Provision #660: Eleven Commandments

Laser Provision

After four months of comparing and contrasting seven different sets of Ten Commandments, it’s time to bring this series to a close. So today I present my top Eleven Commandments or Guidelines for Living, one right after another. If you’ve been reading along, then these will be familiar to you. If you are joining us now, for the first time, then you will get four months of Provisions in one single dose. Either way, I hope you will find this summary to be both helpful and inspirational. I even add a few new pieces that haven’t come before. Enjoy!

LifeTrek Provision


We’ve taken four months to review Guidelines for Living based upon seven different sets of Ten Commandments. These sets range from the most ancient, dating back almost 3,500 years to the time of the Hebrew prophet Moses, to the most modern generated by thinkers and polls in the past decade. Notwithstanding the wide divergence of history and culture, we found many commonalities of perspective and concern.

Although we have certainly not exhausted what these various lists have to teach us, I want to bring this series to a close with a summary of the Eleven Commandments that we have covered so far. Eleven Commandments is a little like a Baker’s Dozen • you get an extra commandment at no extra charge. How good is that! I present them here in a slightly different order and with slightly different headings than when I wrote about them in the first place, divided between the things we are called to nurture and the things we are called to be. I hope you will appreciate the final arrangement.

  1. Nurture Life. The original Ten Commandments puts this quite simply: “Do not kill.” What a different world this would be if everyone were to observe this fundamental commandment from the cradle to the grave. Vegans would extend this commandment all the way to animals, which would probably be better for the planet in the long run. One doesn’t have to be a vegan or a vegetarian, however, to imagine what life might be like if people were to just stop killing other people. Life would change radically for the better. Military spending could be redirected to human needs. Negotiation would take the place of violation for resolving human conflicts. I know this sounds unrealistic and utopian, but that doesn’t make it unimportant. In so far as it is in your capacity to do so, nurture life.
  2. Nurture Children. Nurturing life starts with the most vulnerable, especially children. Unless children are loved and cared for unconditionally, they will grow into the spiral violence that we see all around us. What people experience in our lives as children effects and often finds its way into our lives as adults. Apart from loving homes that nurture the needs of children, parents, and all significant others, apart from homes that are free from coercion, abuse, exploitation, and violence, we can hardly hope to create a better world together.
  3. Nurture Well Being. Nurturing life also means taking care of our own health and well being. It’s not selfish to keep ourselves fit. It’s what enables us to keep up our energy so that we can do for ourselves and for others. To paraphrase the airlines, nurturing our well being is like putting on our own oxygen mask before assisting others to put on theirs. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we may not be much good for anyone else. So what goes into well being? You know the drill if you’ve been reading Provisions for any length of time: healthy eating, exercise, and recovery regimens, along with a sense of purpose, point us in the right direction. For more info, visit www.CelebrateWellness.com.
  4. Nurture Ownership. An early mentor in my life, the Rev. Glenn “Tex” Evans, used to say that people need only four things: to be loved, to belong, to contribute, and to own something. To illustrate the importance of ownership, he told a personal story about growing up poor, such that everything he owned could be put in a shoebox. They were simple things, like a photograph and a set of jacks. But that box meant the world to him, and when someone got into it, he was devastated. That story has always stayed with me. All people, no matter how poor, need to own things and the rest of us need to respect those things. “Do not steal,” is one way to express that sentiment. Nurture ownership takes it one step further.
  5. Nurture Planet Earth. Although some may understand ownership in terms of entitlement, but I prefer to understand it in terms of stewardship. As temporary residents, our job is to care for planet earth and to leave the place better than we found it. Just as we are not to commit acts of violence against children or other people, we are also not to commit acts of violence against the environment. Spaceship earth is, after all, the only one we’ve got and it’s up to us to keep it in good working order. Yet our planet is straining under the weight of over-consumption and over-production due both to individual decisions and global policies. It is not too late to turn things around, but we must rapidly do more than we have been when it comes to green practices on every level.
  6. Be Fair. Glenn Beck made the news this past week when he slammed Christian leaders, churches, and denominations over their promotion of “social justice” and “economic justice.” According to Beck, such words are code words for communism and fascism. “Look for those words on your church website,” he said, “and if you find them, run as fast as you can.” I beg to differ. Such words are essential guidelines for living, as we seek to be fair in our dealings with others. Fairness does not mean that everyone will own no more than anyone else (communism) and they do not mean that the government will decide who gets what (fascism). It rather means that all people will have their basic needs met as well as the opportunity to satisfy all their other needs as well. It’s important for us to be fair.
  7. Be Honest. It’s also important for us to be honest, in at least two senses: avoid lying and speak truthfully. Lying contributes to all manner of conflict and consternation, as people seek to cover their tracks and the tracks of others. When communications lack integrity, trust and civility are breached. Looking the other way compounds the problem. Sometimes we don’t have to say anything in order to compromise the truth. Speaking up and speaking out, with honest observations as to what is going on, contributes to a sense of shared reality and invites people to work through their perceptions and understandings.
  8. Be Empathetic. Empathy is not the same thing as pity or sympathy. Empathy is not feeling sorry for someone or sharing their emotion. Empathy is a respectful understanding of someone’s experience (including our own). Until and unless we come to appreciate the underlying needs that are motivating human behavior, there’s no way to avoid being critical, judgmental, condescending, or antagonistic. In other words, without empathy we are contributing to the violence of the world. With empathy, we are cultivating and contributing compassion. Being empathetic means that we give people the benefit of the doubt as we seek to “walk in their shoes.” When we see as they see we all see better together.
  9. Be Forgiving. Sometimes, even with empathy, we bump into people and situations that disappoint us. These are the times when our needs are not being fully met by whatever is happening. As a result, we may be tempted to ridicule, condemn, grasp, or carry a grudge. It’s easy to roll our eyes and adopt a “holier-than-thou” attitude. But it’s more life-serving to be forgiving. No one does everything right all the time. The talking heads on television may enjoy the “gotcha game,” they may even attract large followings with their flamboyance and hyperbole, but playing that game does not contribute to a better world. We need to be fair, but we also need to be forgiving if we hope to make life work.
  10. Be Respectful. I don’t know about you, but when those talking heads adopt a shrill quality with exaggerated antagonism or even defamation of character, I find myself longing for the civility of more innocent times. That goes for everyday interactions as well. According to theCivility Project at Johns Hopkins University, we are at an all time low when it comes to being civil and caring what others think of our actions. So what’s wrong with that? They note that quality of life deteriorates as disrespect escalates. The two go hand in hand. Respect is not just about being deferential or giving way; it is also about listening carefully, deliberating thoughtfully, and finding as many areas of agreement as possible.
  11. Be Responsible. In the end, there may be no more important guideline for living than to take appropriate responsibility for our own thoughts, words, and deeds. Indeed, M. Scott Peck long ago noted that most psychological problems are disorders of responsibility: neuroses develop when we take too much responsibility; character disorders develop when we take too little. When we take just the right amount of responsibility, though the power of vision and the consistent application of joyful practices, we stand the best chance of enhancing life’s vitality and wonder. That’s always there to be discovered and realized; it’s really up to us to make it so.

Coaching Inquiries: What are your guidelines for living? How do they manifest in your life? Which of the above guidelines make the most sense to you? Which ones challenge the way you go about living and organizing your life? Who embodies these guidelines and could serve as role models for you? How could you get closer to them in life and work?

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

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

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


The Evocative Coaching model you have developed should be a part of every school’s way of communication for celebrating and learning from each other. I am excited about getting started with the training. It is a very exciting and challenging time to be in education. I will be listening on Sunday to the Blog Talk Radio interview. 



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 #659: Be Forgiving

Laser Provision

Have you ever held a grudge? Are you holding one right now? Last week I wrote about the importance of fairness, but fairness without forgiveness can become an obsession. It can eat away at our spirits as we connive and strive to see justice done. Forgiveness is the mitigating factor that releases our bondage to enemy images and aggressive actions. It demands courage and integrity, but it is never too late to forgive. If, when, and how that happens is up to us; this Provision simply points out the value of forgiveness when it comes to making life more wonderful.

LifeTrek Provision


I confess to loving my eBook Reader, the Amazon Kindle. Since three people in my family now have Kindles, we’ve discovered one more cool thing about the service: if you buy a book on one Kindle, it is available, at no extra charge, on all Kindles sharing the same account. That cuts the price of a book by however many Kindles you own. How cool is that!

One reason I love eBook Readers is the ability to search your books for key words or topics. It makes research, as well as inspiration, a whole lot easier. I decided to take that approach for today’s Provision on forgiveness, and found plenty of material that I will share with you in a moment. First, however, I would set the stage by reminding you of last week’s Provision, Be Fair. That’s an important guideline for living, both in terms of how we treat others and in terms of how others treat us.

We know it’s important because it’s so primordial. “No fair!” is one of the earliest expressions of outrage mustered by young children, typically by the age of seven. In contrast to children between the ages of three and four, who are universally selfish, by the time children are seven or eight, they have developed a strong sense of equity. “One for me and none for you” just doesn’t cut it any longer. Instead, they are keenly aware of whether or not they and their siblings, playmates, or classmates are being treated fairly.

When unfairness enters the picture, it’s easy for children and adults alike to get very upset. Indeed, in its most extreme sense, perceived unfairness is the stuff that makes for wars. The whole notion of a “just war” is that it rights a wrong and follows certain rules of engagement (such as minimizing civilian causalities, which are perceived as being unfair compared to the treatment of enemy combatants).

In everyday interactions, a sense of unfairness can lead to grudges and general unhappiness. Some grudges are the stuff of legends: the house of Montague and Capulet (in Romeo and Juliet), the Jets and the Sharks (in West Side Story), and the Hatfields and McCoys (two feuding families in the West Virginia-Kentucky backcountry). Most grudges are privately held affairs, nurtured by gossip and enemy images. The longer and harder we hold on to them, the more miserable we become.

Perhaps that’s why, when I searched on my Kindle for the word “forgiveness,” it popped up most often in the books having to do with positive psychology and mindfulness. There is a connection between forgiveness and happiness. Listen to what two of the books had to say:

Sonja Lyubomirsky in The How of Happiness:

“What does forgiveness mean, and is it worthwhile to learn and practice it? Forgiveness may be the one factor that can disrupt the cycle of avoidance and vengeances in which we often find ourselves. Advocated by many, if not most, of the world’s religions, forgiveness involves suppressing or mitigating one’s motivations for avoidance and revenge (which often bring with them accompanying emotions of anger, disappointment, and hostility, and, ideally, replacing them with more positive or benevolent attitudes, feelings, and behaviors.”

“Forgiveness is not reconciliation, pardoning, condoning, excusing, or denying the harm done. And the expression, “forgive and forget” is a misnomer since true forgiveness involves contemplating the injury at some length. How, then, do you know if you’ve forgiven someone? It’s when you have experienced a shift in your thinking, such that your desire to harm that person has decreased and your desire to do him or her good (or to benefit your relationship) has increased.”

“Forgiving is something that you do for yourself and not for the person who has wronged you. Clinging to bitterness or hate harms you more than the object of your hatred. (Buddha said, ‘Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.’) Empirical research confirms this insight. Forgiving people are less likely to be hateful, depressed, hostile, anxious, angry, and neurotic. They are more likely to be happier, healthier, more agreeable, and more serene.”

“Of all the happiness-promoting strategies described in this book, I believe that forgiveness is one of the most challenging to carry out. But, as is said, ‘no pain, no gain.’ What you reap may be enormous. If forgiveness fits your personality, goals, or needs, then the following techniques can be helpful. Appreciate being forgiven. Imagine forgiveness. Write a letter of forgiveness (don’t send it, just write it). Practice empathy. Consider charitable attributions. Ruminate less. Make contact (send the letter, if it feels appropriate and healthy). Remind yourself of the importance of forgiveness.”

Jack Kornfield in The Wise Heart:

“In Buddhist communities, there is a ritual of forgiveness where the abbot and elders regularly bow to the community and ask forgiveness for any errors they have made in their teaching and leadership. Every year at the end of our two-month retreat we do this. We invite our students’ written suggestions and feedback. Then we move off our cushions and chairs and sit on the bare floor facing all the retreatants. We bow to them and their sincere practice. And then we ask their forgiveness for any way we may have harmed or misguided them. We tell them we did the best we could. Usually a lot of tears fall before the end of this ceremony.”

“Forgiveness is both necessary and possible. It is never too late to find forgiveness and start again.”

“Like the practice of compassion, forgiveness does not ignore the truth of our suffering. Forgiveness is not weak. It demands courage and integrity. Yet only forgiveness and love can bring about the peace we long for. As the Indian sage Meher Baba explains, ‘True love is not for the fainthearted.'”

“We have all betrayed and hurt others, just as we have knowingly and unknowingly been harmed by them. It is inevitable in this human realm. Sometimes our betrayals are small, sometimes terrible. Extending and receiving forgiveness are essential to free us from our part. To forgive does not mean we condone the misdeeds of another. We can dedicate ourselves to making sure they never happen again. But without forgiveness the world can never be released from the sorrows of the past. Someone once quipped, ‘Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past. Forgiveness is a way to move on.”

“In Buddhist psychology, forgiveness is not presented as a moral commandment — ‘Thou shalt forgive.’ It is understood as a way to end suffering, to bring dignity and harmony to our life. Forgiveness is fundamentally for our sake, for our own mental health. It is a way to let go of the pain we carry. This is illustrated by the story of two former prisoners of war who meet after many years. When the first one asks, ‘Have you forgiven your captors yet?’ the second man answers, ‘No, never.’ ‘Well, then,’ the first many replies, ‘they still have you in prison.'”

“For most people, the work of forgiveness is a process. Practicing forgiveness, we may go through stages of grief, rage, sorrow, hurt, and confusion. As we let ourselves feel the pain we still hold, forgiveness comes as a relief, a release for our heart in the end. Forgiveness acknowledges that no matter how much we may have suffered, we will not put another human being out of our heart.”

In those sets of Ten New Commandments that we talked about at the start of this series, the connection between fairness and forgiveness is clearly described in one: “Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.” That, of course, makes forgiveness relatively easy. When wrongdoing is not admitted or regretted, forgiveness gets harder. Much harder. But that’s especially when forgiveness offers us freedom and a positive way forward.

My hope is that we will find room in our hearts both for equity and for empathy. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, leads to a sightless and toothless world. Yet forgiveness without justice leads to its own form of abuse and disfiguration. We need them both to make life work.

Coaching Inquiries: How ready are you to forgive? What has been bothering you and eating away at your heart? What combination of fairness and forgiveness will release your spirit? What and who could assist to get to that place?

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

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

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


I’m so glad another reader mentioned your Passion poem. How did you know what I was thinking? That poem reaches inside of me and says what I am!!!! 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 #658: Be Fair

Laser Provision

Fairness conjures up notions of even-handed accounting. Think balance scales, with no one having more or less than anyone else. Although a case can be made for some measure of economic parity in life, fairness also means giving all people the opportunity to meet their needs. This goes far beyond subsistence-level accounting; it goes to the heart of what makes life worth living. When we honor, respect, and cooperate with the striving of people to meet their many different needs, we make life much more satisfying for all.

LifeTrek Provision


I have been enjoying Dan Pink’s new book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pink identifies three motivational theories, what he calls motivational operating systems, and he makes a strong case, including good evidence-based research, for a humanistic orientation that plays to intrinsic interests such as fairness. Fairness, according to Pink, is not so much an objective calculation by “the dismal science” of economics, it is a rather a subjective calculation based upon the feelings and needs of human beings in the moment.

The calculus of that subjective equation makes all the difference in the world when it comes to motivation. Consider Pink’s descriptions of the three operating systems:

  • Motivation 1.0: Survival. For most of human history, during our hunter-gatherer days, human beings were no different than other animals. We did our best to survive. And as we did, human beings circumnavigated the globe by following coastlines. There’s only so much food to be hunted and gathered in any one area, so as populations grew, people would move on. It was not unlike what happens every year with the nesting swans on our lake: they have their brood, raise them, teach them how to fly, and move them along.
  • Motivation 2.0: Success. As people ran out of coastlines to spread out to, we settled down into larger and larger communities. That trend continues to this very day. In 1800, only 2% of people lived in cities. Today, more than half of all the world’s people live in cities, for the first time in human history. In 1960, the number of cities with more than 1 million people totaled 111. That number doubled in 25 years and quadrupled in 50 years. Megacities, with more than ten million people, grew from two to 20.

    Such complexity led to systems of organization based upon an extension of the survival ethic: people were rewarded with goodies when they did well (success) and punished with deprivation when they did poorly (failure). Because people were settled and more able to hoard their goodies, this system of organization led to great economic and political disparities. Some people ended up with great wealth and power, making them able to dole out rewards and punishments as extrinsic motivators, while other people ended up impoverished and powerless.

    This system continues to be used widely to this very day. It is the engine of industry and the foundation of capitalism. In its most extreme forms, people get treated like laboratory animals, induced to behave in certain ways through the use of targeted, “if-then,” “scientific management” principles: If you do this, then you will get that. Motivation in this operating system boils down rewarding the good and punishing the bad. It’s all about the extrinsic motivation of success.

  • Motivation 3.0: Satisfaction. A funny thing happened on the way to scientific management: it didn’t always work. In fact, sometimes it did more harm than good. People know when they are being manipulated and they don’t appreciate being treated like laboratory animals. They also don’t like huge discrepancies of wealth and power, as evidenced by the current outrage over the breakdown and rescue of the global financial system. The rescue, as it turns out, makes sure that rich institutions and individuals stay rich while the poor stay poor.

    Such dissatisfaction arises when people lack fairness. It’s not fair that some people have the freedom to set their own goals, develop their potential, express their personality, network their creations, and enjoy the fruit of their labors while other people get told what to do • using the proverbial carrots and sticks • as though they were cogs in a wheel or mice on a treadmill. Such discrepancies cause the operating system to crash. They fail to take into account the intrinsic motivational value of fulfillment.

    People, in other words, want success on our own terms. We don’t want to be induced and we don’t want to be treated unfairly. We rather want to understand what’s going on, contribute as best we can, rise to challenges as they emerge, and benefit in proportion to our effort and creativity.

Pink spends the rest of his book exploring the ramifications of Motivation 3.0 on the organization of human society and institutions, ranging from business to schools to parenting. If personal satisfaction is the real driver behind human behavior, then what does that mean for how we lead and treat people, how we educate and raise children, and how we get more of what we want in an increasingly crowded world?

I encourage you to read the book if these questions intrigue you. One way to answer those questions, however, is in terms of fairness. As a Guideline for Living, it’s important to treat people fairly. And that doesn’t necessarily mean treating everyone evenly or the same way. It doesn’t mean paying everyone the same hourly rate. It does mean treating everyone as though they have the same universal needs. Survival alone just doesn’t cut it anymore. Even success has its limitations, especially when it’s defined and driven externally. Satisfying the full range of human needs is the key to making things work and getting things done.

What do I mean by needs? Long-time readers of Provisions will remember my series on Life-Giving Needs. Without claiming to be all-inclusive, we looked at five broad spectrums of needs:

  1. Subsistence • Transcendence
  2. Safety • Challenge
  3. Work • Rest
  4. Autonomy • Community
  5. Honesty • Empathy

All ten of these needs must be honored and respected if we hope to treat people fairly and motivate full engagement. Perhaps that’s why so many of those Ten New Commandmentsincorporate such elements into their meaning and measure:

  • Treat others as you would have them treat you.
  • Be honest and fair in one’s interactions.
  • Be neither miserly nor wasteful in one’s expenditure.
  • The right not to be enslaved.
  • Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice.
  • Work together for the benefit of all humankind.

Motivation 2.0 is, in effect, a form of slavery. We are driven to work as though it held no satisfaction other than a paycheck. Motivation 3.0 goes deeper. It doesn’t say there are no dirty jobs. It doesn’t say that everything is pleasant, fun, and stress free. It does say, however, that happiness can always be arranged. That’s because Motivation 3.0 factors into the equation those universal human needs. We may not be able to meet all of our needs all of the time, but when we treat them fairly • when we recognize their value and give them expression • we enrich life and experience vitality.

That is my hope for us all. Let’s give everyone the respect they deserve. Fairness does not demand uniformity; fairness demands serenity: the peace of mind that comes from knowing and meeting our needs. When every human being is extended that opportunity, when we wish for others no more and no less than we wish for ourselves, when we infuse all of life with meaning and purpose, then we will rise to the full measure of our calling.

Coaching Inquiries: How do you understand the notion of fairness? Do people treat you fairly? Do you treat other people fairly? How can you assist people to experience more satisfaction in life and work? Who serves as a role model for you in this regard? How can you experience more satisfaction in your own life and work? What’s stopping you from doing that today?

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

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

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


Your last Provision on Nurturing Planet Earth helped me a lot in my college assignment. Thank you for the information!


I just discovered your poem on Passion. What an inspiration! Thanks so much for sharing that with the world. 



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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

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

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

Provision #657: Nurture Planet Earth

Laser Provision

This truth applies to one and all: we are duty bound to protect and nurture planet earth. Buckminster Fuller long ago challenged us to “do more with less” if we hope to keep this “spaceship earth” in good working order. Others have recognized the need to develop sustainable energy economies and environmental practices. From the micro level of our individual decisions to the macro level of our global policies, our planet is straining under the weight of over-consumption and over-production. Can we do better? This Provision suggests we can and argues we must.

LifeTrek Provision


I’m surprised how long this Provision series on Guidelines for Living is turning out to be. You may remember that it is based on six different versions of “The Ten Commandments.” There’s a lot of overlap between them, so don’t worry: this series will not go on for 60 weeks! But it will last until we have touched upon the most important guidelines for those who would seek to enrich, affirm, and celebrate life.

One of the most important, it seems to me, is the simple notion that we are called to take care of the planet on which we live. When I was a youth, as a Boy Scout, we were charged to leave our campsite better than we found it. Nurturing planet earth is no more complicated than that. “Protecting the environment” and “treating the earth with respect” are both collective and individual responsibilities.

Recently I was introduced to another set of Ten Commandments, the “Earth’s Ten Commandments,” developed by Ernest Callenbach, a writer and editor best known for his visionary novel Ecotopia — an environmental classic that has sold almost a million copies. Here is a more contemporary rendering of Callenbach’s commandments:

  1. Love and honor the Earth for it blesses your life and governs your survival.
  2. Keep each day sacred to the Earth and celebrate the turning of its seasons.
  3. Do not hold yourself above other living things nor drive them to extinction.
  4. Give thanks for your food to the creatures and plants that nourish you.
  5. Limit your offspring, for multitudes of people are a burden unto the Earth.
  6. Do not kill nor waste Earth’s riches upon weapons of war.
  7. Do not pursue profit at the Earth’s expense but strive to restore its damaged majesty.
  8. Do not hide from yourself or others the consequences of your actions upon the Earth.
  9. Do not steal from future generations by impoverishing or poisoning the Earth.
  10. Consume material goods in moderation so all may share Earth’s bounty.

Those commandments pretty well cover the bases when it comes to things we can pay attention to and do ourselves to nurture planet earth. You can see how well they correlate, for example, to theTen Ways to Go Green and Save Green by Worldwatch Institute:

  1. Save energy to save money (and the planet).
  2. Save water to save money (and the planet).
  3. Less gas = more money (and better health!).
  4. Eat smart (eat less meat and buy more local).
  5. Skip the bottled water.
  6. Think before you buy (make secondhand your first thought).
  7. Borrow instead of buying (e.g., libraries over bookstores).
  8. Buy smart (e.g., bulk bins and long-lasting products).
  9. Keep electronics out of the trash.
  10. Make your own cleaning supplies.

Such lists abound on the Internet, which is a great thing since most people • regardless of their position on global warming • want to do what they can to take good care of planet earth, notwithstanding the outlier in a recent political cartoon set in the context of the global climate summit in December. At the front of the room was a presenter, speaking to such bullet points as “energy independence,” “preserve rainforests,” “sustainability,” “green jobs,” “livable cities,” “renewables,” “clean water,” “clean air,” and “healthy children.” In the back of the room was a person complaining, “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”

The bottom line, of course, is that it’s never a hoax to create a better world. And most people need help to figure how to get from here to there. Cynicism about either individual action or about global initiatives gets in the way of taking any steps at all. But small steps do add up, as anyone who has ever lost weight will tell you. No one ever loses 100 pounds all at one time. And, as Lao Tzu famously noted, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

That does not mean, of course, that individual “green” lifestyle changes are the only steps we can take. We can also advocate and act on behalf of “green” policies that will do far more, in the long run, to nurture planet earth. Here are some of the policies recommended by New York Times columnist and best-selling author, Thomas Friedman:

  • Create a Clean Energy System
  • With “Change or Die” Incentives to Energy Producers
  • And Visible, Energy-Saving Incentives to Energy Consumers
  • So the word “Green” goes away as an option. It becomes Standard Operating Procedure.

In other words, to quote Friedman in Hot, Flat, and Crowded, “When you wake up one day and power companies are competing to make you more energy efficient, the way phone companies compete today for your long-distance business; when parking garages are paying you to park there because they will sell you solar power from their roof and share in your sale of that power to the grid; when your electricity is more costly but your bills have shrunk; and when green is the standard, not an option • you’ll know that we’re having a green revolution and not just a green party.”

And that’s just on the energy side of the equation. Policies to conserve and protect the environment are just as important. It’s not an either-or choice when it comes to individual actions and global initiatives; nurturing planet earth requires both-and approaches that can make a difference in both the short run and long term. I, for one, am encouraged by global climate summits and the general level of consciousness and concern that seems to be sweeping the globe today. We are a long way from where we need to be; but we are talking our way through the knotholes of how to get there.

Coaching Inquiries: How would you evaluate your “green” consciousness? What is one thing you do to help conserve energy, preserve the environment, and/or advance “green” policies? How can you take a few more steps in the right direction? Who could become your partner in nurturing planet earth?

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

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

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


Congratulations on your new book! I will be sure to get it in the hands of a friend of mine who is struggling with her work as a counselor in a school district that sounds incredibly stressed and toxic. There is so clearly a deep festering wound in our culture • too many people, in my circles too many young women, suffering from a lack of everything. A lack self-esteem to a lack of integrity. Self-love to love of other living things. How can a country based on freedom and the American dream leave so many behind? And how to contribute to turning that around? I have some ideas on how to do that and your Provision to Nurture Well Being inspired me further. Enjoy your rest and rejuvenation and again • congratulations on launching a book of such importance.


Your Provision, Nurture Well Being, was great and very timely for me … I am finally nurturing my professional well being and fully embracing my shift into coaching • still not exactly sure of what it will look like … Stay tuned! The book you and your wife are working on sounds fantastic! I can’t wait to read it!


Thank you for the reminder about the “healthy rhythms of work and rest, effort and play….” Important stuff!


Great issue of Provisions to Nurture Well Being. I loved how the Universe provided for you and your wife. I’d love to hear more about your book. As you may know, a group of us in Richmond (called Bounce) are working with business leaders and middle schools to develop emotional intelligence skills in middle schoolers, and servant leadership skills in business leaders. Wonderful work, and may be worth a conversation with you once you are well renewed again. I’ve also forwarded your newsletter to two friend, both runners who will be intrigued by what you’ve written.


I was fascinated to read about your days spent working very hard on the computer and the types of breaks you could take and your observations of these. I had a similar experience to share, where my daughter, age 13, has just changed schools here in Spain. She used to sit in the same classroom all day and the teachers came in and out. The work was hard for her, due to this school’s curriculum. She felt ‘drab’ and struggling with the material. In the new school, she said, she is briefly in her home room in the morning and then moves around the school between classes, all day long.

We just had the conversation in the car about how helpful it is to get up after the lesson, have a little walk outside to the next class, freshen up and chat with a friend, change the books she is holding, sit down again in a new and different room, and have a much better entry for concentration in the next subject. New room, little walk, fresh air, 5 min break, no hurry, has made all the difference! Rather than just reaching in to the desk and changing the math book for the English book, for example.

How interesting to share that dynamic with her and see her joy in learning improve! I agree and follow this practice myself. 60-90 min is about all we can manage, at least us ‘regular’ folks. It is a great practice to consciously include breaks!


Amen to serendipitous events! Good for you and Megan for staying put! I also loved your take on Vibram and Nike Free. It’s fun to hear you’ve been experimenting with the Free. My husband and I have now worn Vibrams for the past 9 months and have noticed such a huge difference in our bodies. They are a wonderful addition to my ever-changing workouts and have helped us both with balance, stability and strength.


It was great to see barefoot running included in last week’s Provision. It’s something that I learned about some time ago, and I recall being curious then about your opinion on barefoot running. At that time, I am not sure that Vibram Five Fingers existed, but Newton Running shoes were all the rage. (http://www.newtonrunning.com)


I continue to enjoy your inspiring Provisions.


I just wanted to send you a thank you! I have always viewed life like ripples in a river; things we do have an effect on others long after we have left that spot. I just thought I would let you know, one of your ‘ripples’ touched me and helped. 



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 #656: Nurture Well Being

Laser Provision

Today’s Provision tells a story of hard work, exhaustion, and recovery with a surprising twist at the end. It’s not a story I copied from the Internet. It’s my story, and I hope you will find it both interesting and instructive. Only one set of those Ten New Commandments that I introduced last December talk about the importance of looking after the well-being of mind and body. The others are big on caring for children, orphans, parents, families, neighbors, friends, other living things, and the world in general. Apart from healthy rhythms of self-care, however, our caring for others will come up short. If you’ve been meaning to get around to taking some time for yourself, then perhaps my story will give you a little push to get started sooner rather than later.

LifeTrek Provision


Some people say I live a charmed life. So let me tell you about the past month, and you decide. In the USA you may well be reading this Provision on the morning of Valentine’s Day, a traditional time for love and romance. My wife and I had therefore planned a little getaway, to the great state of Texas where we were scheduled to visit old friends, meet new friends, and do something that I have done on 39 other occasions: run a marathon.

The marathon is taking place in Austin, the state capital. I was scheduled to run and my wife, as she has so often done in the past, was scheduled to cheer for me as well as the almost 5,000 other people running the race. Of the two tasks, I think cheering may be harder than running. She really gets into it, though, and many people are blessed by her enthusiastic encouragement. In my case, I tell people I run marathons because I can. It’s no more complicated than that.

The simplicity of that answer belies its profundity. There have been times in my life, either due to a lack of fitness (I was quite obese about 12 years ago) or due to injury, that I could not comfortably run at all, let alone run a marathon. So the fact that I can run marathons is, for me, a celebration of life. It’s not something I take credit for; it’s something I’m thankful for. For now, at this moment, my body, mind, and spirit enjoy the distance. There may come a time when that is no longer true; the mere thought of that already makes me feel sad. But I know I will find alternative engagements.

At this point in my life, however, running nurtures my well being. I do it most every day. And I was looking forward to the Austin marathon, allegedly one of the fastest courses in the country. Yet something unexpected happened on the way to the dance. Three weeks ago my wife and I received the Copy Edits back on our new book, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time. The Copy Editor did a fantastic job, not only making minor changes but also suggesting major reorganizations and revisions. Her recommendations and questions helped us to see many new ways to substantially improve the book. 

We’re very thankful that. But we’re also very tired. This was our last opportunity to dig into the text and make major changes, on a three-week timetable ending the day before we were scheduled to get on an airplane for the Austin marathon. For the better part of those three weeks we did little more with our free time other than to eat, sleep, and breathe those revisions. Thanks in part to two major snow storms that have immobilized the Mid-Atlantic region of the USA, I never left the house for ten straight days other than one time, in between the two snow storms, when I went on a ten-mile run. The rest of my running was done indoors, on a treadmill.

Ten straight days! Talk about cabin fever! Yet there was no other way. We had to roll up our sleeves and get to work, if we wanted to finish by our publisher’s deadline. We’re very proud of how it turned out and if we had it to do over, we’d do it all again. But that intense burst of activity took its toll. Although we managed to sneak in a few diversions, we were certainly no role models of life-work balance. Things were skewed radically towards work such that our daily routines of rest, recovery, relaxation, and renewal began to suffer.

Life is like that. There are busy times and there are slow times. That’s why I prefer the metaphor of a healthy rhythm to a healthy balance. We were definitely out of balance for those three weeks. But over the holidays we had three weeks skewed radically towards family and friends. Work was marginalized while relationships took priority. In the grand scheme of things, then, the pendulum swings back and forth in a healthy rhythm of pushing out and pulling back.

The key is to actually have a rhythm rather than to just talk about having a rhythm. Many of my clients live in constant overwhelm, and they often talk about the light at the end of the tunnel. Right now, they tell me, life is busy, busy, busy. But when they get this one project done, then things will get easier and they’ll take time to recover. There’s only one problem: the light usually turns out be a bend in the tunnel rather than at the end of the tunnel. This project ends and another project begins with no down time, no recovery, and no renewal.

No wonder people end up stressed out all the time! And no wonder they suffer the health consequences of constant stress, including hypertension, diabetes, arrhythmias, heart conditions, weight gain, high cholesterol, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, asthma, suppression of the immune system, digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, ulcers, and acid reflex, as well as psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsiveness, and alcoholism. As one doctor put it, “Chronic stress clearly distorts the normal functioning and balance of the body systems.”

The key, then, is to develop healthy rhythms of work and rest, effort and play, industriousness and recreation. Such rhythms can happen in short, medium, and long chunks. When I get up from my desk, walk to another room, look out the window, roll back my shoulders, stand on a balance board, take a few deep breaths, and watch my amaryllis bulb come back to life, periodically throughout the day, those are short chunks. When I go for my daily run, curl up with a book, or meditate, those are medium chunks. When I get a good night’s sleep, that’s a long chunk. And when I travel to Austin, Texas with my wife to visit friends and run a marathon on Valentine’s Day, that’s an even longer chunk.

Unfortunately, some of those short and medium chunks were getting compromised during our three-week book blitz. I was still running, but for only 30-45 minutes instead of 60-90 minutes. I was still getting up from my desk, but not as frequently. I was still sleeping, but not as long. My brain was working overtime on all the new possibilities. Nothing excites me more than a new idea or a fresh way of putting thoughts together. That, indeed, has been the secret behind my weekly Provisions for more than ten years: I love to write.

But even I have my limits and the book blitz pushed both my wife and me beyond those limits. So we looked at each other about eight hours before our flight was scheduled to take off and had a heart-to-heart conversation about what would really bring us the most joy for Valentine’s Day weekend. Catching five hours of sleep before getting up to go to the airport, or cancelling our plans at the last minute even though our airplane tickets were nonrefundable and even though I was past the date for getting a refund of my marathon registration fee.

It didn’t take long before we concluded that our lives would be made more wonderful, with more rest, recovery, relaxation, and renewal, if we were to just stay home and chill out. So that’s what we did. For our own good healthy reasons we decided to sleep in and walk away from our long-planned trip to the Longhorn State.

Then, an amazing thing happened. Overnight, Dallas, Texas • our connecting airport • received 12 inches of snow. Now for those of you not familiar with the United States, that’s not supposed to happen. People go to Texas in the winter time, among other destinations, to get away from snow, not to make snow creatures and snow angels. 12 inches of snow in Dallas closed the airport and then proceeded to wreak havoc across the southeastern United States before hitting Atlanta and turning north. As ABC news noted during its evening broadcast, we ended the day with snow in 49 of the 50 United States of America (I’m guessing you can figure out which one was snow-free without me telling you.)

So I called the airline with a new question: now that our flight was canceled, what was the status of my nonrefundable airplane tickets? You guessed it: they indicated that they would issue a full refund back onto my credit card. And then I wrote the marathon director, who said he would be happy to either refund my registration fee or give me a free entry to next year’s race, since inclement weather prevented my arrival.

As the shirts say, “Life is good!” What started out as a decision to nurture our own well being by cancelling our trip, at some expense, ended up being an opportunity to do all that we wanted to do for ourselves and to not lose any money in the process. Talk about an amazing serendipity.

Now what would you say? Do I live a charmed life, or not? I guess it depends on your perspective. Our three-week book blitz, including ten days in which I was pretty much chained to a computer and never left the house, was an exhausting push. That probably doesn’t sound very charmed. And when we decided to cancel our trip, that also didn’t sound very charmed (at least not to us). We had been looking forward to going. But when the time came, it was just not in us to go.

Yet the universe somehow rewarded our wise decision. That part was indeed charmed. And if there is any lesson to be taken away from this story, it is simply this: Nurture well being. Tend to your body, mind, and soul. Don’t just talk about healthy rhythms, practice them. Focus on what would make life more wonderful. Then do the right thing, without worrying about whether or not it is appropriate, expected, or expensive. In the name of saving money or saving face, all kinds of miserable things get done. And that is not a good way to live.

Only one set of the Ten New Commandments, the one that Wikipedia identifies as coming from a pagan source, mentions the importance of “looking after the well-being of mind and body.” In my experience, however, that is an essential part of the equation. We cannot adequately and consistently care for others unless we adequately and consistently care for ourselves. Put on your oxygen mask first, as they tell us on airplanes, before assisting others to put on theirs.

Nutrition, fitness, and ease are three important parts of the equation. Chronic stress is no way to live. Rhythmic stress, offset by regular times of rest, relaxation, recreation, and reflection, is what makes life good. You can learn a lot more about all three by going to our companion website,www.CelebrateWellness.com. And don’t forget to contact us for coaching if you would like a partner to help you figure out how.

Coaching Inquiries: What assists you to recover from the stresses and strains of life? How often do you put yourself first, and how often do you sacrifice yourself on the altar of busyness? How would you describe your rhythms, in small, medium, and long chunks? What and who could assist you to make your rhythms more regular and consistent? What’s stopping you from taking a break, right now?

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

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

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


After reading your Provision, Nurture Children, in which you write about being snowed in at just the right time to get your book done, I picture you and Megan curled up together in your sunny living room in front of the fireplace sifting through papers. Having been to your house, I bet it’s quite the vision looking out of your back windows at the “snow blanket” covering the frozen ground surrounding the lake? 🙂 



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 #655: Nurture Children

Laser Provision

I’m surprised that only two lists of The Ten New Commandments urge us to protect and nurture children as a guideline for living. If not us, who? If not now, when? Throughout history children have been abused and exploited for the gain, benefit, and sadistic pleasure of adults. Although the world community has clearly condemned such violations and inhumanity, problems continue to this very day. That’s why it’s important to support organizations like UNICEF. And that’s also why it’s important to pay attention to our own attitudes and approaches when it comes to children. I say we put the needs of children first. What about you?

LifeTrek Provision


As I write this, my wife and I are again snowed in by the edges of a winter storm labeled as “snowmaggedon” by US President Barack Obama. Whereas some part of the greater Washington, DC area were hit by around 2 feet of snow, making it one of the top snowstorms of all time, we fared much better thanks to above-freezing temperatures when the storm first moved through our area. We had lots of rain followed by about 4 inches of snow • still enough to bring this area to a standstill.

Ironically, the snow storms last weekend and then again this weekend could not have come at a better time. My wife and I are bearing down with our final set of copy edits on our new book,Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time. If you have not yet had a chance to check out the beautiful cover design, I encourage you to do so by going towww.EvocativeCoaching.com. We’re quite pleased with how it is turning out.

I mention our book because it brings me to today’s topic: nurture children. Here’s the opening lines from our book:

This book was written for students, but it is not about students. Evocative Coachingwas born of a desire to see students everywhere learning in vibrant, life-giving environments. It is designed to assist teachers to reinvigorate their teaching practices so that students can flourish. When teachers and schools come alive, the work of student learning is sure to follow. This book is about creating relationships that foster and support the ongoing learning of the women and men who show up every day to share their curiosity, knowledge, and spirits with students.

In other words, we have written our book to help educators better help each other to nurture children. We have worked actively on this book for about a year and half; at times, like the last few weeks, we have worked tirelessly on this book to meet our publisher’s deadlines. All of that energy, effort, and focus flow not just from the mental stimulation of creativity, design thinking, and writing, but also from our sense that this book can make a real contribution in the world. Simply put: children matter. Our book flows from that understanding, commitment, and love.

Only two of the six sets of Ten New Commandments that I shared with you in the opening edition of this series have anything to say about children. The Ten Commandments coming out of the Channel 4 news poll in the United Kingdom urges us to “Protect and nurture children.” while the Muslim Qur’an urges to “Care for orphaned children.” (17:34). The other versions are curiously silent on the subject, although it can certainly be inferred from other principles of consideration, respect, and kindness.

I prefer to make it explicit. Throughout history, children have not always been treated with consideration, respect, and kindness. On the contrary, they have often been misunderstood and exploited. Consider the following description from Bertrand Russell in The Impact of Science on Society:

The industrial revolution caused unspeakable misery both on England and in America. … In the Lancashire cotton mills (from which Marx and Engels derived their livelihood), children worked from 12 to 16 hours a day; they often began working at the age of six or seven. Children had to be beaten to keep them from falling asleep while at work; in spite of this, many failed to keep awake and were mutilated or killed.

Parents had to submit to the infliction of these atrocities upon their children, because they themselves were in a desperate plight. Craftsmen had been thrown out of work by the machines; rural laborers were compelled to migrate to the towns by the Enclosure Acts, which used Parliament to make landowners richer by making peasants destitute; trade unions were illegal until 1824; the government employed agents provocateurs to try to get revolutionary sentiments out of wage-earners, who were then deported or hanged. Such was the first effect of machinery in England.

But the industrial revolution of the 19th century was unfortunately not the first and not the last time that children were abused and taken advantage of by society rather than protected and nurtured. Many of those same and even worse exploitations exist to this very day in countries around the globe.

To address that concern, the United Nations adopted an international Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. It came into force on September 2, 1990 after it was ratified by the required number of nations. Ironically, given its role in drafting the convention, the only country in the world to have never ratified the convention is the United States of America. Many others countries have ratified it with specific declarations, reservations, and exceptions.

So what child-specific needs and rights does the Convention recognize and guarantee? Here’s a quick summary:

  • The right to life.
  • The right to their own name and identity.
  • The right to be raised by their own parents within a family or cultural grouping.
  • The right to have a relationship with both parents, even if they are separated.
  • The right to express their opinions and to have those opinions heard and acted upon when appropriate.
  • The right to be protected from abuse or exploitation.
  • The right to be protected from all forms of physical or mental violence.
  • The right to have their privacy protected.
  • The right to have their their best interests protected by the state.
  • The right to separate legal representation in any judicial dispute concerning their care.
  • The prohibition of capital punishment for children.

The world would be a better place if these Rights of the Child were recognized universally. Given their relative vulnerability, children need strong protections and strong champions. Perhaps that is why President Barack Obama has described the US failure to ratify the convention embarrassing and something he wants to review. When you look at those rights, you wonder who could be against them • until you look at human history.

Take the debate over corporal punishment, or hitting children as a form of punishment when you think they have done something wrong. Quite apart from the effectiveness of rewards and punishments in general, let alone of corporal punishments in particular, where do you draw the line between punishment and abuse? That’s one of the sticking points when it comes to the Convention. Many religious and cultural traditions take sides with the tired, old mantra: “Spare the rod, and spoil the child.”

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child doesn’t buy that line and neither do I. They prohibit and proscribe all forms of corporal punishment. From my vantage point, the only way to protect and nurture children is to meet their many physical and developmental needs. We have to understand them, both as individuals and as a group, if we hope to care for them. Rewards and punishments only serve to interfere with such understanding. Empathy and consideration prove to be far more effective.

In his recent book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Dan Pink documents the research base related to facilitating intrinsic motivation. He identifies three primary factors: autonomy (having a sense of control over what you are doing), mastery (having a sense of capacity in what you are doing), and purpose (having a sense of value about what you are doing). He and many other authors, from Alfie Kohn to Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, have made it very clear that these factors have as much to do with nurturing children as it does to working and playing with adults.

So might we all take that to heart. Let’s go beyond the bare minimum of protecting the rights of children. Let’s go all the way to nurturing children with love and reason so that they might grow into the fullness of their potential and the happiness of their joy.

Coaching Inquiries: Who are the children in your life who need to be protected and nurtured? How can you reach out in ways that help them to become more fully alive? What kind of support are you able to offer? Why not make some child’s day today?

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

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

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


Excellent Provision on Respect. This seems so easy when we want others to do it and so hard when we have to do it. 


I was doing my Course in Miracles lesson on my I-touch when I woke up and checked my e-mail. I read your entire Provision • really nice message about respect and civility.


May I add a word to this guideline on respect: “Treat YOURSELF, your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.” So much suffering, anxiety, worry, and fear springs from treating ourselves badly. Without this, nothing else matters. (Ed. Note: Perfect! 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 #654: Be Respectful

Laser Provision

What does it mean to be respectful? What does it mean to listen to someone? Does it mean to take their advice and do whatever they say? Or does it mean to consider their opinion, to strive to meet their needs, to engage in civil discourse, to be honest and humble, and to find as many areas of agreement as possible? Of those two options, I prefer the latter understanding. Respect is not just about showing deference, although at times it’s smart to be deferential. Most of the time, however, we can and should speak our mind freely as long as we do so respectfully. Can that happen, especially in the face of strong disagreements? I strive to make that case in today’s Provision.

LifeTrek Provision


It’s an unusually cold and beautiful snowy day here in southeast Virginia. It reminds me of my winters growing up in Cleveland, Ohio. As a kid, snowy days were a time for sledding, throwing snowballs, and making snow creatures. One winter we had enough snow for me to make an igloo out of the mountain of snow that had accumulated. Something tells me there’s a picture of that igloo kicking around somewhere in my parent’s attic.

There’s a big difference between how people respond to winter weather in Cleveland, Ohio versus here in southeast Virginia. In Ohio, the streets are plowed repeatedly in order to keep things moving. The attitude is one of toughness and defiance: no snow is going to get in our way. Here, in southeast Virginia, people have a more deferential attitude. Everything just gets canceled and people stay inside, hunkering down to wait until it melts. Instead of fighting back, there is a sense of rolling and flexing with the storm.

I mention this because there are some lessons here regarding the concept of respect, another near universal when it comes to the many Guidelines for Living that we are reviewing as part of this Provision series. Consider the following instances where respect is either implied or mentioned directly in those lists of the Ten New Commandments:

  • Treat the Earth and all that dwell thereon with respect.
  • Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.
  • Show great consideration for your fellow beings.
  • Honor your father and mother.
  • Be kind, honorable and humble to one’s parents
  • Do not covet your neighbor’s wife or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
  • Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.
  • The right to liberty.
  • The right not to be tortured

That’s quite a laundry list of guidelines, interpretations, and connotations when it comes to the notion of respect. The range includes being deferential, civil, polite, considerate, helpful,  honorable, humble, courageous, and free from fear. Although these various senses of the word conflict at points, one thing is certain: the need for understanding, acceptance, and respect is near universal in human relationships. It comes up all the time in our work as coaches, in both life and work settings. In fact, chances are good that you can think of at least one aspect of your life where respect is lacking (either because you’re not getting or giving it fully enough). So let’s explore the practice together to see if we can make life a little better in the end.

  • Deferential. When I look at how people are responding to our snow storm, there is a great sense of respecting the power of nature. I have written about that for several weeks in light of the tragedy in Haiti. Whenever there is a power differential, respect comes to be interpreted as the one with less power deferring to the one with more power. Parents want that from children; bosses want that from subordinates; and nature does what it pleases whether we choose to defer or not. The greater the power differential, the more often it pays to be deferential. It certainly helps at those times to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
  • Civil and Polite. Much has been written about the decline of civility and good manners in society. The people in my generation, Baby Boomers, are usually credited with that “accomplishment,” thanks to our being the “first generation to be fed oversize portions of self-esteem and self-entitlement” (P.M. Forni, Civility Project at Johns Hopkins University). Dr. Forni notes that numerous “studies prove we are at an all-time low when it comes to being civil, to caring about what others think of our actions.” The result? Dr. Forni observes:

    “If we cannot be civil, our quality of life deteriorates, society itself begins to fray and democracy is weakened. We get to the point where incivility escalates and crosses into violence. There are now some 1.8 million acts of violence in the workplace each year, the government reports•from one worker shoving another to actual fights and even killings. Many began because of a perceived slight, a small act of rudeness that spiraled out of control. We all have an incentive to foster civility because the higher the level of civility, the lower the level of violence in a society.” Let’s not have that happen. Let’s treat each other with respect.

  • Considerate and Helpful. The dictionary defines “considerate” as “showing kindly awareness or regard for another’s feelings, circumstances, etc.” and as “having or marked by regard for the needs or feelings of others.” I learned that in Boy Scouts where I was charged to be “helpful, friendly, courteous, and kind.” We’ve see that kind of response in the wake of the Haitian tragedy and other natural disasters. But consideration need not wait for calamity. For at least 20 years people have been writing about and urging others to practice “random acts of kindness.” I’ve always liked that concept because it calls us to mindfulness. Acts of kindness are never random. They always happen by choice, and we can choose to be respectful or not in our relations to other people. When we pay attention to life, it’s natural to enrich life. That’s a wonderful sense of respect that I hope we can all bring to your daily lives.
  • Honorable and Humble. I don’t know about you, but I am fascinated by the Muslim admonition to be “kind, honorable, and humble to our parents.” What an intriguing combination of words. I understand kind (it’s the same as considerate and helpful). I also understand honorable. If we hope to be respected then we have to be respectable. If we hope to be trusted then have to be trustworthy. I know parents who send their teenagers out for the night with the following admonition: “Remember who you are.” In other words, be honorable because your life is not just your own. When parents model integrity, it more naturally follows their children out the door.

    The notion of being “humble to our parents” is more intriguing. That may just be another way of expressing deference, but I think it goes deeper. It’s possible to disagree and be respectful, but only if we’re humble. That’s the problem with political debates. Politics does not reward humility. It rewards bravado and certainty. We saw this in last week’s televised meeting between President Barack Obama and House Republican leadership. Accusations of being ignored, not listened to, and cut out were flying fast and furious at the same time as people were offering up their comments “with all due respect.” What does that mean? With humility it would mean, “I don’t have the answers and you don’t have the answers, but together we can find the answers.” I wish politicians could say that honestly without risking their political survival; I also wish that more families lived from that respectful frame.

  • Courageous and Free. One thing is certain about that House Republican retreat: President Obama modeled the commandment to not “censor or cut yourself off from dissent” and to “respect the right of others to disagree with you.” He got plenty of that. The attitude of humility might not have been in the air, but there was courage and liberty. No teleprompters; just an hour of free-flowing questions and answers with many strong expressions of disagreement. Although people didn’t always have their facts straight, twisting them to their advantage as politicians are wont to do, they did by and large avoid character judgments and rude language. In other words, the meeting had a measure of decorum and civility. No one shouted out, “You lie!” They even laughed together, on occasion. That’s a step in the right direction when it comes to respect, and I’m glad it happened.

So let those guidelines inspire us to be respectful. At times, that will mean being deferential and giving way. We can’t always meet all of our needs at all times. Most of the time, however, we can be civil, polite, considerate, helpful, honorable, humble, courageous, and free without being disrespectful. Cultivating those attributes can make life better for us all.

Coaching Inquiries: What’s your commitment when it comes to respect? Would you say you model respect in all your dealings? How can you cultivate that posture as a strong and present value? What needs would it meet for you to do so? How can you carry yourself forward in that direction? Who would be willing to go with you on the trek?

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

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

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


Thank you for your most recent Provision on Property Rights and all of your inspiring Provisions.


I just saw your new book cover for Evocative Coaching. I love it! Congratulations on the book itself; can’t wait to read it!:) With peace, light and gratitude for all your wonderful stories from the heart. Your writing on honesty was very thought provoking!. 



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 #653: Property Rights

Laser Provision

Most people know of the most famous sentence in the United States Declaration of Independence, namely that people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Most people do not know, however, that earlier documents and drafts asserted the Rights to “Life, Liberty, and Property.” It was taken as self-evident that people had the right to own things and to protect as well as to add value to what they owned. “Do not steal,” the eighth commandment of Moses, reflects that understanding. But property rights are a complicated guideline for living, and I invite you to read further to explore them more fully.

LifeTrek Provision


We’re in the midst of our series on Guidelines for Living and we’ve covered several of the most universal and obvious, including empathy, responsibility, solidarity, nonviolence, and honesty. Although expressed in different ways, these elements and values appear in virtually every version of “The Ten Commandments,” across every culture and creed, from the most ancient and religious to the most modern and secular. Even when these values are contradicted, such as in times of war, they are usually suspended reluctantly and with cause. People want to get back to them as soon as possible.

Today, however, I want to consider a guideline for living that is a more complicated and nuanced affair: respect ownership. In the six different versions of “The Ten Commandments” that I reprinted at the start of this series, only two explicitly site the rule: “Do not steal.” Both versions come from Jewish and Christian cultures. The other versions, if they talk about ownership at all, do so rather obliquely and with reference to other needs:

  • Be neither miserly nor wasteful in one’s expenditure.
  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.
  • Treat the Earth and all that dwell thereon with respect.
  • Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good.

If you detect a certain discomfort around the notion of property rights in these other versions, you are on to one of the conundrums growing out of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. When starving people in dire circumstances steal food from razed buildings, are they to be condemned as looters or respected as survivors? If everyone has the right to “security of person,” to be “treated with respect,” and to “dedicate a share of their efforts to the greater good,” then perhaps “Do not steal” is not as clear cut a guideline for living as we might, at first, presume.

That said, even in Haiti there’s a huge difference between stealing for survival from razed buildings and stealing for gain from each other. My heart constricts when I hear stories of fit, young men muscling their way to carry off food and water meant for women, children, and the elderly. I grow even more discomfited when I read of rescue workers being stoned by volatile crowds. “Survival of the fittest” may be a tenant of natural selection, but it does not reflect and embody the guidelines that make life worth living. There is more to life than self-serving actions and personal-aggrandizement. Even in the midst of poverty and crisis there is a place for mutual respect and dedication to the common good.

This represents at least one way to understand the notion of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” as being “unalienable Rights.” When Thomas Jefferson penned those words, arguably among the most famous in the English language, he was standing in a long tradition of Enlightenment thinkers, going back at least a hundred years to John Locke and others in the mid-seventeenth century. These thinkers wrote many treatises and essays regarding the notion of universal human rights and the role of government in protecting those rights.

Locke and others preferred to describe those rights in terms of “Life, Liberty, and Property.” The role of government, Locke held, was to preserve and protect those three fundamental rights, all of which were seen as inextricably interrelated. Little children let us know how that works. Often one of the first words a toddler learns, and one that is pressed into service gleefully, again and again, is “Mine!”. Even very young children have an emerging sense of connection between identity and property. When one gets threatened, the other gets threatened, and vice-versa.

Jefferson and the others who drafted the United States Declaration of Independence took things in a new direction when they substituted “the pursuit of Happiness” for the ownership of property. In making that change, perhaps they were anticipating the critique of Karl Marx, namely, that protecting and asserting property rights was mostly a way for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. At least that’s one way to interpret the import of how the Declaration of Independence is worded. It challenges us to start asking larger questions as to what constitutes Happiness and how to pursue it in the context of society.

When I was visiting Hồ Chi Minh City in Viet-Nam last November, I was surprised to learn that Viet-Nam proclaimed its independence from French colonial rule in 1945 with those exact same words. The assertion of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” as “inalienable Rights” was described as an “immortal statement.”  It was taken to mean that, “All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.” Since those Rights were being abused and denied under French colonial rule, Hồ Chi Minh and others asserted theProclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam. Just like in Haiti, it can be dangerous and revolutionary to push people beyond the brink of despair.

So property rights, when viewed from the vantage point of those universal Guidelines for Living, must be seen and set in the context of every other right. We do not have a right to property, no matter what. Our rights and the rights of others must coexist in mutually creative and life-supporting ways. When we assert our rights over and against the rights of others, we must consider factors other than selfish gain. We must also consider the question of the greater good and how we can best serve the world with our property.

I am pleased, therefore, that the world is responding to the situation in Haiti with such compassion and charity. Notwithstanding the issue of the world’s response to Haiti’s chronic poverty, it is right for the world to respond now. One country’s pain is every country’s responsibility. The recent, celebrity Hope for Haiti Telethon has raised more than $58M US and counting. 100% of those funds are being channeled to relief organizations, including those I mentioned in last week’s Provision, such as the Red CrossPartners In Health, and the United Nations World Food Programme. If you have not already done so, or even if you have and you want to do more, I  encourage you to participate in the effort.

The point here is simply to recognize that all people have a right to property at the most basic of levels. When subsistence-level needs go wanting, the “pursuit of Happiness” takes predictable form and urgency. When people are hungry, they want food. When people are thirsty, they want water. When people are naked, they want clothes. When people are homeless, they want shelter. When people are broke, they want money. When people are sick, they want health care.

Basics matter. It’s not possible for everyone in the world to have more than enough. Property rights cannot make that claim. It’s essential, however, that everyone in the world has at least enough. Property rights and the pursuit of Happiness assert that claim. Given that more than 3 billion people • about half of the entire human population • live on less than $2.50 a day, we are a long way from realizing the dream and protecting the right that everyone have at least enough. But the dream lives on and the right to Happiness will not be denied.

Coaching Inquiries: How do you understand your right to the property you own? How can you best use your property and resources to preserve and protect the rights of others? What fears do you have when you think of sharing your property with others? How can you reach beyond your fears to see the needs? Who embodies for you a happy and healthy relationship to money? How can you become more like them?

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

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

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


Thank you for today’s Provision, “Be Honest,” as well as the link to “Outsmart Your Brain.” What I really liked about today’s Provision is the way that you talk about the different perspectives or sayings on honesty, and what it would mean to bring those to life in our own lives. The link to Mandela’s leadership and approach to honesty was compelling. Thank you so much for all you to do to help us reflect and grow.


I just read my first Provision. You write with heart and beauty. I can see why you have so many followers. I am honored you shared my newsletter and that it touched one of your readers so positively. Thank you. I look forward to sharing your words with others, too. Here’s to our success with our parts in making the world a more connected, caring place to be.


I just saw the cover for your new book at www.EvocativeCoaching.com. I love it and can’t wait to read it!:) With peace, light and gratitude for all your wonderful stories from the heart. Your writing on honesty last week was very thought provoking! 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 #652: Be Honest

Laser Provision

It’s not always easy to be honest. Sometimes it seems impolite. Why not tell a little lie, or avoid telling the whole truth, to protect someone’s feelings? Other times it seems much more costly in terms of our reputation, finances, or influence. Why not tell a big lie, or make up a whole new story, to protect our own interests and / or the interests of others? Then we have those who are paid to lie in the name of “intelligence” or “national security.” Honesty is a coveted yet complicated value and today’s Provision hopes to sort out some of the nuances. Let me know your thoughts after you read through to the end.

LifeTrek Provision


As I write this, the magnitude of the devastation and destruction of the earthquake or temblor in Haiti is becoming painfully clear. Millions of people have been impacted or displaced, fatalities are in the tens of thousands, and the infrastructure of the country is on life support. And that’s only for starters. In situations like this, things get worse before they get better. Coming on the heels of last week’s Provision, “Do not kill,” I am struck by the contrast between our human moral codes and the amorality of nature. Nothing can do more harm, in an instant, than natural disasters.

My heart goes out to the Haitian people. In the wake of 9/11, where more than 3,000 people died through human intervention, many people in the USA responded with donations of blood and money. I know I did. The scope of what’s happening in Haiti • a country whose population is about the same size as New York City — makes 9/11, or even Hurricane Katrina, pale in comparison. If you have not already done so, I would urge you to empathize and act. Four ways to do that, among many other charities, are through the Red Cross, the United Nations FoundationGlobal Giving, and Partners In Heath. I encourage you to make it so.

Empathy and action are not bad mantras when it comes to our current series on Guidelines for Living. Different iterations of “The Ten Commandments” phrase things in different ways and assign different priorities to their key concepts, but empathy and action are universal. We are called to feel each other’s pains and bear each other’s burdens, not to kill each other. Violence just adds fuel to the fire when it comes to death and destruction. There’s enough of that in nature already.

Beyond prohibitions regarding killing, various versions of “The Ten Commandments” also proscribe lying. What a different world it would be if people never killed or lied to each other! That is, in fact, a fantasy worth imagining. John Lennon did that in 1971, with the release of his second solo album, “Imagine.” In what became his signature tune, he invited the world to “imagine all the people living life in peace.” “Nothing to kill or die for,” “no need for greed or hunger,” just “all the people living for today” as one.

How might you imagine what the world would look like if the following “commandments” regarding honesty were truly internalized and followed?

  • Be honest.
  • Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  • Be truthful and honest at all times.
  • Be honest and fair in one’s interactions.
  • Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.
  • The right to freedom of expression.

Once again, each of these variations have something to teach us when it comes to our own values and approaches in life. They also pose as many challenges to live by as last week’s admonition to avoid killing. We live in a world where honesty is not the only policy. Indeed, many agencies, organizations, and individuals rise and fall on their ability to tell and to sniff out lies. Much that goes on in the name of “intelligence” and “national security” is actually about gathering, evaluating, understanding, and disseminating deceptive information.

“To lie is human,” it has been said, “to not get caught is divine.” That adage does not reflect the havoc wrecked in the wake of human conniving. It is the essence of warfare to gain tactical, strategic, and technological superiority over one’s enemies. That includes the ability, as we have seen recently and all too tragically, to lure your opponent into vulnerable positions through the dissemination of disinformation. Yet this is not the way to a more wonderful world. It’s better to be honest, in the deepest sense of the word:

  • Be honest. This is the most interior of all senses. Honesty at this level has to do with our own, inner relationship to the truth. Are we honest with ourselves? Do we exaggerate, minimize, or overlook things? What are we willing to face and what are we willing to ignore? That thought crosses my mind every time I hear about a politician, a celebrity, or a sports star who has been living a double life. I’m less interested in the gossip and more interested in how these people were living with themselves. What were they telling themselves? How could they present themselves one way to some people (the public, their partners, etc.) and another way to other people. Until and unless we have full disclosure with ourselves, there is no way to hold ourselves accountable with others.
  • Do not bear false witness against your neighbor. I like the specificity that comes by the inclusion of the word “neighbor.” It helps to remember that honesty concerns the person next door, the person in the next cubicle, the person lying next to us in bed, or the person on the other end of the phone. Even when we are mad at them. Even when we suspect they might not be telling the truth. More often than not, honesty comes down to the details. “False witness” is another interesting concept. That connects honesty with courtroom proceedings where people swear “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” That’s certainly one time when honesty is always the best policy; in case after case, the cover up does more damage than the crime.
  • Be truthful and honest at all times. This version makes honesty an absolute moral injunction: at all times, in all places, and in all circumstances. Such wording allows no room for grey areas, like the proverbial lie to protect someone from physical violence (as many did in response to the horrors of N•zi Germany). Notwithstanding such extremities, where most people are willing to grant exceptions, this version calls into question the many rationalizations we use to justify “little lies.” If no one will be hurt, if no one knows, or if no one is looking, then why not take the easy way out, the way that will make us look good, or the way that will give us the biggest benefit? Such utilitarian rationalizations represent a slippery slope that this commandment eschews.
  • Be honest and fair in one’s interactions. Both this version and the next start to wrap other concepts, in this case “fairness,” around being honest. It’s easy to see how “honesty” and “fairness” are closely related. It is often unfair to be dishonest. When the credit card company makes a mistake in its favor, how quickly do we call to straighten things out? When they make a mistake in our favor, do we bother to call at all? “Honest and fair” holds us to the highest of standards. It makes clear not only that we are truthful, but also that we are to be truthful in the service of higher ideals such as fairness. By introducing the concept of fairness, we end up with latitude that is often appropriate in the conduct of human affairs. The key is to hold that standard universally, for one and all.
  • Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness, and respect. Here we throw “love, faithfulness, and respect” into the mix with “honesty.” Of all the formulations, this version is the most situational. There is no absolute standard here; there is rather the broad recognition that “honesty” should serve the interests and welfare of our fellow human beings. That is why so many people around the world are rallying to help the people in Haiti. Through empathy and action we seek to treat those who suffer, especially those who suffer through no fault of their own, with “love, honesty, faithfulness, and respect.”
  • The right to freedom of expression. It’s interesting that the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not include a right to honesty, at least not by that name. In fact, it never even uses the word “honesty.” Article 19, however, does specify that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

    I guess that means we have the right to lie, if we want, without interference from others. Just because we have the right to do something does not, however, make it a good thing to do. We must exercise carefully our “right to freedom of expression.” Dishonest propaganda is a tool of repressive regimes and opposition movements around the globe. We may have the right to express such opinions, but the other principles of the Declaration would call into question any expression or act that would undermine the “inherent dignity” and “inalienable rights of all members of the human family.”

That, in the end, is the bottom line when it comes to honesty. In his poem, Auguries of Innocence, William Blake put it this way: “A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.” In other words, what interests are we seeking to serve? At our best, we seek to connect honesty with other life-giving values such as love, faithfulness, fairness, and respect. Instead of tearing down people we seek to build them up. When that becomes our framework and guiding light, when honesty represents not only what we say and do but also who we are, then it becomes easier to carry ourselves with integrity through the many vagaries and temptations of life.

It also becomes more compelling. How often have we failed to “speak the truth in love” because we couldn’t find the right words or perhaps didn’t have the energy or courage to deal with the consequences? Yet consternation and laziness are no excuse when it comes to honesty. Honesty recognizes the spiritual value of our relationship to the truth and it challenges us to live accordingly at all times. Before proceeding we may need to think deeply about what is true, noble, right, pure, honorable, and lovely, but it is not beyond anyone’s ability to do so and then to make life better for all.

Coaching Inquiries: What standards do you hold yourself to when it comes to honesty? How strict are you when it comes to never telling a lie? How would you like to enhance your relationship with the truth? Who could become your “honesty buddy” in life and work?

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

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

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


I have so enjoyed your short and brief, but significant, Provisions at the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010. May your year be blessed for all of you and your loved ones! 


Happy New Year. Thank you for this week’s thoughts on “Do Not Kill.” Also loved the harmonica idea as a breathing exercise! Thank you for all the empathy, support, and assistance you have shown my husband. May you be as happy and healthy as is possible in this moment. May you be well and live with ease.


It would surely be a step forward if we could at least start with do not kill human beings. Most folks in our nation seem to have a clear appreciation that ‘terrorists• should not kill us. How about if we could just grow from that brilliant insight and determine that we will not only refrain from killing •us• but also be sure not to kill ‘them.• If we truly do not exclude anyone when we pray •give us this day our daily bread• we•re well on our way to realizing that we need to find better ways to solve problems than to kill the irritating , often violent, party.


I was interested in your comments about the •Healing Harmonicas.• I am asthmatic, as are/have been several other people in my family, including my grandfather and his father (who died of asthma-related causes at 30 years of age.) My grandfather learned as a Boy Scout to play the harmonica, and I have happy childhood memories of him playing the harmonica and telling me stories. Your comments made me wonder about the connection between his love of playing harmonica and his relatively healthy life. 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 #651: Do Not Kill

Laser Provision

I am old enough to have caught the tail end of the Vietnam War, during which time I felt called to register for the draft as a conscientious objector. I was willing to serve, I was just not willing to kill. Since that time, I have spent a lifetime trying to figure out how best to live my life so as to do no harm. It’s not always easy and it’s not always clear how best to do that. Especially in the face of violent threats such as those that make the headlines on a daily basis. Killing is all too common in our world, and it has only gotten worse with the advent of modern weaponry and destructive devices. For all their complexity, however, I am glad to live with the questions and I hope this Provision invites you into the conversation, at least for a time.

LifeTrek Provision


Happy New Year! We’re back with a full-fledged Provision this week in our continuing series onGuidelines for Living. This started, you may remember, by my review of various lists of “Ten Commandments” that come down to us from different religions, time periods, and cultures. The notion that we should avoid killing runs through them all, but it’s interesting to note the nuances that come through with each of the different formulations. Here they are, one right after another:

  • Do not kill.
  • Do not murder.
  • Do not kill unjustly.
  • The right to life.
  • Strive to cause no harm.
  • Show great consideration for your fellow beings.

Can’t you just see the authors and translators trying to create some wiggle room around such a basic injunction as, “Do not kill”? The complexities of life come through in these different formulations. Let’s consider each in turn.

  • Do not kill. This can be viewed as the most sweeping and also the most difficult of all the formulations. It does not limit the focus to human beings and, as such, it represents the dictum of many vegans who exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. It also represents the dictum of those who oppose killing on both ends of the spectrum of life (abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia) as well as all the way through (including murder, capital punishment, political violence, and war). Taken at face value, this is actually the easiest guideline to understand. Notwithstanding the issue of killing plants and fungi, everything else is pretty straightforward. If it’s an animal and if it’s alive, then don’t kill it.
  • Do not murder. This version of what was originally the sixth commandment narrows the focus considerably. It clearly focuses on human beings, rather than all animals, and it introduces a huge caveat: what constitutes life? Those who view human beings as living, breathing, and sentient creatures who move and create on the face of the earth do not, for example, view abortion as murder. In the case of slavery, other considerations led to the same conclusion. Then there are the issues of intent and cause. Whereas a prohibition of killing excludes even accidental deaths, a prohibition of murder introduces other factors including the state of mind of the aggressor and the circumstances of the attack. Since it’s not always obvious when killing is murder, courts frequently have to get involved to sort things out.
  • Do not kill unjustly. This version makes the question of killing a wide open question. What would George Washington have been called by England if the United States had lost its war of independence? Probably the equivalent of an “enemy combatant” or even a “terrorist.” History is written by the victors and questions of justice are always seen through that lens. Although there have been plenty of despots, pirates, and terrorists throughout the ages who care nothing about justice, many a conflict has people killing on both sides with a sense of “righteous indignation” and even “divine right.” On occasion, as Abraham Lincoln noted, both sides are praying to the same God at the same time. That said, the question of justice raises important questions of value, fairness, rationality, equity, and right relationship. It is certainly wrong to violate such principles by killing or other practices.
  • The right to life. This version of the guideline comes from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. It introduces a new concept into the mix when it comes to killing, namely the notion of certain inalienable rights. In 1776 the United Sates Declaration of Independence asserted this right for all people, along with the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The UDHR puts it this way: “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” With the inclusion of the words “law” and “arbitrary,” the UDHR is making clear the responsibility of society to protect human life. That’s a good thing because, as we know, it doesn’t come easy.
  • Strive to cause no harm. This version kicks things up a notch when it comes to killing. It’s a little like what Jesus had to say in the Sermon on the Mount: “You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.” (Matthew 5:21-22, The Message Version). “Causing no harm” is part of the Hippocratic Oath taken by medical doctors, when they start their practice: “I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.” Instead of being angry, spiteful, vengeful, and hurtful, it’s best to avoid killing even the spirits of others.
  • Show great consideration for your fellow beings. This version kicks things up two notches when it comes to killing. Not only are we called to do no harm; here we are called to do good to our fellow human beings. Although some might view killing as a necessary evil, few would say that it’s actually a good thing to do. How do we show consideration for people who are, themselves, being inconsiderate, let alone violent or deadly? We seek first to understand their feelings and needs. Marshall Rosenberg, of the Center for Nonviolent Communication, puts it this way: “All attacks and criticisms are tragic expressions of unmet needs.” They are tragic because they make it less likely that needs will be met. Yet they do serve as clues as to what may be going on under the surface, for those who have ears to hear. By seeking to understand those unmet needs, we show our fellow human beings consideration and do them good.

In his delightful book, The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology, Jack Kornfield writes, “Compassion is not foolish. It doesn’t just go along with what others want so they don’t feel bad. There is a yes in compassion, and there is also a no, said with the same courage of heart. No to abuse, no to racism, no to violence, both personal and worldwide. The no is said not out of hate but out of unwavering care. Wherever it is practiced, compassion brings us back to life.”

This is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was talking about when he exhorted us to, “Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the instruments of love.”

In other words, the admonition “Do Not Kill” does not call us to be a meek and mild pushover in the face of violence and death. Marshall Rosenberg himself distinguishes between the protective use of force, in which he sees value, and the punitive use of force, which he argues against because of the ways it aggravates the spiral of violence. “Do Not Kill” rather calls us to be a strong and courageous catalyst for justice and nonviolent change. When we come to embody these values in our life and work, that’s when life becomes more wonderful for one and all.

Coaching Inquiries: How do you make sense of the guideline to avoid killing? Do you avoid killing at all costs? What exceptions, if any, do you make? How can you become more peaceable in your relations with others and with yourself?

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

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


Your poem and Provision, Seeing You, is well said. I really enjoyed it and shared it with my wife. Wishing you and your family all the best in 2010.


Seeing You” is such a beautiful, meaningful poem. It calls for more than just one reading.


I also enjoyed the movie Avatar and your poem “Seeing you” is not only beautiful but certainly my wish for 2010 for humanity. Thank you for another wonderful year that caused me to think and rethink my thoughts and therefore my actions.


Love it – I see you! 



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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