! Hopefully Christmas blessings will keep you dancing joyously throughout 2009!


It’s Christmas Day and I am away from my family and friends. I am in transition out of active ministry. I am profoundly moved by your message. It has helped me to make this day and those that follow, days of gratitude. I have so much for which to be grateful. Thanks for the reminder. Merry Christmas.  



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 #596: O Holy Night

Laser Provision

There is, in life, a Spirit worth celebrating. Many traditions call us to celebration, especially at this time of year. But we don’t have to wait for a special occasion. It’s possible to see and to appreciate the beauty of life in good times and bad. That is the call of this Provision. If I had but one holiday wish come true, it would be that we put on the glasses of faith. Not the faith of a particular religion, but the faith that looks at life and calls it good. Will you join me in this adventure? Read on to appreciate its nature and scope.

LifeTrek Provision


On Wednesday night, December 24, Christians around the world will be celebrating the Eve of Jesus’ birth. On that occasion, many English-speaking Christians will be singing the well-known Christmas carol, “O Holy Night.” The words, originally written as a French poem by Placide Cappeau, were set to music in 1847 by Adolphe Adam and translated into English in 1855 by Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight. Quite apart from your theology, Christian or otherwise, the English hymn calls attention to the sacredness of life. Consider the first verse:

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

What an intriguing turn of phrase! The world was pining away, in sin and error, until • in one Holy Night • the Spirit felt its worth. No wonder the weary world rejoices with a thrill of hope: it is a most amazing thing to be deemed worthy.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever felt unworthy, unclean, and unlovable only to be forgiven, loved, and accepted right where you are and just the way you are? Think back to when you did something wrong as a child. Do you remember your relief when your parents finally decided to let it go? Think back to when you had a conflict with a loved one, a coworker, or a friend. Do you remember your happiness when you were finally able to bury the hatchet and reconcile your differences? That’s what Christians sing about on Christmas Eve. It’s the movement of God to make all things holy.

That is, of course, the way things have always been. The Spirit did not suddenly feel the worth of creation on one particular night about 2,000 years ago. From the beginning, the Spirit looked at the world, all things made and unmade, and called it good. The world has always been holy, it has always been forgiven, accepted, and loved by God (or whatever you prefer to call the life-giving energy), and it will always be so.

Unfortunately, we don’t always recognize that sweet goodness. When we do, however, it is truly a night divine. That’s what the poet saw so long ago and that’s what we can see today if we but give ourselves permission to see things that way.

How much easier it is to see the world as a God-forsaken place! You don’t need my coaching for that. Just surf the web, turn on the television, or pick up the latest newspaper. The planet is seething with violence, hatred, catastrophe, and despair. Scientists tell us that climate change may have already past the point of no return. Wars, insurgencies, and terrorism abound. Increasing numbers of people suffer from either starvation or obesity. The food supply is largely unhealthy and unreliable. The global economic meltdown shows no signs of stopping. How in the world then, you might ask, are we supposed to see and to celebrate the sacredness of life?

Good question. Aren’t we supposed to reject and condemn all this nonsense as unworthy, unclean, and unlovable? Aren’t we supposed to call it evil and wash our hands of the entire mess? Aren’t we supposed to push back against the bad guys, denying their humanity, rights, and capacities in the process?

I hope you can see, by the way I asked those questions, that the answer is no. God doesn’t see the world that way and neither should we. The more we come from a win-lose, right-wrong, good-bad, not-now, us-them mentality, the more harm we will do both to human relations and to a planet in peril. To quote Dorothy Day, “An eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth make for a sightless and toothless world.” Until we learn to stop our striving and to start our seeing things will appear desperate indeed.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can learn to see the perfection in every situation, even when it’s obviously not perfect. That’s what the Spirit did when the Spirit felt the worth of life so long ago. It looked past the obvious sin and error of the world (thanks to Jesus, Christians believe) in order to see the hidden sacredness and goodness of life. It’s there, all the time, if we choose to see it. And if the Spirit can do that, we can too.

That is the call of this season, and of every season, regardless of one’s faith, tradition, culture, or orientation. It is to become more fully alive by celebrating and appreciating the best of what is. And the best is always there if we look beyond the fault to see the need.

The journey of life from the first bang to the latest hurrah has been a dance of needs. Some needs know no reason, such as the physicalities of energy, space, and time. Other needs are all about reasons, as we try to justify the things we want and do. “I need you to…” or “I need them to…” are familiar refrains. And yet they usually send us down the wrong path. Like the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, there’s no coming back once we decide that someone or something “needs” to do something. We end up in the push-pull of getting them to do what we want, and in the judgment seat when things don’t go our way.

No wonder it’s so hard to see the sacredness of life! By confusing needs with strategies and wants we end up in a downward spiral of bossiness and bitterness. The Spirit, fortunately, shows us another way. It felt the worth of the situation while we were yet sinners. It didn’t wait for everything to be obviously wonderful. It simply came, in the moment, and called the moment good.

That’s my holiday message and wish for those of you who are reading this Provision: feel the worth of the season. Feel the worth of life. Celebrate the beauty of the needs. Appreciate the stirrings of the Spirit. Do that and the dire headlines will fade from view. Do that, and all will be well with your soul.

Coaching Inquiries: What can you celebrate this holiday season? How are your needs expressing themselves? How can you become more sensitive and aware? Who can help you relax and see the beauty of the moment?

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

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

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


Thanks for the wisdom and good advice in your last Provision. Thrivalism indeed! It is good to be connected.


As I was reading your last Provision, two friends popped into my head • and I said – they need to read this as well. So I forwarded it to them and encouraged them to subscribe.

You are so so generous to take the time to share this wonderful information with the world – thank you. I get so so many newsletters just to keep up with things — mostly, I open them, read the first two lines and delete them quickly – no value – just reading the same thing over and over again. 

When a newsletter is just trying to sell me something or one that someone bought from a service and just put their name on it – I turn off so quickly. When I am learning something of value – I turn on!! I have not started my own newsletter yet, but have plans to do it in 2009 and hope that I can offer value to my readers as you have. Thanks for modeling the way.


I have been in your Wellcoaches classes for the past three months. I know this is only the beginning for me with wellness coaching but I wanted to let you know you have truly helped me to grow and helped me feel I am in a position to contribute to making a significant difference in the world even through presence and •being•, not to mention with coaching. Thanks for that wonderful opportunity! Wishing you a joyful holiday season.  



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 #595: Beyond Survival

Laser Provision

Between bankruptcies, job losses, foreclosures, and scandals there’s plenty in the news to stimulate panic and fear. When that happens, we often shut down our higher-level functions in favor of the lower-level things that will protect our interests and enable us to survive. Although it’s important to pay attention to our survival needs, it’s also important to go beyond survival when times are tough. Otherwise, we may lose our soul in the process of finding our way through the forest. This Provision will assist you to make it so.

LifeTrek Provision


Many of you may be familiar with the hierarchy of needs first proposed by psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943. It is typically diagrammed in the form of a pyramid with five levels. The lowest four levels are what Maslow called “deficiency needs” since a failure to meet these needs creates observable physical and/or psychological deficiencies. The top level represents what Maslow called “growth needs” since they represent elective efforts to become more fully happy and alive.

By 1971, Maslow and others had subdivided the “growth needs” into four sub-levels, since there is an ever-expanding universe of potentialities, possibilities, and pulchritudes that contribute to human growth. In reverse order, then, from bottom to top, here is how Maslow described those various needs:

    1. Level 1 Needs • Physiological: Breathing, Food, Water, Sleep, Sex, Homeostasis, Excretion
    2. Level 2 Needs • Safety: Security of Body, Employment, Resources, Morality, Family, Health, Property
    3. Level 3 Needs • Love/Belonging: Friendship, Family, Intimacy, Be Accepted
    4. Level 4 Needs • Esteem: Self-Esteem, Confidence, Achievement, Recognition, Respect
    5. Level 5.1 Needs • Cognitive: Knowledge, Understanding, Problem Solving, Exploration
    6. Level 5.2 Needs • Aesthetic: Symmetry, Order, Beauty
    7. Level 5.3 Needs • Self-Actualization: Self-Fulfillment, Self-Efficacy, Creativity, Spontaneity
    8. Level 5.4 Needs • Transcendence: Altruism, Service, Wonder, Beyond Ego, Contribution, Connection, Wholeness

 

The lists of descriptors for the various needs are in no sense exhaustive. They are rather suggestive of what each level entails; you may think of other descriptors and you can certainly see overlap between the descriptors. That’s all well and good since the heart of Maslow’s conception has less to do with the description of the needs than with the recognition of the needs as universal, human phenomena. No matter who we are, no matter where we live, no matter what we believe, no matter how we seek to satisfy them, all human beings have the same needs. And that’s a radical concept.

One of the debates since Maslow’s time has to do with the notion of understanding and portraying needs as existing within a hierarchy. As originally conceived, both developmentally and theoretically, Maslow suggested that people had to meet lower-level needs before they could, would, or should be expected to meet higher-level needs. When someone is starving, for example, due to a lack of food and water, they are not going to have much interest in or energy for beauty, creativity, and wonder. Or so Maslow thought.

That idea, however, has been largely discredited since Maslow’s time. Due in part to studies with children, who evidence interest in Level 5 Needs regardless of circumstance, it is now understood that all human beings have all of these needs all of the time. It may not even be helpful to differentiate between “deficiency needs” and “growth needs.” Who’s to say, for example, that a lack of understanding, beauty, self-efficacy, or contribution does not create observable deficiencies in a person? Similarly, who’s to say that rest, health, intimacy, and recognition do not stimulate growth?

It works this way because human beings are whole beings. Consider the physical body. It has different parts, but they come as a total package. Meeting the needs of one meets the needs of all, and vice-versa. So, too, when it comes to the many needs identified by Maslow and those who have followed in his footsteps. They may appear to be different, but they come as a total package. Meeting one need contributes to meeting every need, and it really doesn’t matter where you choose to start.

Which brings me to the point of today’s Provision: with all the doom-and-gloom reporting of one financial crisis after another, it’s tempting to become a “survivalist” focused primarily if not solely on those Level 1 and Level 2 Needs. That, however, would be a mistake. Those other needs don’t go away just because of tough times. Contrary to Maslow, they may become even more important in tough times. The need for transcendence is deeply imbedded. And by attending to higher-level needs we may find it easier, rather than harder, to meet lower level needs.

So let this Provision serve as a clarion call for “thrivalism,” rather than mere “survivalism,” in tough times. My mother remembers her father, who eked out an existence like so many others during the Great Depression, putting dimes on the sill of their garage window in the alley just in case someone might happen upon them while passing by. My grandfather figured that the discovery of a dime might not only put a little money in someone’s pocket; it also might put a smile on their face for having found a little money rather unexpectedly.

That’s what I mean by “thrivalism” • if we hope to thrive in difficult times, then we have to find ways to keep our spirits alive. It’s not enough to meet those basic, survival needs. We also have to meet those higher, growth needs. And it doesn’t take much.

The other day I found my wife looking out the window, on what looked to me like a cold, dreary, and rainy day. I teased her a bit when she commented on the beauty of what she was looking at, since this was a far cry from the blooming splendor of spring. She brought me up short, however, with her reconnaissance of all the things she found inspiring in the natural environment: winter birds, rust-colored leaves, bending branches, and breezy clouds. I stopped my banter and opened my eyes. There really was a lot to see, celebrate, and appreciate.

I submit we can do that at any time, at any place, in any circumstance, and for any reason. We just have to give ourselves the permission and time to look. I also submit that we need to do that if we hope to maintain and enrich our humanity in difficult times. We ignore those “growth needs” at our peril.

One interesting way to do that is to read the news through the lens of the higher-level needs. For example, take the two latest examples of apparent greed and corruption: the alleged multi-million dollar pay-to-play racket of the Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, and the alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme of the Wall Street veteran, Bernard Madoff. It’s easy to read those stories with nothing but disdain and disgust, lashing out in anger or retreating in fear. I know more than one person who is ready to put their money in a mattress.

But there are other ways to read those stories. We can become interested, for example, in the legitimate needs they were trying to meet through their illegitimate actions. We can see the beauty of those legitimate needs, recognizing that we have them too, as well as the tragedy of their counterproductive and hurtful strategies for meeting those needs. We can look for creative ways to meet our needs that will enrich rather than erode life. We can even feel grateful for the whistleblowers and for those who are trying to pick up the pieces. We can certainly feel compassion for those who have suffered great loss in the process.

These are but some of the many ways that we can hold our heads high during times of crisis. Don’t cave into the panic of the times. Instead, reach into the wonder that lies behind them all. That will take us beyond surviving to thriving in the face of fear. It will keep us human and growing. It will enable us, as Ken Medema likes to sing, to “dance in the dragon’s jaws.” 

Coaching Inquiries: How are you reacting to the times? What pressures are you feeling? What needs are getting stimulated? Where can you turn for support and understanding? Who can assist you to sort out what’s going on, what your options on, and how to move forward in faith? Why not reach out for coaching today?

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

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

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


Happy 54th Birthday! We share the same birth year 🙂 The recent economic crisis affords all of us the opportunity to not only look for good, but also to use the resources we already have. In Western countries most of us are far richer in many ways than most world citizens. I’m thankful that this holiday season will be much less focused on empty materialism, and those important, thankful, conversations are taking place between more people.


Happy birthday, Bob. The world is a better a place because of you. I treasure reading your thoughts. I am know that are countless others that are in the same boat. You truly are a total person.


Happy Birthday to you, Bob. I do hope you had a wonderful day yesterday. Thank you for your recent Provision, including the story about the glasses. It was wonderful.


The story about the glasses is very inspirational Bob • thank you for that. I think it fits with what I say to people who have cancer • what can you do today to make your life be the best it can be? I see cancer as a wake up call not a death sentence.


Your last Provision was another smooth, wide, and flat stone on my path! It is good that you are in the world at this time. We yearn for voices of those who bring reason, lightness, hope, possibility and who provide guideposts that we might continue our paths forward. It is good that you are in this world at this time! You are one of those voices, and one many hear regularly. Many blessings.


Thanks so much for that poignant description of Paul’s baptism in your last provision. We all read it out loud together, and it re-created that beautiful occasion for us. You definitely tapped into the unexpected lesson that came with that wave. Thanks again for your unhesitating decision to “do the right thing” that day, and in many other ways with your life.


I love getting your Sunday musings. They offer links to the Spirit that have ended up in my sermons in some way or another on more than one occasion. Thanks!


Little story • I have been having some internal resistance to my loving-kindness meditation in the last few days. I was feeling odd and sort of bereft about it, and was sitting with that feeling. Just now, when I read the words in your mail signature • goodness, peace, and joy • they filled me up and felt just exactly right. They found their home, and I am grateful to you for that. 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 #594: Do The Right Thing

Laser Provision

It’s tempting, when times are tough, to start cutting corners or to justify doing whatever it takes to get where you want to go. It’s a slippery slope, however, when we start justifying means by ends. It’s far better to live by positive, life-giving values, whether in good times or bad. As you go through your days, ask yourself this question: “What would make life more wonderful right now?” Let your intuition be your guide. It will often make clear the way.

LifeTrek Provision


It’s been five years since I last published a Provision on my birthday. At the time, I was 49 years old and in the mood for a reconnaissance of my young life. I touched on my education, my 20 years of experience as a pastor, and the meaning of my work as a coach since 1998. You can read the Provision, titled Listen Intuitively, in our online archive (along with every other Provision from the past 10 years).

Today, five years later, I turn 54 (funny how that works) and the world is a far different place from 2003. Then, we were heading out of a recession and many were feeling hopeful; now, we are living through a recession and many are feeling fearful. In both cases, the feelings stem from similar needs: security, safety, contribution, freedom, choice, creativity, and adventure. When those needs are being met, or even when we are confident that they can be met, we feel open, optimistic, and risk-tolerant. When those needs are not being met, or even when we are doubtful that they can be met, we feel closed, pessimistic, and risk-averse.

That’s the situation in which increasing numbers of people find themselves on my 54th birthday. Of course most people in the world, who live on less than $3.00 a day or about $1,000 a year, know all about such difficulties. For many who are reading this Provision, however, they represent unfamiliar and unsettling territory. It is a scary thing when such basic human needs fail to be met, or even fail to be promised to be met.

One might imagine, therefore, that this is no time to celebrate, birthday or not. How can one sing a happy song in desperate times? By staying focused on the things that matter.

That’s the only way to avoid making things worse. We cannot afford desperate measures in desperate times, especially if we start to sacrifice values in the pursuit of goals. The ends do not justify the means. That kind of thinking leads to atrocities such as torture and terrorism. “We must be the change we wish to see in the world,” to quote Mahatma K. Gandhi. Otherwise, the spiral of injustice and violence will never be abated. We will end up replacing one desperation with another.

When that happens, there truly is little to celebrate. But everywhere I look I see people engaged with life, treating others right, and making the best of difficult situations. The “bloom where you are planted” bumper sticker is not far off the mark; each of us has an opportunity to lead and to make life more wonderful from any position and vantage point. The question is not whether such opportunities present themselves • they are always there • the question is whether or not we seize the moment.

While the United States was celebrating Thanksgiving Day I was visiting Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica. Instead of a traditional turkey dinner, I enjoyed tuna fish on rice cakes with friends while visiting a beach surrounded by hungry monkeys and lazy iguanas. On the way to the beach, a local tour guide named Danny was quick to point out other animals, including endangered species, and to imitate the call of howler monkeys in an effort to bring them out of the forest.

It worked. Danny was quite pleased that we had a chance to see and hear these monkeys. He was even more pleased to communicate in English and to connect with us, his appreciative guests. There was no desperation or panic here. There was only the beauty of needs being met and of life being enriched. We were in the moment and the rest of the world’s problems faded from view.

At the beach we had the privilege of experiencing another special moment, as I once again donned my ministerial hat to baptize the almost 14-year-old son of my friends. Twenty years earlier I had baptized my friends’ first son, when he was an infant. Now, I had the opportunity to baptize their second son who had just completed his baptism and confirmation training at a church in California.

Unlike the first time, which involved sprinkling water on an infant’s head, this baptism took place in the Pacific Ocean with full immersion. After making promises and saying a prayer, we positioned ourselves in the ocean to do the deed. That’s when the biggest wave of the day decided to make its appearance. It was as though God wanted to be clear who was doing the baptizing. The wave sent us all sprawling in every direction, and it dislodged my normally secure glasses. We quickly looked around, but the glasses were not to be found.

So we got back in position, took a few deep breaths, said the words, poured some holy water over Paul’s head from the main basilica in Costa Rica, and dunked the boy into the ocean. He came up with a smile on his face that could only have meant the baptism took.

After the baptism, two things happened that confirm my faith in humanity and that give me reason to celebrate today. First, a passerby offered to let me use his mask and snorkel to look for my glasses. Now this was not a snorkeling beach and no other person on the beach had any snorkel gear. But this man was standing right there, holding the mask and snorkel in his hands, watching us peruse the bottom with our feet.

There was no hesitation, no thought of germs, and no confusion as to what to do. We had many needs and he had a way of assisting us to meet those needs. A connection was made and I was soon snorkeling down the beach, with his gear, looking for my glasses. To everyone’s delight, they were found unharmed in less than a minute. I walked back, returned the snorkel, and the man smiled as did others sitting on the beach who had been watching our little drama. What once was lost, now was found.

The other thing that happened was that Paul’s father became emotionally moved by the whole experience. It wasn’t just that his son had been baptized or that we found somewhat improbably both a snorkel and my glasses. It was more that the giant wave did not distract or deter us from doing the right thing. With my glasses lost, we might well have postponed the baptism until we had finished looking. But that’s not what happened. Instead, we intuitively put people ahead of things. Paul was ready, we were ready, and God was ready. Delay was not an option.

Ironically, that intuitive act of putting the search for my glasses on hold reflected the very thing I wrote about, five years ago today. Intuitive listening involves vision, voice, and vibration. It’s a matter of paying attention to the moment. What is called for? What would make life more wonderful? When we have competing commitments, intuitive listening enables us to make better decisions. In this case it worked out great, since we both did the baptism and found the glasses. But even if we had never found the glasses, it was still the right thing to do and I would still have felt great.

There’s an important lesson here as we go through the current recession. Losing my glasses could be compared to desperate times. That did not stop us, however, from doing the right thing. It did not stop us from caring and celebrating and connecting with Paul. It did not sidetrack or derail us. It certainly did not justify the suspension of the means of grace (baptism) for the ends of gain (finding my glasses). The latter did not take precedence over the former.

So that is what I choose to celebrate on this, my 54th birthday. Times are tough but people the world over are still reaching out to share and to care. People have not forgotten how to be the change we hope to see: compassionate, creative, and connected. I see that all the time, from beaches in Costa Rica to replies in Provisions to clients engaged in the fullness of life and work. It’s a matter of not forgetting who we are in the pursuit of goals; it’s a matter of seizing the day, living by our values, and treating each other right.

Thanks to each of you who do that for me. There’s no better birthday present than that.

Coaching Inquiries: What do you celebrate about life and work? What good things can you see? Where are the silver linings around storm clouds? How can you become more appreciate and more engaged? Who helps you to be your very best?

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

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

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


Hope you all had a wonderful time in Costa Rica. I understand it is a beautiful country. Your Provision, Say Yes! To Life, is timely and very significant. I have a rather perplexing theological question to write to you about. Do you look upon the devil as a symbol for evil in this world. I am currently taking a course on Alpha by Nicky Gumbel. Do you see our life’s journey as a daily struggle between good and evil? I would like to hear your views on the subject.

(Ed. Note: I try to avoid labeling people or things as evil. As hard as that sounds, and as hard as that is (especially when people do terrible, violent things), I think of evil not as an independent force but as tragic expressions of unmet needs. The more we try to understand each other, the less evil we will see, know, and experience. Read more at www.CelebrateEmpathy.com.) 


I give thanks for you every day for sharing your thoughts and feelings with the rest of us. Have a wonderful vacation and happy Thanksgiving.


Thanks for continually reminding us of “what really matters”. Wishing you lots of fun and smiles in Costa Rica !


I just finished reading your Listening series. I loved every word. Thank you! Have you published your Provisions in book form yet? You have been given a glorious writing gift. Thank you for sharing it with the world.


Suzanne’s story is powerful and moving; she must be doing something right to have lived so long with metastatic cancer and I applaud her for that. As a Wellness Coach specializing in cancer recovery I believe that the medical community would do well to look at her accomplishments and find out what has kept her alive for so long. If the medical community would give more credibility to people like Suzanne who have developed internal skills to keep themselves alive, I believe that more people could be saved with less use of expensive drugs and treatments. Meanwhile, I will continue to promote healthy lifestyle choices and help people to develop their own skills for overcoming cancer. It’s great to read stories such as Suzanne’s and I wish her all the best as she lives each day.  



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 #593: Leadership Quotes

Laser Provision

The more difficult the times the more important our leadership becomes. Whether or not you call yourself a leader, each of us is a leader in important and revealing ways. We each have possibilities to see and contributions to make. Today’s Provision encourages us on that journey with 26 quotes and poems about leadership. I don’t know about you, but I take heart in these pithy yet powerful sayings. Read on and put your favorite quote where you’re likely to see it often. The world will be glad you did.

LifeTrek Provision


My friend and colleague, Mike Alafaci, has focused his coaching practice on business and personal development, giving particular attention to leadership. You can learn more about his work by visiting www.SolutionMaps.com. Since LifeTrek shares this concern, we hope to collaborate with Mike in the future on developing a new website devoted to the art and science of effective leadership. We already have the URLs and hope to have it ready within months.

To that end, I have been reading some books recently on leadership that are starting to quicken my imagination. I thought you would enjoy the following excerpts, poems, and quotes:

Martin Luther King, Jr. (from “The Drum Major Instinct”):

“If you want to be important • wonderful. If you want to be recognized • wonderful. If you want to be great • wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s your new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing I like about it…by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve.”

“You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve, you don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant”

Lt. General Melvin Zais:

“The one piece of advice which will contribute to making you a better leader, will provide you with greater happiness, and will advance your career more than any other advice…and it doesn’t call for a special personality or any certain chemistry…and anyone can do it, and it’s this: You must care.”

Sam Walton:

“Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners and teammates. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them.”

Jan Carlzon

“An individual without information cannot take responsibility; an individual who is given information cannot help but take responsibility.”

Matthew Fox:

“The times do not allow anyone the luxury of waiting around for others to lead. All can lead and ought to be invited to do so.”

Jan Greene:

“True leadership is the art of changing a group from what it is into what it ought to be. It’s not something that is done ‘to’ people, it is something done ‘with’ people. By that definition, every person in an organization can and must lead.”

Albert Schweitzer:

“Example is leadership.”

Betty Linton:

“Leadership is not about making yourself more powerful. It’s about making people around you more powerful.”

Tom Peters:

“The hyperfast-moving, wired-up, reengineered, quality-obsessed organization will succeed or fail on the strength of the trust that its managers place in the folks working on the front line.”

Henry Ford:

“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”

Glendon Johnson:

“If all anyone takes home from their job is a paycheck, then they take home too little.”

Joseph Campbell:

“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”

Benjamin Shield:

“The shortest distance between two points is an intention.”

Michael Dukakis:

“Our greatest strength comes not from what we possess, but from what we believe; not from what we have, but from who we are.”

P.O. Branson:

“There is nothing more genuine than breaking away from the chorus to learn the sound of your own voice.”

Carlos Castaneda:

“We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”

Abigail Adams:

“These are the hard times in which a genius would wish to live. Great necessities call forth great leaders.”

Jon Alama

“If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t, you’ll see obstacles.”

Diane Branson

“Leadership means resisting our own urge to be the brilliant one.”

W. Clement Stone:

“We have a problem. ‘Congratulations.’ But it’s a tough problem. ‘Then double congratulations.'”

Philip Selznick:

“Leadership, pure and simple, is the assumption of responsibility for the pursuit of excellence in group life.”

Diane Branson:

“Leadership is less about what we know and more about what we’re willing to discover.”

Jack Welch:

“The leader’s role is not to control people or stay on top of things, but rather to guide, energize, and excite.”

Martha Beck:

“Having fun is not a diversion from a successful life; it is the pathway to it.”

Joe Tye:

“If you’re not enjoying the journey, you probably won’t enjoy the destination.”

Emily Dickinson (I dwell in Possibility):

“I dwell in Possibility —
A fairer House than Prose —
More numerous of Windows —
Superior • for Doors —

Of Chambers as the Cedars —
Impregnable of eye —
And for an everlasting Roof —
The Gambrels of the Sky —

Of Visitors • the fairest —
For Occupation • This —
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –“

Coaching Inquiries: What assists you to dwell in possibility? What helps you to be a leader? What causes or organizations would benefit from you taking more responsibility? How can you lead from whatever position you hold? Who could you talk with to develop your leadership abilities?

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

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

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


No replies this week.



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 #592: Say “Yes!” To Life

Laser Provision

What’s the secret of life? I think it has to do with connection, generosity, and joy. The more focused we become on self-protection the harder it is to experience laughter, love, and luxury. It may be tempting in these difficult economic times to hunker down with a wary-and-weary mentality, but we do so at our peril. Not only does this cut us off from that which makes life worth living, it also endangers the well-being of us all. So don’t let that happen. Reach out and touch someone. Be extravagant with your generosity. Take time to notice the little things in life. Find ways to celebrate the wonder of it all.

LifeTrek Provision

How’s this for an explanation of the human life span, forwarded to me recently by an avid reader of LifeTrek Provisions:

On the first day, God created dog and said:
“Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years.”
Dog said: “That’s a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I’ll give you back the other ten?”
So God agreed.

On the second day, God created monkey and said:
“Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I’ll give you a twenty-year life span.”
Monkey said: “Monkey tricks for twenty years? That’s a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like Dog did?”
And God agreed.

On the third day, God created cow and said:
“You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer’s family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years.”
Cow said: “That’s kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I’ll give back the other forty?”
And God agreed again.

On the fourth day, God created human and said:
“Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I’ll give you twenty years.”
But human said: “Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty that cow gave back, the ten that monkey gave back, and the ten that dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?”
“Okay,” said God, “You asked for it.”

So that is why for our first twenty years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.


That silly story makes me laugh. We humans do, indeed, go through many phases although not in such a linear fashion. Here’s to more monkey tricks and less barking at every age!

As you read this I am travelling and visiting with friends in Costa Rica. The whole trip was a rather spontaneous and natural occasion. The friends we visited in Alaska in 2004 and in New Zealand in 2006 sent us an email and invited us to join them for a week’s vacation in Costa Rica in 2008. We said yes and that was that.

Of course, that was six months ago, long before anyone knew the extent of our global economic problems. Would we have so quickly and easily accepted such an invitation today? I hope so. Human beings are not fully alive unless we play and enjoy ourselves. Even in the midst of great economic distress, perhaps especially in the midst of such distress, we still do well to find ways to have fun.

It begins with giving ourselves the permission to have fun. The nonstop tale of woe that is currently coming out of the global economy is real but is no excuse for becoming woeful. If Viktor Frankl can find spontaneous expressions of joy and beauty in a concentration camp during World War II, then we can find such expressions today. Things may be grim, but they’re not hopeless. We just have to give ourselves permission to look in that direction.

We also have to give ourselves a push. Permission may be the first step, but it’s not enough to get us walking down the road. Recently my wife and I sat down to review our year-end charitable giving. Because such giving is part of our way in the world • it’s been a habit since the time we were married more than 32 years ago • we had long ago given ourselves permission to trust that caring for others was an important part of how we care for ourselves.

This year, however, we had to give ourselves a push as well. It would have been easy, given current economic conditions, to hold onto our resources with a tight, hunker-down, wary-and-weary mentality. That’s especially true since our pattern of giving includes not only a look at the past year but also some assumptions about the coming year. What will next year bring? No one knows for sure, but it doesn’t look good. Nevertheless, it has consistently worked out for us to take those leaps of faith.

So we pushed ourselves to take a leap of faith again this year. We decided to give as if things will work out in 2009, one way or another. This was, for us, a natural expression of joy and beauty. Nothing makes us happier than reaching out and connecting with the people and programs we hold dear in supportive and life-enriching ways. The global economy is in trouble, true, but we will all end up in more trouble if we start to deny our values and to turn our backs on the things that make us whole.

Choosing to do things that make us smile, things such as travelling, giving, and connecting with life, is essential to our humanity. When we allow fear to rule the day, when we withdraw self-protectively into our shell, we lose the freedom to choose. When we allow trust to enter the picture, when we stick out our neck to make life more enjoyable both for ourselves and for others • on occasion even impulsively • we gain the awareness of something wonderful.

That awareness comes through in the reflections written recently by Suzanne Lindley, a cancer survivor who has been told numerous times that she only has months to live. Her diagnosis was initially colon cancer, but it has progressed to the liver, brain, spinal fluid, and pancreas. She has lived over ten years with metastatic disease and has done amazing things to help others (seehttp://beatlivertumors.org). On the day she wrote these reflections, however, she was alone with herself and her appreciation of life:

Last Wednesday marked the first day that I had an actual day • no chemo, appointments, hospital visits, or travel • since mid-August to just sit at home. I cleaned the kitchen, caught up with laundry, started reading a book, brushed the horses, had lunch with the kids, and reveled in not leaving my house. Without Oxaliplatin, and only Gemcitabine for the past few weeks, I enjoyed iced tea on my front porch and sat in the sun enjoying the sunshine and the simplicity that surrounded me. I mused at what my life would be like doing that every day. And I let my mind wander to what my life would have been like without cancer.

Would I have found so much delight on a beautiful fall day? Would I have noticed the colors of fall? Would I have realized that there is calm in the midst of chaos or peace in the midst of suffering? Would I have met any of you that have so deeply touched and shaped my life? Would I have been a country girl living a city life? Would I have enjoyed the ice in my tea? Or even thought about it?

When the wondering was done I acknowledged that no matter how much I wish that cancer could be a disease of the past, without it, my life would have been much different. I’m certain I wouldn’t find such joy in the simple things. My kids would have grown up without impromptu camping trips, moonlit horseback rides, and a menagerie of animals. My husband and I would probably still be trying to keep up with the Joneses and I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be as content (or even want) to drive my beat up old truck. I doubt that I would understand the gift that FOLFOX, FOLFIRI, Xeloda, Sir-spheres, gammaknife, cyberknife, clinical trials, and evolving research give.

I wouldn’t appreciate or understand the extra mile that my doctors and nurses have put forth. The words “preventable, treatable, and beatable” would hold less meaning and as I type those words I have to ask if my dad’s polyp would have been found as early and if it, indeed, would have still been treatable and beatable. I’ll never know how the past ten years would have been shaped or fallen into place but I do know that I’m thankful for the clarity of today • and for the pleasure of ice in my tea. Tomorrow it’s back to the treatment routine…….drinks at room temperature, ginger candy, and visions of vanishing tumors dancing in my head. For now, however, I’m taking the time to savor the ice.

That’s the kind of spontaneous, simple, natural pleasure that no economic meltdown can ever preclude. If we give ourselves permission and a push, if we allow ourselves to notice and take a chance, we can each find things to enjoy, celebrate, do, and be that will bring us delight on a beautiful day. Some will cost money; others won’t. Some will be in faraway places; others will be on the front porch. Some will involve gains; others will involve gifts. Whatever it takes, however, one thing is clear: we each have it in us to be happy and free. Let’s make it so today.

Coaching Inquiries: What enables you to be happy and free? How do you rise above fear to see the possibilities in life? When was the last time you said “Yes!” to a real opportunity? Whose day could you make today? What would make your today? How can you make it so?

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

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

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


No replies this week.



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 #591: Beyond Self-Service

Laser Provision

The poet Rumi once wrote, “Out beyond right and wrong there is a field. I will meet you there.” Today’s Provision moves beyond self-service to that place of self-transcendence. It is not about right and wrong; it is about connecting with others in ways that are life-giving and life-affirming. It is about going beyond the experience of self to the experience of others and the Other. Many have been innervated recently with such passions; if it’s been a while since you felt that way, then I hope you will read on and open yourself to make it so.

LifeTrek Provision


The coming “self-service economy” has been a staple of economic prognosticators for many, many years. The idea is simple: instead of paying people to serve other people we use technology so people can serve themselves. Travel agents know exactly what I am talking about. I don’t know the last time I talked to a human being to make a travel reservation. That’s as true for international travel as it is for local travel. I go to the web and take care of things myself with little to no human interaction.

I’m sure you have replicated many other such experiences for yourself. To mention only a few:

  • Banking through ATMs rather than tellers.
  • Checking out at stores through self-service scanners.
  • Buying beverages and snacks from machines.
  • Purchasing gas or petrol at the pump.
  • Arranging wake up calls in hotels through an automated system.
  • Checking in for flights, hotels, and rental cars using automated kiosks.
  • Listening to music previews at entertainment megastores.

In these recessionary times, don’t be surprised to see new expressions of the “self-service economy” as companies look to cut costs and increase revenue (one interesting study showed that people ordered more from a McDonald’s machine than from an employee behind the counter).

My question is not what the “self-service economy” does to the bottom line. My question is what it does to our self-understanding as human beings. The more self-sufficient we become through automation, the less interaction we have with other human beings, the more we are at risk of becoming demanding, self-centered, and tired. They don’t necessarily go hand in hand, but it happens more often than not.

That’s why it’s important to put ourselves in positions that connect us with other people in passionate, caring, and committed ways. Then, and only then, do we become self-transcending. And that doesn’t just happen; we have to exert ourselves in order to make it so. Examples abound:

  • The recent US election engaged many people with each other in self-transcending ways. We may never know the count, but people behind both presidential candidates took time off from going to school or working other jobs in order to volunteer and/or to work for the candidates of their choice. These people were captivated by the vision of what might be; so they set aside their self-interest in order to work alongside others for a worthy cause. I found every one of those people to be singularly impressive in their commitment, idealism, and vocation. These people were not self-serving; they were serving others and, as a result, they became more fully alive.
  • My own experience of writing Provisions is another case in point. Week after week I put myself out in the world, and I am always blessed by the replies. This certainly doesn’t just happen. I have to make the time, I have to think of you, my readers, and I have to follow the threads of what comes through my process of creation. It may be a virtual connection, but that makes it no less real. Through this platform I connect with others and transcend my own, necessarily-narrow experience. By thinking deeply about a variety of subjects and about your own reader replies, I find myself stretched in ways that make me more fully human.
  • So, too when it comes to special interest groups. The most common include service clubs, spiritual communities, athletic associations, and enrichment groups. It’s less important, to me, what those groups are for you than that you connect with others in ways that call you out of yourself. That’s not always a matter of formal organization; indeed, our best experiences are often delightfully informal. What they have in common is the ability to connect us with a larger and wider interest. Some raise money for charity, others donate their sweat equity, many find their way through support groups, while still others practice disciplines that go beyond the ordinary. Whatever they may be for you, the key is to find them and to do them.

That doesn’t happen, at least not very often, in the “self-service economy”. Self-transcendence requires something deeper. A while back I had reason to contact technical support for a large computer company. My contact was with someone in India, through live-chat and remote-control technology. Now I suppose I could have figured out the answer to my question by reviewing the documentation available on their website. But by having a live interaction with a real human being, I had the opportunity for a rather transformational experience.

Of course we chatted about, worked on, and eventually resolved my problem. But along the way we also chatted about where we were in the world, how we were feeling, and even what was important to us in the new global economy. By the end of the conversation we both agreed that live-chat and remote-control technology gave us an experience that could never have been duplicated by automated systems. We had a real encounter, albeit through the virtual world, that enriched our lives and gave us a deeper appreciation of the possible.

Self-transcendence is like that. When we set aside our own self-interest we move beyond self-service to taking an interest in others, the world in which we live, and the luminous regions beyond right and wrong. That is the place in which I seek to live, and that is the place where I hope to find you.

Coaching Inquiries: What enables you to move beyond self-interest and self-service to a posture of self-transcendence and self-giving? How often do you find yourself in a place beyond right and wrong? Who could join you in that place? How would it feel to be there?

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

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

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


Thank you, thank you, thank you… As usual, you have delivered some powerful stuff for those of us in the stream, as well as those along the banks of the river of life. I am terribly busy these days, and all too often, the Provisions pile up in my mailbox. However, as I was waiting outside a Best Buy store… patiently waiting for the store to open this morning, I quietly read Provision 590 on my PDA. Upon my return home, I logged on to the site and read Provision 589. Again: good stuff.

As a man of mixed ethnicity, I can tell you two very important things regarding the last election:

1) I am overjoyed that people of color now have a superlative office to which they can ascend.

2) Most importantly, though… I am so very proud of my country in a way that is almost indescribable. Watching the results roll in on November 4th, I was overcome by emotion• tears began streaming down my face… not just because of the joyous, historical moment that was and is… but more precisely• because of the new hope represented in the fact that so many people of this great country no longer hold race as a superlative characteristic. By far, this “little” aside is profound in ways that moves me tears even as I type these few words.

Sure, there are those who will “probably always” see race as a determining factor. However, the election of President-elect Obama provides (real-time) additional strength and fuel for my soul… a soul that has been trounced upon for so long by the extreme right-wing conservatives who advertise Christian viewpoints on abortion, while fueling fires of hate within the wings of democracy.

Indeed, the election of President-elect Obama provides additional strength and fuel for my soul… Having been fed and refueled, I can now go on for another 40 years, hoping, praying, and doing what I have been doing.

As an active duty naval officer, I have always loved and served my country. However, the election of President-elect Obama provides newfound faith in an electorate that has proven its love for people • a love above politics, pride, pessimism, and pundits who seek to divide.

Thank you for the Provisions, which, by the way, is a synonym for food. I am now satiated.


I wanted to comment on what I thought was one of your best provisions: Probably No God? Not only was the title catchy and clever, but the article was timely (in the grand scheme of where we are in our history) and very well written. It really hit home for me as a coach and as someone who has been learning about the meaning of Meaning and Spirit over the last few years. I am not a religious person per se, but I do believe in God and have a very good sense of my spirit and connection with life and what I call the “non-ego” world. 

Your Provision reinforced my understanding of what God really is – forgiveness and understanding. I recently read “The Disappearance of the Universe” which is very deep book. It’s written by a man who discovers and explores “A Course in Miracles” system which has a very interesting take on Life and God. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this course but something tells me you may have heard of it (there are a few prominent students of the course). If you are familiar with it, I’d be interested in your comments at some point…

I am now reading “A New Earth” which you have on your book list. Incidentally, the author, Eckhart Tolle is also a Course in Miracles student and wrote “The Power of Now,” as I’m sure you know. Anyway, I’m not a Course student but found both books very interesting. It seems to me that we are living in a very exciting time – where the thinking on Jesus and his teachings are shifting to a more historical view (The historical Jesus as opposed to the Christian Jesus) of what he may have been telling his followers all along – before religion clouded it all. The authors of the aforementioned books, for instance, see Jesus and meaning through a different light than what has been depicted in most Christian religions. They see him as forgiveness and understanding – as opposed to judgment and punishment. For judgment and punishment are ego-driven, and that’s not what God is… (I’m not trying to say that all Christian religions see him this way). 

I thought your Provision was right on and correlated closely to a new meaning that seems to be taking shape in our world today. It may have taken us a couple thousand years to understand what Jesus was teaching, but I do think we are beginning to become conscious of what his words really meant. Thank you so much for understanding the Understanding. And I love your quotes in the provision • God is not the problem, God on our side is the problem. That may be the simplest way to explain the world’s problems, and how we can co-exist with one another moving forward. 



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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

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

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