Provision #353: Ten Steps to Great Work

Laser Provision

“It’s great work, if you can get it!” conventionally refers to a cushy job that pays great money for little work. But this understanding of work has got to go. Great work is any work we love to do. This Provision wraps up our series with a summary of the ground we’ve covered over the past few months. By taking these ten steps, you too can get great work.

LifeTrek Provision

We’ve come to the end of the first quarter of 2004. During that time, the world has witnessed more violent tears to the fabric of civilized society. Our hearts go out to those who suffer and inflict violence in a vicious spiral, with no end in sight. We will turn our attention next week to the common values that unite rather than divide, that heal rather than hurt.

Until then, I want to recap the ground we’ve covered in the past three months. Starting with Tim Gallwey’s book, “The Inner Game of Work,” we’ve generated a series of Provisions that will energize the workplace or any other place we spend our days. Work, in the end, is what we do. Whether or not we get paid for it is irrelevant. Whether or not we love what we do makes a huge difference not only to the quality of our experience, but to the outcome as well.

If you want to love the work you do, paid or unpaid, by day or night, then these ten steps will take you in the right direction.

Step 1. SET A GOAL. And not just any goal. Set a “Big, Hairy Audacious Goal,” to borrow a phrase from management guru Jim Collins (of “Good to Great” fame). BHAGs beckon. They are spicy, definite, and bright. They exert an irresistible pull. You know when there’s a BHAG in your life, because you can hardly wait to get out of bed in the morning. BHAGs shake us up and get us moving. The quintessential example of a BHAG was when the US President, John F. Kennedy, set forth the vision of putting a human being on the moon in less than decade. But not all BHAGs are global, expensive, and held collectively. They can also be personal, affordable, and held privately. They may be directly or indirectly related to work. Either way, great work gives us opportunity to set and move in the direction of our goals.

Step 2. BE WELL GROUNDED. It’s not enough to have a goal. It’s not even enough to have a “Big, Hairy Audacious Goal.” Unless that goal is grounded in our core values, we will be unhappy and restless in its pursuit. When our goals and values are consistent, when we see the connection between them, there’s no telling the passion, commitment, integrity, sacrifice, and energy that will be unleashed. Well grounded goals, in even one individual, have the potential to change the world. They certainly change our way of being in the world. With well grounded goals, there’s no way to show up with a ho-hum, humdrum attitude. And there’s also no resentment about doing whatever it takes to get the job done. When our goals are well grounded, we find ourselves ready and willing to work.

Step 3. BE WELL ROUNDED. So what happens when our job sets goals and reflects values that are not in keeping with our own goals and values? That may, of course, suggest it’s time to change jobs. No one can happily endure a profound discontinuity. But if the gap is small, or if it arises from inadequate organizational planning, a well-rounded perspective may give us the opportunity to infuse an otherwise unhappy situation with the passion of great work. One LifeTrek client, for example, discovered his passion in the “extracurricular” activities his job afforded him. They weren’t in his job description, but the informal coaching and training he did with the executive team were enough to make an otherwise ordinary job extraordinary. Tim Gallwey urges us to set not only performance goals, but also learning and enjoyment goals for the workplace. This well-rounded approach to work can discover greatness in unexpected places.

Step 4. BE HERE AND NOW. As important as they are, well-rounded goals and values do not, in and of themselves, produce great work. They may even get in the way if they keep our attention on the future, at the expense of the present moment. And the more important the goal, the more likely we are to disparage the present moment for its shortcomings. But this is not the way to great work. The challenge is to appreciate the present moment as perfect, just the way it is, because no other moment will take us through to our desired future state. The here and now is the only moment any of us really have, and those of us with great work appreciate the here and now with all its blemishes and blessings. This was Tim Gallwey’s approach when he worked with a customer service department at AT&T. He devised a game to get people interested in the critical variables of their daily routine. By paying more attention, with nonjudgmental witnessing awareness, these people turned otherwise boring and stressful jobs into a better place to be.

Step 5. SET BOUNDARIES. Even great work, perhaps especially great work, requires us to set boundaries. Take life coaches, for example, and other persons who are able to work from home. Who wouldn’t want a job where the commute is a matter of walking downstairs! But even here, perhaps especially here, it is important to set boundaries. Otherwise, we either end up working all the time or hardly at all. And don’t think it’s easier to set boundaries when you are working for yourself rather than for someone else. Boundaries start in the mind; they are invisible lines that we draw in order to protect ourselves from the tyranny of what is not done. When we know our limits as to urgency, overtime, priorities, and autonomy we develop a more authentic relationship to the workplace. We may not get as much done, make as much as money, or exercise as much responsibility, but when we control our work (rather than our work controlling us) we have the opportunity to feel great about our choices and their consequences.

Step 6. HANG IN THERE. Studies of people who consider themselves lucky demonstrate that lucky people, among other things, hang in there longer than unlucky people. In other words, luck is not an accident. Through persistence and hard work, lucky people get more breaks than those who quit when the going gets tough. That exposes the lie of those who think great work is easy work. Just because we love the work we do doesn’t mean it’s any less work. Work, by definition, is “the expenditure of energy.” Does that make “great work” the expenditure of “great energy?” Sometimes it does. So we better train ourselves accordingly. Even those with desk jobs need to exercise their bodies, minds, and spirits in order to be fit enough to persevere through good times and bad. Great athletes understand and prepare for this eventuality. Regardless of our line of work, it won’t be great until we approach it with the same seriousness, preparation, and resolve.

Step 7. PLAN TIME FOR PLANNING. If there’s one universal complaint in the modern, 24-7 workplace it’s the shortage of time. There never seems to be enough time to get everything done. To-do lists and email in-boxes pile up and get longer by the hour. Urgent problems, requests, and breakdowns produce a cacophony of squeaky wheels. Firefighting is the rule rather than the exception in many, if not most, organizations. But this is not the way to great work. Those with great work consistently report planning the time to plan. Tim Gallwey speaks of this as the STOP tool: we Step back, Think, and Organize our thoughts before Proceeding. Steven Covey describes this as the important-not-urgent quadrant. Whatever the name, it’s clear that great work requires frequent short, medium, and long stops for planning. Here we can weigh the value of our activities, consider the wisdom of our strategy, visualize the sweep of our performance, affirm the intention of our being, release the creativity of our spirit, and breathe in the stillness of life.

Step 8. COACH THE SITUATION. By now one thing should be clear, if it wasn’t already: great work is generally not handed to us on a silver platter. In fact, it takes work to get great work, not only in the job search / job creation phase but also in the job performance phase. Great work, like great gardens, takes constant weeding, feeding, watering, pruning, and waiting. Sometimes we have to coach the situation in order to make work great. By paying attention to what’s really going on, without illusion, hype, or distortion, we can often transform the situation • or at least our relationship to the situation. Tim Gallwey recommends that we have a “conversation for awareness.” What’s happening? What stands out? How do we feel? What do we understand and don’t understand? What are the critical variables? What’s been working and not working? What’s the truth of the situation? Just asking ourselves and others these questions is sometimes enough to improve the situation. When seeking the truth of every situation becomes standard operating procedure, work moves inexorably from good to great.

Step 9. COACH THE INTENTION. If there’s one thing we can control, without any dependence on others, it’s our attitude. There’s no way for work to be great when we show up with a bad attitude. Our intentions shape the world. This truth has been expressed in many different cultures and many different words throughout history. It is a universal apprehension of how the world works. “Since it’s all invented anyway,” notes Rosamund and Benjamin Zander, “we might as well invent a story or framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us.” Of course that takes some doing, especially if we’re in a difficult situation or if we’re in the habit of doing otherwise. But if Victor Frankl can learn to do it in a concentration camp, we can learn to do it in a cubicle • or wherever else we happen to find ourselves. Tim Gallwey’s “conversation for choice” can assist us to move in this direction. We are not victims. We can freely choose our relationship to the world around us. What do we want to be happening? Why? What are the benefits and costs? What are the alternative possibilities? What changes would I have to make? Do I have any conflicting intentions? Once we get clear about the intention, it won’t be long before our focus creates an experience of greatness.

Step 10. COACH THE COMPLETION. Unfortunately, the work of intention is not magic. Intention is not a “set it and forget it” commodity. There is no genie, ready to grant our three intentions. On the contrary, intention is something we bring into being through great work. But this only happens when we believe in our ability to see intention through to completion. Self doubt and miserable work go hand in hand. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Regardless of how much water has gone over the dam, Tim Gallwey’s “conversation for trust” can get us back on track. Have we ever dealt successfully with anything like this before? What’s the most difficult aspect of the task at hand? Are there resources we could call in to help? What are the first steps? At our best, what qualities, attributes, and capabilities do we bring to the situation? An honest assessment will often reveal new strategies and generate new hope for the performance and enjoyment of great work.

Coaching Inquiries: How many of these steps have you taken? Which ones are more solid and which ones need reinforcement? Who could you talk with to move you forward? How could your work be great?

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

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

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


Last week’s Provision seemed like it was written directly to me. Thanks for your timely encouragement.


In Christina’s last Parenting Pathway, she wrote about bracketing as a way to fight the urge to deny your children’s feelings. I am not sure what she meant here. Do you mind putting it in different words? Are you saying that we, as parents should prevent our urge to deny those feelings of our child who cries? (Christina’s Note: Bracketing is when we turn down the volume on our own internal chatter in order to understand another person’s words, thoughts, or feelings. Using this with our children is a very effective listening tool and can be helpful when, as parents, we have unproductive urges that might get in the way of our children exploring and sharing their feelings.)


I am participating in your “Awakening through Art” teleclass. I have gotten so much out of this free Pilot Program and it has been a real learning adventure. The six Pathways to Creativity are excellent tools that I now have in my cache of knowledge and I thank you for your friendly professionalism and generosity in inviting me to participate. I look forward to using the tools, techniques, and books as I kick off my own Life Skills Coaching Practice in a bigger way.  



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 #352: Approach the Completion

Laser Provision

To move our intentions forward, we need to let go of our limiting assumptions and to believe in our extraordinary ability to act on our choices. When you engage someone or yourself in what Tim Gallwey calls “the conversation for trust,” watch out! The power that stands ready to be unleashed really can change the world.

LifeTrek Provision

Writing about the power of intention, as we did in last week’s Provision Click, can be dangerous. It’s easy to leave the impression, given the power of intention to recreate the world around us, that we’re talking about a genie in the lamp. Rub the lamp, make three wishes, sit back, and let the good times roll.

But that understanding is far from the truth. Intentions, like gardens, require constant weeding, feeding, and watching before they stand ready for the harvest.

Failing to recognize this important, critical dynamic undermines the ability of many people to love the work they do. They may know all about the situation at hand, and they may also know what they would like to change about their relationship to that situation, but they doubt their ability to make it so. As a result, they fail to move from intention to completion.

Self doubt expresses itself in many guises. One common disguise is confusion about our gifts and talents. By staying in the dark about who we are, we frustrate our ability to put intention into action. “I’m not sure I can do that” is a great excuse for doing nothing at all.

Claiming our gifts and talents has the opposite effect. Teachers teach. Entertainers entertain. Runners run. And plumbers plumb. Politicians politic. Singers sing. Weavers weave. And thinkers think. Writers write. Bakers bake. Coaches coach. And parents parent. Knowing our gifts and talents is an irresistible draw to live out the full measure of our calling.

Another common disguise is confusion about our core values. By staying in the dark about whose we are, and about what we are charged to do by virtue of our core values, we avoid the responsibility of our intentions. “I’m not sure I want to do that” is another way to sit on our hands.

Claiming our core values once again has the opposite effect. When quality time with our loved ones is a core value, it becomes easier to see that intention through to completion. When making peace in the world is a core value, it becomes easier to take the risks that peacemaking inevitably entails. When a healthy body, mind, and spirit is a core value, it becomes easier to establish habits and boundaries for personal wellness.

A third common disguise is confusion about our feelings. By staying in the dark about how we feel, we end up tolerating situations and conditions that work against our best intentions. “I’m not sure I care about that” is a prescription for maintaining the status quo, even when it’s not that great.

Claiming our feelings will often jumpstart the opposite effect. Until we get sick and tired of being sick and tired, chances are we won’t do much about it. But once we claim our feelings, watch out. We may have tolerated a messy office for months, or even years, for example, saying, “It’s not that bad. I know where everything is. I can work with it.” But when we claim our feelings of disgust, over tolerations large and small, watch out. There’s no telling the action it can propel.

For intentions to become reality, our confusion must give way to clear, focused thought which leads to clear, focused action. Doubts about our ability to see our intentions through to completion fade away as we become clear about our gifts and talents, our core values, and our feelings.

Tim Gallwey refers to this process of minimizing doubt and mustering courage as the conversation for trust. After the conversation for awareness, which generates a clear picture of the situation at hand, and after the conversation for choice, which generates a clear picture of our intention, the conversation for trust generates a clear picture of our ability to move forward and get things done.

If ever there was an archetypal illustration of the conversation for trust, it was the conversation Moses had, some 4,000 years ago, before the burning bush in the desert of the Sinai peninsula. For those who don’t know the story, Moses was living in exile after he killed a slave holder who was beating one of his relatives.

So Moses knew that his people were suffering terribly. And I’m sure, if he had that genie in the lamp, he would have wished for their liberation. But Moses had no confidence that he or anyone else could do anything about the situation. So instead of seeing the intention through to completion, he fled to the desert to take up with the shepherds.

It was there, in the desert, while keeping watch over the flock, that a burning bush caught his attention. Before that bush, he heard a voice that reminded him of two things: (a.) that he was standing on holy ground, and (b.) that his people were suffering greatly.

In other words, the voice began with a conversation for awareness. What’s happening? Moses had tried to forget and ignore. What’s happening? My people are in great misery, crying for deliverance from their harsh slave drivers. What’s happening? I stand now, and have always stood, in the presence of the Holy One.

This conversation for awareness led immediately to a conversation for choice. Given what’s happening, what do you want to do? Do you want to emancipate your people from their condition? Or do you want to go back to tending your sheep? Moses was torn. He wanted his people to be free, but it was an impossible dream. And it was so much safer and easier just to be a shepherd.

So the voice began a conversation for trust. “It’s time for you to go back, Moses. I want you to bring my people out of slavery.” “But why me? What makes you think that I could face the king and all his armies?” “I will be with you.” “And who are you?” “I am who I am. I intend what I intend. Trust me.” “How can I be sure?” “Signs and wonders will make you and others trust the power of this intention.” “But I’m no good at public speaking. I don’t believe I can do it.” “The one who made your mouth will make your words.” “I beg you, please send someone else.” “No. I want You to do this. Now go.”

Do you see how the conversation for trust deals with our gifts and talents, our core values, and our feelings? Moses had to deal with all three before the intention move through to completion. He had to believe, in his heart of hearts, not only that this thing was possible but also that he could somehow be a catalyst for change. Until that happened, Moses was destined to remain in the desert and his people were destined to remain in slavery.

After the conversation for trust, there was no stopping the man. He left everything behind, including family and friends, in order to move this intention forward. And it wasn’t easy. There was plenty of risk and lots of hard work. But the in the end, Moses set in motion a movement that has not stopped to this very day, thousands of years later.

That’s quite a shift: from a shepherd in hiding to a champion in the making. But this is precisely the shift that happens through the conversation for trust. It’s not enough to know what’s happening and what changes you would make if you could make them. We must also trust our ability to be the catalyst for change. We must have a strong sense of efficacy in the face of obstacles and opportunities.

Gallwey makes the observation that the conversation for trust turns us, once again, into little children. Trust is a natural attribute of children. They know no bounds. Their options are limitless. They have closed no doors. They dream the impossible into being.

The conversation for trust returns us to such a position. “The job of the coach,” writes Gallwey, “is to help the client unlearn the doubts, fears, and limiting assumptions that inevitably accumulate over time.” It is to minimize self-interference and to maximize the recognition of and confidence in the client’s own capabilities.

Gallwey suggests the following questions as useful in the conversation for trust.

  • If you could do it any way you wanted, how would you go about accomplishing this task?
  • When have you succeeded in a challenge similar to this one?
  • At your best, what qualities, attributes, and capabilities do you bring to the situation?
  • Where could you find the help you need to accomplish this task?
  • What’s the most difficult aspect of this task?
  • What is your understanding of this situation?
  • What first steps do you see?
  • How comfortable (confident) do you feel about doing x?
  • What did you like most about the way you accomplished this task?”

Some of these questions come straight from Moses and the desert! Applied to our life and work today, they have the potential to unleash the same measure of power.

If you want to see your intentions through to completion, then it’s time to start weeding and feeding your garden with the conversation for trust. Eliminate confusion and equivocation. Get clear about your gifts and talents, your core values, and your feelings. Once that happens, the rest will follow.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you believe in your ability to make dreams come true? Are there things you have been putting off that would make life better? How could your intentions get legs and move through to completion?

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

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

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


Your Provision on the power of intention, with all the references, was a truly super LifeTrek Provision…..life is good! Thanks.


I noticed that your Amazon link for Tim Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Work was a dead link. (Ed. Note: The link has been fixed. Thanks for noticing! See the bookstore below.) 



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 #351: Approach the Intention

Laser Provision

Have you chosen the work you do? Or does it hang around your neck, like an albatross? A good, hard look at your situation is a step in the right direction. But then you have to approach your true intention. What are you all about? What do you want to be doing? Why? Since our intentions impact and may even invent the world, it behooves us to get them right.

LifeTrek Provision

If there’s a common theme in self-help literature, including the world of coaching and the pages of LifeTrek Provisions, it’s the power of positive intentions. There’s no way to dispute the connection between intention and outcome.

Want to conduct your own intention experiment? Look around and focus on something you can pick up that’s within reach. Now pick it up. Look at it carefully, even appreciatively, and notice one thing you may not have noticed before; then put it back down.

What determined the outcome of your picking up and studying that object? In part, it had to do with your physical and mental capacity to conduct the experiment. But it also had to do with your intention. For whatever reason, you focused on one particular object. And that focus • your intention — combined with your capacity and action, produced an outcome.

Throughout the ages, this simple formula (Intention + Capacity + Action = Outcome) has generated countless words of wisdom from cultures around the world. Consider the following examples:

“You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.4.5, c. 500 BCE)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” (Paul of Tarsus, Romans 12:2, 50 CE)

“If you can change your mind, you can change your life. What you believe creates the actual fact. The greatest revolution of my generation is the discovery that individuals, by changing their inner attitudes of mind, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” (Williams James, The Will to Believe, 1897)

“Truly, ‘thoughts are things,’ and powerful things at that, when they are mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a burning desire for their realization in the material world. Our brains become magnetized with the dominating thoughts which we hold in our minds and, once magnetized, these ‘magnets’ attract to us the forces, the people, the circumstances of life which harmonize with the nature of our dominating thoughts. Success comes to those who become success conscious. Failure comes to those who indifferently allow themselves to become failure conscious.” (Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich, 1937)

“Dr. Karl Menninger once said, ‘Attitudes are more important than facts.’ That is worth repeating until its truth grips you. Any fact facing us, however difficult, even seemingly hopeless, is not so important as our attitude toward that fact. How you think about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. On the other hand, a confident and optimistic thought pattern can modify or overcome the fact altogether.” (Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking, 1952)

“It is comfortable and natural to say, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it, and not a moment before!’ But the universal principle works the other way around: ‘You’ll see it when you believe it, and not a moment before!’ If, for example, you believe strongly in scarcity, think about it regularly, and make it the focus of your conversations, then I am confident you will see a great deal of it in your life. On the other hand, if you believe in happiness and abundance, think only about them, talk about them with others, and act on your belief in them, then it is a very good bet that you are seeing what you believe.” (Wayne Dyer, You’ll See It When You Believe It, 1989)

“The First Principle of Creativity simply states that your thought creates. Therefore if you want to create an experience, you must begin by having a clear, focused thought of that experience. The First Principle also states that whatever you clearly focus on, you do create, whether or not you want to. Clear focus is the mind’s magic wand. It points your creativity in a particular direction and channels your experience behind it. Wherever you clearly focus, you create.” (Sonia Choquette, Your Heart’s Desire, 1997)

“Every successful endeavor first begins in the mind as an idea, a thought, a dream, a conviction. As any great athlete, entrepreneur, or performer will tell you, ‘You can’t do it, if your head’s not in it.’ You also can’t do it if you don’t know where you’re going, or why, or how you’re going to get there.” (Gayle Reichler, Active Wellness, 1998)

“It’s all invented. No matter how objective we try to be, it is still through the structure of the brain that we perceive the world. The mind constructs a map of reality that has to do with our very survival. It also strings together events into story lines, using dreams and reasons, whether or not there is any connection between the parts. Since it’s all invented anyway, we might as well invent a story or framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us.” (Rosamund & Benjamin Zander, The Art of Possibility, 2000)

Perhaps this sheds new light on Margaret Meade’s famous comment: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” This quote has served as the rallying cry for many a fledgling movement. But it speaks not only to the power of small groups; it also speaks to the power of thoughtful commitment without which no small group has ever changed the world. Without intention there is nothing.

That’s why Tim Gallwey suggests that once we approach the situation we find ourselves in, whether at work, home, or anywhere else, we need to approach the intention of what we want to happen with that situation. If there’s any way to love the work we do, it’s to feel as though we have chosen our work rather than to have it forced upon us.

But shifting into the mode of being at choice can be a daunting task. Many of us feel stuck, constrained, and victimized by a wide variety of factors, ranging from the almighty paycheck to office politics to entrenched life positions. “Better the devil we know than the devil we don’t know” is a mantra that has kept many people in check with their old, tired ruts long after a change was indicated.

At times like these, Gallwey encourages a “conversation for choice.” It may be awkward, fearful, and otherwise intimidating to honestly face the questions of what we want out of life in general and a situation in particular, but there is no better way to move forward than to discover and clarify your true intentions through the power of conversation.

Fundamentally, this is what the coaching profession is all about. We assist people to get clear about where they want to go and how they want to get there, including all the details of when and why. The coaching conversation is all about choice. Sometimes that choice works within the bounds of existing commitments and circumstances. Other times it moves us in totally new directions. But in every instance it seeks to honor and express our true intentions.

I have written before about Victor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist who conditioned his circumstances in a Nazi concentration camp by choosing the attitude he would take in relationship to his oppressors and the lessons he would learn from his terrible losses, including the extermination of his wife. Frankl could not change his circumstances, but it was his intention to survive with dignity and grace. And his choices enabled him to do that.

Choices are always made in the context of commitments and constraints. For two years, for example, my wife and I maintained a commuting household, across 600 miles, so that we could honor the commitment to our son who was in his junior and senior years of high school. We could have viewed that time as a necessary evil, limiting our options as well as our outcomes. Instead, we chose to make the most of that time, developing new communication patterns, relationships, and opportunities for both life and work.

You too can make the most of your situation. Gallwey suggests the following starter questions in the conversation for choice:

  • What do you really want?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What are the benefits of x? What would be the costs of not pursuing x?
  • What would it look like in y weeks, months, years, from now? What don’t you like about those ends?
  • What would be a fulfilling means of getting there?
  • What changes would you like to make?
  • What do you feel most strongly about in this situation?
  • Who or what are you doing this for? How does this fit in with your current priorities?
  • Do you have any conflicts about this course of action?
  • What would success in this endeavor mean to you?
  • What alternative possibilities can you consider?”

The conversation for choice, Gallwey notes, boils down to one, overarching question: “Why would you want do that?” When you get clear about your true intention, it becomes second nature to develop the resources and reduce the interference in order to take effective action and achieve desired results. When that happens, it’s only a matter a time before you too experience the promise of all those words of wisdom.

Coaching Inquiries: Are you clear about your true intentions? What changes would you have to make in life and work in order to honor those intentions? Are you willing and able to make those changes? Who could you talk with to explore this on a deep level?

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

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

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


Our church has sent 80-90 teens every summer to an ASP project. It is a life affirming experience. My daughter went one summer and is a better person for it. How wonderful to hear about the founder!


Thanks for Life Trek Coaching! I’m a Chinese student preparing to take the GRE test in which there are two compositions, one is issue and the other is argument. When I was frustrated in how to write, I remembered LifeTrek Coaching. I have been reading your e-mails carefully, and I have found much useful information for my compositions. In addition to my test, your Provisions are good for my life. I am learning a lot from you on how to study efficiently and how to communicate with friends. Thank 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

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 #350: Approach the Situation

Laser Provision

It’s easy to love the work we do when two things are true: when we see its value and when we enjoy the experience. Unfortunately, work often falls far short of this ideal. How can we turn things around? By getting real, being honest, and raising our awareness of what’s going on. Approaching the situation with no illusions and blind spots is a big step in the right direction.

LifeTrek Provision

Here in Provisions, we have been exploring how to love our work during the first quarter of 2004. Let’s be clear about our options here. We can love our work either because we believe in what we are doing or because we enjoy what we are doing. Of course it’s possible, and ideal, for both to be true. If, on the other hand, neither is true, then it’s impossible to love the work we do and it’s definitely time to make a change.

This model can be conceptualized as a four-quadrant matrix, with “value” on the Y axis and “joy” on the X axis. The high-value, high-joy quadrant, in the upper right-hand corner, is where we all want to be. When the work is important, not just because someone says it’s important but because we see its connection to our core values, and when the work is pleasant, because we enjoy our activities, colleagues, opportunities, and learnings, then it’s easy to reach and even exceed our potential.

I remember fondly one illustration from my days, some 30 years ago, with the Appalachia Service Project (ASP) in southeast Kentucky. This church-related work camp, which continues to this day, repairs the homes of low-income mountaineer families, at no charge to the families, through in-kind and cash contributions as well as plenty of volunteer labor. Visit ASP Home.

The founder of the ASP, the Rev. Glen “Tex” Evans, was a character from east Texas with a heart of gold and a penchant for telling tall tales. If anyone could get you going with just the right combination of challenge, support, theology, and shenanigans, it was Tex.

One of his favorite techniques for getting people to do a particularly tough and dirty job was to review with his volunteers all the jobs scheduled for the week. He would not even mention the tough job until everyone had volunteered for something. Then, almost as an after thought, he would mention that there was one more job that really needed doing but that he couldn’t rightly ask anyone to do it. So he would return to reviewing the logistics of the work already assigned.

Well, you can imagine the curiosity and challenge that such an approach provoked. Before too long, someone would say, “Tell us about that other job, Tex.” And he would reply, “No, I think that’s a bit much for you volunteers to handle.” A couple more exchanges like that and Tex would have them eating out of his hand, lining up to do the toughest and dirtiest job of the summer.

Why did that work? Some of it had to do with Tex’s charisma. He had a way of connecting everything, even the tough jobs, to the circle of life. But most of it had to do with being in the high-value, high-joy quadrant. Everyone understood the importance of moving a foul and polluted latrine away from the living space of little children. And they also knew that together, with the right attitude and camaraderie, they could make even the most unpleasant of tasks enjoyable.

So, for at least a week, they got to play in the place where they believed in and enjoyed their work. By the time they went home, to business as usual, these volunteers often spoke of having lived through a life-changing experience. It was not just their encounter with poverty in a cross-cultural setting. It was the opportunity to be so connected to their core values and to have so much fun, all at the same time.

Now how do we bring this high-value, high-joy experience into our everyday life and work? It may take some serious study and reflection, or what Tex would have called “cogitating,” when the connection to our core values is not so obvious and the climate for our endeavors is not so favorable. But if we hope to love the work we do, then we have to address these questions until we come up with solid answers.

Anything less will put us right back into the rat race. And, as some have noted, the problem with being in the race race is that even if you win, you are still a rat.

One way to begin our cogitation is to make use of the coach approach, beginning with Tim Gallwey’s “conversation for awareness.” Until we have the clearest possible picture of current reality there’s no way to really know what quadrant we are working in. We may be working in the high-value, high-joy quadrant without realizing it (even high-value, high-joy work can be difficult); on the other hand, we may think we are in the high-value, high-joy quadrant when we’re really not (even low-value, low-joy work can be dressed up to look appealing).

In his recent book, The Ultimate Weight Solution, Phil McGraw spoke of this conversation in terms of “getting real” and “being honest.” “Stop telling yourself that you just absolutely ‘have to’ lose weight,” he writes in chapter one, “because that’s a lie. You don’t ‘have to’ lose weight. You may want to, you may even need to, but you don’t have to.” You can be overweight until the day you die!

Telling yourself that you “have to” lose weight and you “must” lose weight is something you’ve been telling yourself “because you thought it would motivate you. But lying to yourself won’t help you.” Drama and self-recrimination won’t help you. But getting up each morning, very calm and very relaxed, looking in the mirror and seeing yourself as you really are • not just overweight and out of shape • but also a person with dignity and worth who can succeed in spite of past failures • will help you.

“As my friend Maya Angelou has so wisely said,” McGraw concludes, “You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better.” That’s the perspective from which we can exercise the power to be in charge of what we think, do, and feel. That’s the perspective from which we can design a healthy life that is as natural and as normal as breathing.

And that’s the perspective that comes from what Gallwey calls the conversation for awareness. McGraw’s imaginary peering into the morning mirror was just such a conversation. When we see the whole picture, what’s been happening and what is possible, our external and internal dynamics, we grasp the full potential of the moment.

Of Gallwey’s three coaching conversations, the first conversation, the conversation for awareness, is the most critical and powerful of them all. Without an awareness of what’s happening in the present moment, we cannot choose and we cannot trust our choice.

“What’s happening?” is the operative question in the conversation for awareness. Gallwey makes a distinction between our opinion about what’s happening and pure observation. Our opinion about what’s happening can be clouded by our assumptions, judgments, addictions, wounds, habits, biases, prejudices, and past experiences. Pure observation attempts to set all these aside, to bracket them at least temporarily, in order to come to an honest appraisal of the situation.

And the situation always includes our internal feelings and inklings. But Gallwey urges us approach these internal realities at arm’s length • as though we were eavesdropping on our own thoughts and feelings. In other words, we become a participant-observer in our own life. We see the external and internal worlds as they really are, with all their warts and all their potential.

Gallwey suggests the following open-ended questions as appropriate in the early stages of the conversation for awareness.

  • What’s happening?
  • What stands out?
  • What do you notice when you look at x?
  • How do you feel about this situation?
  • What do you understand about x? What don’t you understand?
  • How would you frame the underlying problem?
  • How would you define the task?
  • What are the critical variables in this situation? How do they relate to one another?
  • What are the anticipated consequences of x?
  • What standards and time frame have you accepted in this task?
  • What has been working? Not working?

Notice how many of these questions focus our attention on the situation and on our reaction to the situation. By paying attention to critical variables in the present moment, suspending judgment until clarity emerges, we become aware of the values and pleasures that are playing themselves out. Once we become aware, we have already taken a big step in the right direction.

Coaching Inquiries: What are the core values and pleasures playing themselves out in your life? How could you raise your awareness of the critical variables in your work? Would it help to talk honestly with yourself, a friend, or a coach? How could you more often be in the high-value, high-joy quadrant?

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

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

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


I have a discipline I thought you might like to try. I learned it from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn. He called it a “walking meditation” that simply follows the breath and the step saying on the inhale “yes, yes, yes” and on the exhale “thank you, thank you, thank you.” It’s a great discipline for becoming aware in the present moment.


I read with great interest the article on coaches. I recently became a golf and tennis coach. I especially liked the examples you used. I’ve been praying and working like mad to become a good coach. Anyway I liked the article and wanted you to know how much I appreciate it.  



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 #349: The Coach Approach

Laser Provision

In many circles, coaching has become the rage. Companies seek to incorporate coaching in management, schools in supervision, and parents in child raising. But what constitutes good coaching? And can it really make a difference in our experience of life and work? This Provision begins to answer those questions with solid definitions and coaching strategies.

LifeTrek Provision

We all probably have memories and images of coaches we have come to love and hate. They may have been our own coaches, from long ago up to the present moment, the coaches of our children, or the bigger-than-life coaches who take center stage in the media.

In high school, I threw shot-put and discus on the track team. In addition to designing and tracking our strength workouts, our coach focused on technique. I can remember the daily practices under his watchful eye, as well as the eyes of my peers, to learn the tricks that would transform strength into distance.

My coach wore many different hats. Sometimes, he was the teacher • showing us how it was done. Other times, he was the disciplinarian • making us work hard. Still other times, he was the strategist • setting training schedules and making substitutions along the way. He was also, of course, the conscience • using shame, guilt, loyalty, promises, rewards, and surprises to keep our heart in the game. I have positive memories of this coach.

But then there was my daughter’s high-school soccer coach, who was so negative in his orientation that my daughter and many other girls eventually quit the team. They were tired of his constant criticism, his preferential treatment of players, his failure to teach new skills, his mishandling of personnel, his impatience with injury, and his public insults at team meetings and recognition ceremonies. The team did well in spite of him, rather than because of him, and they never lived up to their potential. It wasn’t until the man was gone that the team eventually went to the State championship.

In the public arena, there can be no greater study in contrasts than Phil Jackson and Bobby Knight. Jackson, who has coached professional basketball in Chicago and Los Angeles, demonstrates the patience and intuition of a Zen master, especially with his more temperamental players. Knight, who has coached college basketball in Indiana and Texas, demonstrates the impatience and demandingness of a drill sergeant, even to the point of corporal punishment. No wonder the man makes headlines as much for his temper and run-ins with authority as for his victories on the court.

I mention these different memories and images of coaches and coaching in order to surface your own recollections and experiences. Good and bad coaching may be hard to define, but we know it when we see it.

And we see a lot of it in the workplace, where coaching is all the rage when it comes to leadership and management theory. The executive, director, manager, principal, and leader as coach literature is big business, with some organizations going so far as to include the word “coach” in various position and job titles.

As a professional coach, I’ve had many conversations over the years about how to make coaching come alive in a wide variety of contexts. Leaders want to use coaching in order to stop micromanaging and start inspiring their organizations. Trainers want to use coaching in order to translate learning into habit. Parents want to use coaching in order to improve relationships with their teenage children. Artists want to use coaching in order to unlock creativity and manage business.

Unfortunately, all that glitters is not gold. Changing a title or even the concept of a position does not change the person in the position. Using the words “coach” or “coaching” does not guarantee any shift in orientation, perspective, style, or substance. Until we understand and apply the principles of good coaching, we will continue to suffer substandard performances and experiences. Once we understand and apply the principles of good coaching, we may indeed learn to love the work we do.

To grasp some of the principles of good coaching, I would invite you to consider the following five definitions of coaching:

  • “Coaching is the art of creating an environment, through conversation and a way of being, that facilitates the process by which a person can move toward desired goals in a fulfilling manner.” (Tim Gallwey, The Inner Game of Work, 2000)
  • “Coaching is an ongoing professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses or organizations. Through the process of coaching, (people) deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life.”  (International Coach Federation, Definition of Coaching, 2004)
  • “Coaching is essentially a conversation within a productive, results-oriented context. Coaching involves helping individuals access what they know. They may never have asked themselves the questions, but they have the answers. A coach assists, supports, and encourages individuals to find these answers. Coaching involves learning. Through various coaching techniques such as listening, reflecting, asking questions, and providing information, coachees become self-correcting (they learn how to correct their behavior themselves) and self-generating (they generate their own questions and answers). Coaching is more about asking the right questions than providing answers • a coach engages in a collaborative alliance with the individual to establish and clarify purpose and goals and to develop a plan of action to achieve these goals.” (Perry Zeus and Suzanne Skiffington, The Complete Guide to Coaching at Work, 2000)
  • “Coaching is a relationship that creates transformation and learning in persons, groups, and communities. It starts with engaging people in a conversation where they clarify their vision, goals, and ideas as well as their agreement to be challenged and supported. It assumes that people have the inherent creativity, intelligence, and tacit knowledge they need to succeed but may need help in gaining access to it. It revolves around committed listening and speaking. It involves setting stretch goals, eliciting internal commitment and motivation and self-directed learning, creating a successful theory of action, practicing the fundamentals, observing breakdowns, providing meaningful feedback, as well as teaching new skills and capabilities.” (Robert Hargrove, Masterful Coaching, 1995)
  • Coaching is the art of listening to another person in a way that moves them forward toward desired goals. It assists people to clarify their thinking, clear their feelings, construct their plans, and control their actions. (Bob Tschannen-Moran, 2004)

These definitions begin to hint at those principles we need to understand and apply if we want to be successful in today’s world. To highlight a few key words and phrases: Coaching is about partnership, collaboration, learning, movement, performance, and quality of life. It involves listening, reflecting, asking questions, and providing information. It treats people as creative, intelligent, and capable. It works with vision, goals, ideas, commitment, motivation, feelings, planning, action, and feedback.

Are those the words you would use to describe the relationships you have with people at work? How about your relationships at home, with your partner, spouse, or children? If not, then your work and relationships probably leave something to be desired. And good coaching may very well be the antidote.

To get a better handle on how good coaching looks, feels, and works, I intend to use the next few issues of Provisions to explore the coach approach in terms of three coaching conversations identified by Tim Gallwey in “The Inner Game of Work.”

Gallwey speaks of coaching as “eavesdropping on someone’s thinking process” not to give advice or counsel but to listen for and reveal the way they are thinking, how their attention is focused, and how they define the key elements of the situation. As a nonjudgmental thinking partner, providing minimal technical instruction, coaches assist people to move toward a desired outcome. This approach, Gallwey observes, “can usually be completed in a fraction of the time it takes using the traditional model of coach as problem solver.”

Mobility is what Gallwey understands coaching to be all about. Coaches assist people to “move toward desired goals in a fulfilling manner.” And he sees this as happening primarily through three conversations: (1) “a conversation for awareness (getting the clearest possible picture of current reality), (2) a conversation for choice (getting the clearest possible picture of the desired future outcome), and (3) a conversation for trust (in which the client gains greater access to internal and external resources in order to move from current reality to the desired future).”

In the next three weeks, we will look at each of these conversations in detail. Unfortunately, they’re all too rare in organizations and in families. But it’s not beyond each and every one of us to adopt the coach approach as our way of being and doing in the world.

Coaching Inquiries: Has there been a great coach in your life? What difference did they make? Do you carry some part of them with you? How could you be a better coach to those you work and live with?

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

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

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


You had something in a Provision recently, I think, about a juice fast you do. I thought I saved it but can’t find it. Could you resend that info please? Thanks (Ed. Note: It is archived on the Web, including recipes, along with hundreds of other Wellness Pathways Click).


I have really liked the last two LifeTrek provisions, however, as much as I try to apply the wisdom, I come back to my level of dissatisfaction and unhappiness with my work. I have two jobs, my first is actually a career. I am for the most part happy with my career but my second job (on my days off) is dragging me down with unhappiness and dissatisfaction, especially my immediate supervisor and the organization’s inability to organize and think on our feet. I just can’t believe how this is getting me down!!! Any words of wisdom??? Thanks!! (Ed. Question: Why keep the second job? Is what you are buying with that paycheck worth what it is costing in terms of your well being? Give us a call if you want to talk.)


I’m a subscriber of LifeTrek Coaching from India. I wish to thank you for the contents mailed to me regularly. Is there any way by which I can be a coach like YOU? Any course or books you recommend? Or any training session? Please mail me if there is a way out. (Ed. Note: You may want to join and explore www.CoachVille.com). 


I have six inside pets and use a lot of essentials oils and scented candles for fragrance, is this a “No No?” Thank you for your time and energy today. (Ed. Note: How do they make you feel? Watch out for petroleum-based ingredients in your fragrances.) 



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 #348: Start It

Laser Provision

This side of the grave, there’s no way to actually stop and do nothing. We stop one thing in order to start another. But lest we go from one busy-busy activity to the next, without interruption, it behooves us to stop and think. This Provision identifies seven thinking strategies that can make life better when practiced regularly.

LifeTrek Provision

In last week’s Provision, Click, I wrote about the importance of interrupting the press, problems, and pace of work. It may seem counterintuitive to pull in the reins and stop when there’s so much that needs doing and fixing, but it’s important to let up from time to time if we want to achieve our objective and enjoy ourselves along the way.

My specific charge was to (1) Stop pushing performance at the expense of learning and enjoyment, (2) Stop criticizing ourselves and others in the name of management and quality control, and (3) Stop rushing through the day with no time to prioritize and plan. All three stops require conscious choice and active coaching in order to counter the incessant momentum of life and work. Time waits for no one, but we can wait for a time.

As many LifeTrek Coaching clients discover, to take time out requires clarity about one’s core values and vision. To “just say no” to the demands of the day takes determination and resolve. It’s especially hard to “just say no” to legitimate things, since the weight of society is not always on our side.

Take sleep as an example. Sleep represents the biggest stop of the day for most people. But who among us has not cut short our sleep in order to get something done at work or around the house? With the advent of computers, it has become even easier to work 24-7. And again, who has not fallen asleep only to be woken up in the middle of the night with something on our minds? We lie in bed, we toss and turn, until we finally give up and get up.

Sleep studies have demonstrated that people sleep better when they go to bed and get up at more or less the same time each day, seven days a week. They don’t often mention how challenging this can be. And I have never seen them mention our core values and vision in relationship to our sleep schedule.

But the decision to stop what you are doing and go to sleep before the point of exhaustion is, at its core, a highly-principled decision. It is to say, “The business of life can wait. My sleep is more important.” Some make this decision out of their understanding of personal wellness, others for the recovery value to their waking energy, and still others in recognition of the treasurers sleep can bring in terms of insight and wisdom.

Regardless of your framework, the decision to stop doing one thing in favor of another is not to be taken lightly. We are always doing something, so the decision to stop one thing is simultaneously the decision to start another • even if it’s just sitting still.

My favorite poet, David Whyte, illustrates the power of sitting still with a simple poem called “Enough.”

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
until now.

Until now.

This poem was written by someone who knows how to embrace the rhythm of stopping busy-work and starting breath-work in order to enhance the meaning and measure of life. Although David may go deeper than most, he speaks a profound truth that applies to one and all: there is more to life than being busy.

Deep down we know this, but if we stop the busy-ness, what do we start doing? If we even have a hard time stopping to sleep, how can we possibly bring ourselves to stop during the waking hours, while the phone rings, the email chimes, the kids cry, and the deadlines loom? It takes more than an act of will. It takes a plan, that we recognize as important, for doing something different.

Tim Gallwey suggests that we plan to use the time to stop and think. He turns STOP into an acronym, Step back, Think, Organize our thoughts, and Proceed, in order to describe what we can do with short, medium, and long stops throughout the day. He wants us take the time to gain perspective, raise consciousness, set priorities, savor accomplishments, recognize mistakes, and connect with the true purpose of our life and work.

The problem with Gallwey’s acronym is that “thinking” sounds so very analytic, as though we need to measure our every move in terms of pros and cons. But “thinking” is much bigger than analysis which, as one of our readers notes (Go There), can often lead to analysis paralysis.

To get a better handle on the richness of “thinking” and of what we can start thinking about when we stop doing stuff, here are six tried and true approaches.

(1) Weigh the value of our activities. What do they mean in the overall scheme of things? Are they worth doing at all? Are they worth doing well? How much time and attention do they deserve? In other words, how do they relate to our values and vision of life and work? Based upon our assessment of the importance of any given activity, we may decide to make some changes. Too often we go about doing things that should have been delegated or dumped. As a result, we end up over promising and under delivering. Starting to think about the value of our activities can reduce or even eliminate such occurrences.

(2) Consider the wisdom of our strategy. “Insanity,” observed Albert Einstein, is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Such is the stuff of Dilbert cartoons. By pushing just a little harder and just a little longer, we think we can finally make things work. But if the problem is a wrong-headed strategy, no amount of pushing will lead to success. Marathon runners know that if we push too hard at the beginning of the race we will crash at the end of the race. Unlike shorter races, marathons require a more carefully planned strategy. Starting to think about strategy, to be sure its realistic and attainable, can avoid disappointment and injury.

(3) Visualize the sweep of our performance. We can think in pictures as well as in words. We can see visions and dream dreams in living color. “Visualization,” writes Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott in their book on mastering the body-mind-spirit connection, “is an active, preplanned attempt to choose appropriate success images while in a deeply relaxed state of mind in order to influence how your body responds to a set of circumstances. It is a learned skill that needs to be practiced regularly in a relaxed state.” Through visualization we can feel, hear, smell, and touch the task at hand in advance of the task itself. Positive visualization produces positive experiences and positive results.

(4) Affirm the intention of our being. I call this self-coaching. Affirmations are different from visualizations, since they rely on words. But affirmations are not analytic words; they are synthetic words • bringing together separate elements to form a coherent whole. They work best when they are short, positive, and present tense (even when we don’t fully embody them in the present moment). By saying or writing affirmations repetitiously, like a mantra, they assist us to live into the intention they represent. For example: “I take a genuine interest in people,” “I’m fast, relaxed, and strong,” and “I persist each day in the pursuit of truth” are affirmations that have the power to transform our life and work.

(5) Release the creativity of our spirit. Instead of censoring ideas, we can express them through brainstorming and heart storming. We can let them flow, stream-of-consciousness style, through a variety of modalities. The most obvious is to write them down in a journal, but we can often generate even more ideas by using poetry, music, movement, drawing, and sculpture. As one client recently noted, “working with clay is so grounding.” In my case, writing Provisions and sharing them with the world has become an important discipline for seeing new connections and possibilities. It is a very public journal and an important weekly stop enabling me to express and experience creativity.

(6) Breathe in the stillness of life. This is another way to get our bodies involved with the thinking process and it certainly speaks to the wisdom of David Whyte’s poem. “These few words are enough. If not these words, this breath. If not this breath, this sitting here.” By controlling the breath we shift our thinking into meditative modes. It is the opposite of brainstorming and heart storming. Instead of pouring forth all the creativity our spirits have to muster, we quiet down in order to listen to the still, small voice of life. Robert Fulghum learned in kindergarten the importance of taking naps. Whether we sleep or not, a relaxed and quiet mind is the one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. Controlling our breath facilitates the kind of thinking that leads to successful and deliberate action.

David captures this dynamic of connecting our stops with the pulsing rhythm of life in another short poem, ironically called, “It is not Enough.”

It is not enough to know.
It is not enough to follow
the inward road conversing in secret.

It is not enough to see straight ahead,
to gaze at the unborn
thinking the silence belongs to you.

It is not enough to hear
even the tiniest edge of rain.

You must go to the place
where everything waits,
there, when you finally rest,
even one word will do,
one word or the palm of your hand
turning outward
in the gesture of gift.

And now we are truly afraid
to find the great silence
asking so little.

One word, one word only.

It is my hope that you will stop this week to sleep, to clarify your core values, to develop winning strategies, to bolster your self image, to enhance your well being, to express your creative spirit, and to find that quiet center. The great silence may ask so little, but it enables so much.

Coaching Inquiries: When you stop doing things, do you know what to start thinking about? Are your sleep habits regular and restful? Do you know who you are? How could you think more often about the things you want to do?

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

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

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


Talk about a wonderful STOP. Today, I walked out the door into an amazingly beautiful day, warm and bright with sunlight. And became aware of a lightness in my being. This awareness hits me suddenly: I’m smiling, walking lightly, and it feels as if all the weight of those doubts, those mistakes, that uncertainty, that fear • all of it falls away, and I am left to experience the moment. The warmth of the air. The bright blue of the sky. The healing touch of the winter sun. My feet connecting firmly but lightly to the ground. I feel lightness and joy. I smile effortlessly. I know that, right now, all is well.


In your latest provision, “Stop It,” I liked the following quote: “Just doing it without stopping to consider options and consequences usually results in a lot of just undoing it.” I see evidence of this all too often around me in my professional environment. However, I myself often experience the opposite problem: stopping to consider options and consequences too often usually results in no doing at all … or analysis paralysis! In case this subject hasn’t been covered in previous provisions, I’d welcome your thoughts on this.


Hi! LifeTrek Coaching! I truly enjoy the awesome stuff you send us. I am a junior boy in the mechanical department in Beijing Institute of Technology. I have introduced your website to my classmates. I saw a Chinese girl’s feedback just now. I wonder whether she is one of my classmates. Please let me know her name or her school. Thanks! (Ed. Note: Yes, I think your referral put Melisa on to us. Thanks!)


In response to Christina’s last Parenting Pathway, Click, I might add that for young children, like my own (4 years) I’ve encouraged setting mundane (but still incremental) goals. I think young children benefit most from the habit of setting goals and developing plans. For many parents with young children the questions you’ve suggested may elicit unsatisfactory answers (for the parent) and may lead to unnecessary pressure on the child. 



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 #347: Stop It

Laser Provision

When there’s so much to do, it can be hard to think about stopping. Life swirls around us at a hectic pace. But we may need to stop it if we want to be effective at work, let alone to live well. Pushing performance, criticizing others, and rushing around are counterproductive strategies that can be changed. Read on to learn how.

LifeTrek Provision

We are in the midst of a series based, in part, on Tim Gallwey’s book “The Inner Game of Work.” At the outset of his book, Gallwey shares a personal reflection. “I have embarked on a quest to work free,” he writes. “I want to honor that part of myself that is inherently free, regardless of its circumstances, and allow it to be expressed at work.”

In other words, Tim Gallwey wants to love both his work and himself at work. But that isn’t easy. Gallwey calls it “a quest” because he recognizes that “in the the field of work, more than in any other human endeavor, freedom has been most seriously compromised.” We may have eliminated slavery, at least officially, but few people go through life without feeling “the chains that bind us at work.”

We have all known those chains, those moments of necessity when we begrudgingly and reluctantly do what we have to do rather than what we want to. Gallwey notes that this reflects the prevailing definition of work, as “something that we’d rather not be doing if we had a choice.” But Gallwey believes it doesn’t have to be this way.

He believes it’s possible to stop the rat race and get off the treadmill, if we are willing to make three adjustments. (1) Stop pushing performance at the expense of learning and enjoyment. (2) Stop criticizing ourselves and others in the name of management and quality control. (3) Stop rushing through the day with no time to prioritize and plan.

(1) Stop Pushing. We have covered this one extensively in the past month. We also know intuitively that “all work and no play,” to borrow a phrase, makes for a very tough row to hoe. Gallwey notes, however, that it also leads to declining productivity over time. Cracking the whip may work for a season, but long-term performance derives from a more balanced approach that pays attention to all three corners of what Gallwey calls “the work triangle”: performance, learning, and enjoyment.

It’s not that Gallwey has his head in the sand when it comes to the demands of work. He knows that work includes performance objectives, and he understands the importance of meeting those objectives. But he also knows that constant pushing to perform, without concomitant attention to learning and enjoyment, will undermine the very performance we seek.

Gallwey therefore suggests a process for attaching learning and enjoyment goals for every performance objective. You might try that the next time you set your goals, whether for yourself or for your supervisor at work. Have three components for every goal: What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to learn? What do you want to feel? If you identify projected accomplishments, learnings, or feelings that are not related to each other, that’s OK too. Just develop them as stand-alone goals.

From there you can begin to play the awareness games that I have written about before to enhance your experience at work. By paying attention to the bigger picture, by noticing the critical variables that relate to performance, learning, and enjoyment, it’s possible to shift your experience in positive directions.

As a golf coach, Gallwey has, on occasion, encouraged people to keep track of their strokes and their feelings on each hole. They count their strokes and then they rank their enjoyment of the hole on a scale of 1-5. Gallwey notes that early on their feelings often track to their strokes. The lower the strokes the better they feel. But over time they find other things to enjoy and, ironically enough, their game tends to improve as they become less stroke conscious.

So too in the workplace. When we stop pushing against narrow performance objections and start paying attention to our learning and experience along the way, many problems are solved and productivity is often improved.

(2) Stop Criticizing. This one is hard for managers and coaches alike. When your job is to make things better, then it’s easy to slip into the mode of “constructive criticism.” You see a problem and you make a suggestion; you see another problem and you make another suggestion; you see a big problem and you come down hard. But Gallwey sees this, too, as counter-productive.

For one thing, it contributes to the problem of micromanaging. Instead of letting people make and learn from their own mistakes, we become invested in overseeing and policing the process. Similar to how marital partners become embarrassed by each other, working relationships often become contaminated by associations, projections, and attitudes. Doing things right, which often equates to doing things my way, becomes the excuse for many an overbearing and unsuccessful experience.

Constructive criticism, especially in the hands of a perfectionist, can destroy far more than it creates. Thomas Crane, in his book “The Heart of Coaching,” goes so far as to suggest that there’s no such thing as “constructive criticism.” He calls it an oxymoron. All criticism is destructive of something • otherwise, it wouldn’t be called criticism. “And the affect of criticism on human beings,” notes Crane, “regardless of intent, is almost always negative.”

Gallwey would agree. There’s no way to love the work you do if the atmosphere is filled with criticism. Crane notes how criticism poisons the air and how critical people “are difficult to work with,” “difficult to be around,” and “usually drag good energy down to their level.” He therefore encourages people to stop criticizing, to create and nurture positive energy, and to get the distinction between constructive feedback and criticism. This is, in fact, what he calls the heart of coaching.

Gallwey takes this deeper by writing about the connection between our inner-voices of criticism and the words that come out of our mouths. How we talk to ourselves determines how we talk to others. If we are hard on ourselves, then we will be hard on others. And that will compromise our ability to be the best we can possibly be and to do the best we can possibly do.

Gallwey describes this inner-critic as the voice that says, “Don’t hold the club that way, you stupid idiot, do it this way instead.” Even if the voice is right, repeated utterances of demeaning, self-critical talk will quickly erode both our ability and our interest in the game.

So too when it comes to our performance at work. When we allow our inner-critic to rule the roost, both in our head and with others, we effectively undermine the performance, learning, and enjoyment of one and all. We limit both the energy and the creativity to solve problems. When we stop criticizing and start encouraging the work of others, we’re in for all sorts of pleasant surprises.

(3) Stop Rushing. If there is one refrain that I hear every week from my friends, colleagues, and clients, it goes something like this: “It has really been a crazy week with everything that’s going on. I hardly had a chance to stop and breathe, let alone to think and plan. It’s just one thing after another.”

Unfortunately, this too interferes with our performance, learning, and enjoyment of work. It also interferes with our health and well being. Rushing from one thing to the next is no way to live. Stress, a necessary part of life, becomes distress when the pace becomes frenetic and unabated.

In his landmark book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey encourages us to “Put First Things First.” This is where he builds a four quadrant “Time Management Matrix” from the two axes of importance and urgency. Covey argues that while most people are buffeted about by the urgent, effective people spend a significant percentage of their time focused on things that are important but not urgent. Here they find time for planning, recreation, relationship building, innovation, and production capability activities.

But how do we do this when life and work become so demanding? Once again Gallwey comes to the rescue, with the description of the STOP tool he learned from one of his executive friends. STOP is an acronym for Step back, Think, Organize your thoughts, and Proceed. It has, Gallwey notes, “become an indispensable tool for working effectively.”

Of course we have to use the tool in order for it to be effective. And whether we use it or not is up to us. No one is going to do it for us. The workplace, left to its own devices, will work us over and wind us up until we break. Only we can say “No,” using the STOP tool and the importance of planning as the warrant for our hesitation. To be effective, that choice needs to become a habit.

As with running, the most important step is the first one. Many a runner will confide that the first mile is the hardest mile. So too with the STOP tool. Stepping back from the fray is the hardest step. Many find it necessary to physically move to a different position, in order to collect themselves and regain their equilibrium.

In my coaching work, I like to walk to a different room and ring a Chinese gong before the start of a new session. It calls me to stop one thing before starting another. One of my clients goes for a walk around the building every day at 1:00 PM. Another closes the door and takes a nap on a mat on the floor of his office at about the same time.

Once we step back, it becomes easier and almost natural to think and plan. When you are finally ready to proceed, you usually make fewer mistakes than when you rush into things with a “Just Do It” attitude. As Gallwey notes, “Just doing it without stopping to consider options and consequences usually results in a lot of just undoing it.”

Gallwey notes the importance of short, medium, and long stops. Pausing for two seconds before answering the phone gives us the chance to ask if we really want to answer the phone at this moment. Medium stops “allow time to reflect and evaluate a situation before proceeding into action.” Long stops enable us to “look at issues from a more strategic perspective.” All three become habits for highly effective people.

If you want to love both your work and yourself at work, then perhaps it’s time for you to stop. Stop pushing performance at the expense of learning and enjoyment. Stop criticizing yourself and others in the name of management and quality control. Stop rushing through the day with no time to prioritize and plan.

Coaching Inquiries: Are you in constant motion? Is your stress level to the point of distress? Do people enjoy working with and for you? How could you make the STOP tool a daily habit?

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

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

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


Thank you for all your articles. I’m 55 years in age and I’ve been in sales in one way or another most of my life. I have always had a dream or desire to achieve $100,000 in income from my sales, but it has always somehow escaped my reality. Am I too old to pursue this dream? Somehow it still breathes somewhere within me. I don’t think I ever took myself seriously in achieving this dream. Any suggestions? (Ed. Note: This would be a great coaching project. Let us know if we can assist you to find the right coach for you.)


I would like to go on a fluid fast for one week. I have tried it in the past but didn’t really succeed. It will be nice to know that I will be doing it with other people. If you have any suggestions, let me know. I need to add more fruits and veggies to my diet.


I am very interested in “going liquid” for one week. I am on medication, will this make any difference? I also just started working out yesterday for the first time in 8 years. Thank you for your time and kindness. (Ed. Note: Talk with your doctor and read this week’s Wellness Pathway Go There.) 



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 #346: Be Persistent

Laser Provision

Work is a lot more than performance and productivity. It’s also learning and enjoyment. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less work! Work takes determination to get started and persistence to see things through to the end. Using some of the personalities involved with last Sunday’s Super Bowl game, this Provision will inspire you to make persistence a daily habit for success.

LifeTrek Provision

For the second time in three years, Adam Vinatieri kicked a last-second field goal to win the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots. Dubbed by the media as “the greatest clutch kicker in NFL history” and “the most consistent,” Vinatieri makes it look easy. But it wasn’t always that way.

Behind his success are two profiles in persistence, the kicker and his coach. You may have never heard the coach’s name, and you certainly didn’t see him pacing the sidelines during the game. He probably wasn’t even there, and if he had been he would have been doing his pacing in a wheelchair.

Vinatieri’s coach, Doug Blevins, has never walked a day in his life, born with the crippling condition of cerebral palsy. Yet, from the age of 4, it’s been his heart’s desire to work in American football. He watched games, reviewed tapes, and talked with coaches to figure out how someone in a wheelchair could find his way in America’s most celebrated sport.

The problem, of course, is that no one had ever coached from a wheelchair in the NFL. The sport is not exactly disability friendly. But Blevins was not to be deterred. He set out to master the position no one really understood: kickers. It became a lifetime pursuit.

Upon matriculation to the University of Tennessee in 1982, Blevins volunteered to work with the kickers as a student assistant. His success at coaching not only the fundamentals of kicking but also the personalities of the kickers led to his being named kicking coach at a small college in Emory, Virginia in 1984. From there one position led to another until, in 1993, he started his own kicking consulting company.

That’s how he got started with the NFL, landing consulting and coaching contracts with the New York Jets, the New England Patriots, and the Miami Dolphins. That’s also how he got started with Adam Vinatieri.

But had it not been for Vinatieri’s own determination, they never would have found each other and Vinatieri might never have risen to the upper echelon of NFL kickers. In college, Vinatieri was the best kicker in the history of South Dakota State, but he was erratic. Especially in pressure situations, you never knew what to expect. So the NFL scouts passed over him in their recommendations for the draft.

That did not deter Vinatieri. He wanted to be in the NFL as much as Blevins did. So he persisted in calling every contact he had, asking for advice and strategies to improve his skills for the big time. When he was given Blevins’ phone number by the punter for the New York Jets, back in 1994, he called immediately and sent Blevins a videotape, who promised to look at it but tossed it aside.

Vinatieri was persistent. He called every day for three weeks, until Blevins finally looked at the tape • primarily to get Vinatieri off his back. What he saw was a kid who had as much raw talent as he had form problems. Take care of the form, Blevins told him over the phone, and the rest will follow.

That was all Vinatieri needed to hear. You can imagine his surprise, however, when he got off the plane two days later to discover that his new coach was confined to a wheelchair. This was the man who was supposed to teach him to kick? Had he been less desperate, or less determined, he might have turned around and gone back to South Dakota. But persistence dictated a different way.

Vinatieri worked like no kicker Blevins had ever met before. He gave it his all. A Daily News reporter writes, “A few weeks into their time working together, Blevins got up early one morning only to discover Vinatieri had parked his truck in his driveway and was sleeping in the cab. That’s when Blevins realized the kicker had given up everything for this chance at the NFL.” And so the relationship grew.

Together they worked on form, timing, placement, and field position. Blevins had Vinatieri kicking “from every conceivable spot on the field, creating every game situation they could imagine. Always, they ended with the same thing: a 47-yard field goal to win the Super Bowl.” Then they would buy a pizza and go over to Blevins’ house to break down the day’s performance. It became much more than a business relationship. “My wife and I,” notes Blevins, came “to love him like family.”

These two are “super stars” not because they have “super egos” but because they have persistence. That has been the key to their success in life and work. We have spoken before, during this series, of Tim Gallwey’s work triangle. He makes it clear that “work” is not a dirty word. It takes commitment, energy, and an occasional push to achieve an outcome, but that doesn’t make it bad. The process of working • at its best • is an educational and enjoyable process that moves us forward and makes life worth living.

The relationship between Vinatieri and Blevins epitomizes Gallwey’s definition of work. They focused on performance, but learning and enjoyment also infused their work. They took pleasure in the process as well as the outcome. They developed a relationship of mutual trust and tenacity. In the midst of the hard work, persistence and perspiration, they had a great time together.

Two years ago, when Vinatieri kicked the winning Super Bowl field goal, Blevins was sitting with his wife in a restaurant near the campus of North Carolina State, where Blevins was scheduled to speak to the athletic department. From the moment Vinatieri addressed the ball, Blevins knew the kick was good. The form could not have been better. As the ball sailed through the uprights, Blevins threw his arms in the air and screamed as tears streamed down his cheeks.

Hearing the commotion and seeing the tears, a waiter came over to see if everything was all right. “He’s fine,” Nenita Blevins assured the waiter, “he’s just Adam Vinatieri’s coach and…” she stopped right there as the waiter looked incredulous. A thousand miles away from the game, with her husband sitting in a restaurant in his wheelchair, Nenita realized just how ridiculous that must have sounded.

Last Sunday the finish was, if anything, even more dramatic. Vinatieri may have developed himself into “the most consistent” and “the greatest clutch kicker in NFL history,” but even he had to be rattled after missing two field goals during the first half. One was pulled to the right as he tried to avoid the outstretched arms of the defense, while the other was blocked.

What did it take for Vinatieri to successfully address the ball, once more, with virtually no time left on the clock, for a 41-yard game-winning field goal? It took persistence and determination. The same persistence that got him into the game, against all odds, was required for him to win the game last Sunday.

That’s the way it is with persistence and determination. We have to exercise it, day by day and minute by minute, with each and every choice we make. The more we exercise that muscle the stronger it becomes, enabling us to face and overcome adversity.

Our challenge may not be winning the Super Bowl and our paycheck may not be in the millions. But when we proactively decide on a course of action, follow it through to a successful conclusion, and then maintain our performance over time • when we persist • we will have no less satisfaction than Vinatieri had in the closing seconds of last Sunday’s game. And we may even share tears of joy with those who have joined us along the way.

Coaching Inquiries: Are you exercising the determination muscle? What is it that you want to do? How could persistence assist you to get it done? Would a coach enable you to get and stay on track? Where could you find the resources you need to succeed?

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

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

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


Thanks for such “authentic” inspiration. Great article and so true.


I LOVED your Provision on authenticity. Great work.


Thanks, Bob, for speaking with me about the Wellness Coaching opportunity. It was really nice to hear your voice, as I am reading your Mastering Your Money E-book today!


I would like to be considered as a client for the wellness coaching opportunity in the weight area. I own a busy insurance agency and my stress level is extremely high at time. I have gotten off track with my fitness routine. I read and enjoy every word of every newsletter that I get from you. Thanks.


Although I cannot make the financial commitment to pay for coaching at this time, I do spend time with great sources of inspiration such as your weekly Provisions and other self-help literature. You really provide excellent tips along the way. Keep up the good work.


I read Provisions on my PDA and very much enjoy the content. 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 #345: Be Authentic

Laser Provision

What is your true desire, your inherent ambition, in life and work? That’s an important question, especially when it comes to making money. Here, as everywhere, it’s important to be authentic and true to yourself. To make it so, you may have to set strong boundaries or to find a new position. But in the end, there’s no greater satisfaction than stepping up to the plate.

LifeTrek Provision

In this series of Provisions, we are exploring what it takes to love the work we do. And that isn’t always easy in this day and age. There was a time, long ago, when work was more organically connected to the fabric of life itself. People didn’t leave home to go to work. Instead, their life and work were two sides of the same coin, and usually within walking distance of each other.

With the advent of the industrial revolution, all that changed. Over time, we developed modes of transportation and communication that enabled us to live and work at increasing distances. We also developed modes of work, most notably factories and corporations, that required the use of sophisticated equipment and complicated systems in order to produce the many goods and services we now consider necessary (and often take for granted) in the modern world.

This is the environment in which we find ourselves today, and it is understandable that many people not only fail to love their work; they have actually come to dread and despise it. In far too many instances, work has become an alienating experience, with little connection to our core values, and no real purpose other than paying the bills.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you stay in the system or drop out, there are ways to make peace with your work and to reclaim it as a positive good.

Take one of my running buddies, who works at a local restaurant. It’s a busy place with plenty of customer-service demands. The hours can be long and the work can be hard. But I have never heard my friend complain and, in fact, whenever the subject of work comes up my friend is sure to sing its praises.

He’s not hesitant to mention a time when personal problems got in the way of his doing work at all. The have-no-work days have made my friend thankful and appreciative for the have-work days. But his love of work goes far beyond the mere fact of having a job. He delights in learning new ways of cooking and in making the restaurant a positive community gathering place. In short, he enjoys his time on the job because of the opportunity, relationships, and learning it gives him.

What’s the secret to my friend’s success? Authenticity. He has found a place where he can be great just by being himself, and that makes all the difference. It enables him to give the role much more than he otherwise could.

Being authentic gets harder when work pushes you down. That’s when it’s time to set boundaries or move along. Of the two options, boundary setting takes more energy and may be more intimidating. When you constantly have to police the environment to protect yourself, it can be both exhausting and demoralizing.

I have worked with many clients who find themselves in this situation. Their work may demand time they are not willing to give, may specify procedures they don’t support, may involve tasks they don’t enjoy, may include supervision that drives them crazy, and may even produce goods and services they find morally reprehensible. Yet they find themselves showing up and slogging away, day after day, to collect the almighty paycheck and to receive such other benefits as the company may have to offer.

In situations like these, we begin by making a hierarchy of values in order to understand the depth and breadth of the incompatibility. If it goes to the bone of morally reprehensible goods and services, then it’s time to get out no matter what. But if it’s a matter of lesser things, then strong boundaries may be enough to make the situation not only tolerable but enjoyable.

All this has to be negotiated carefully, of course. When they fly in the face of organizational culture, it’s easy for strong boundaries to lead to unemployment! But it’s not impossible to be authentic in a hostile environment or, to borrow a phrase, to sing a familiar song in a strange land, and to come out better than before.

But only you can define “better.” This is where the rubber hits the road when it comes to authenticity. There are plenty of times when being authentic leads to less success in the eyes of the world. Howard Dean, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, claims to have been authentic in that now infamous speech to his supporters after his third-place finish in Iowa. If so, many pundits now predict that such authenticity will cost him the nomination.

That’s the way it is with authenticity. We may have to learn to be happy with less than we had hoped for. Being true to ourselves is not always rewarded the way we would like. But it is always better than selling out.

I know one person who struggled for years to set his boundaries in what he experienced as a hostile work environment. Everything was always urgent, and the demands for uncompensated overtime were intense. Priorities would shift frequently, making it hard to plan and even harder to accomplish the plan. Micromanagement was rampant.

In the end, he set his boundaries as to urgency, overtime, priorities, and autonomy. To his surprise, instead of getting fired, the company made their peace with someone they viewed as a headstrong and yet valuable employee. Life was better, even though it was clear he would never go any higher in the organizational structure.

Now some might say that life wasn’t “better,” since my friend had effectively ended his promotion track by setting his boundaries. But my friend viewed life as infinitely better, since he was true to himself, even if that meant earning less and having less responsibility in exchange.

John Schuster, in his book Answer Your Call, makes it clear that authenticity and the way of the world are at times in direct conflict. He describes the many internal and external voices • he calls them saboteurs • that would lead us off course. But he too affirms the importance of being true to oneself, even if that leads to less fame and fortune.

“The dominant social drummer,” Schuster notes, “pounds a commercial and conforming beat that is intense and relentless. The beat constantly pounds out its core message: ‘Don’t think too hard…. Sign on the dotted line and don’t worry. Come, follow the beat.'”

Of course, for some people, the beat comes close enough to their own authentic self, at least for a time, that they dance to the beat and have the time of their life. That, in a way, is the experience of my friend in the restaurant. He’s doing what they want him to do, and loving it. But others, like my friend who set strong boundaries, find it necessary to draw the line in order to preserve their dignity and be the people they want to be. Both ways have authenticity, as long as they come from the heart.

It will perhaps come as no surprise that my friend who set strong boundaries eventually ended up leaving the company in order to go somewhere that he felt was more aligned to his manner of working. “Although I left a lot of money on the table,” he once told me, “being in a place where I can be great just by being myself, just by showing up, makes all the difference in the world. It was worth every penny to leave, and I’m happier now than I’ve ever been before.”

Isn’t that what we all want out of life and work? Who wants to be a square peg in a round hole? In the end, we want to be great just by showing up and to be paid just for being ourselves. Fortunately, that’s not an impossible dream for us all.

Coaching Inquiries: Are you living an authentic life? Are you working in an environment where you have to set strong boundaries? What shifts would make things better? How could better learn to love the work you do?

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

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

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


I’m grateful for Erika’s reminder to appreciate the process in last week’s Creativity Pathway. I dabble in watercolors. I find that when I let myself get lost in the pleasure of blending the colors and noticing the ways the lines come together or move apart, that I am much more likely to end up with a product I am happy with than when I am concerned about the product as I am painting. Even if the outcome gets ruined, like those peanut butter cookies, I haven’t wasted my paper and paints because I have had an enjoyable experience. I like these new Creativity Pathways. 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 #344: Be Here and Now

Laser Provision

Do you want to be more successful and fulfilled in life and work? It starts by showing up with nothing else on your mind. Pay attention to the here and now. Don’t contaminate the present moment with the past and future. Focus on what interests you, what you can learn from, and what you can, in fact, control. There may be obstacles. But no matter what they are, they can be overcome.

LifeTrek Provision

If there is a common thread to LifeTrek coaching, it has to do with paying attention. Clients retain our services to bring another voice into the dynamic of their personal and professional growth. They want to move forward on one or more fronts, and they trust that another voice • the voice of a LifeTrek coach • will enable them to innovate and accelerate the process.

How do we do that? Not by telling them what to do, as though we were expert know-it-alls. On the contrary, LifeTrek coaches often have minimal specific expertise in the subject matter at hand. But we nevertheless make a significant difference in the progress of our clients, by getting them to pay attention to critical variables in the present moment.

That proves to be important to both productivity and enjoyment in life and work. Unless we are fully attentive to the critical variables in the here and now, we often struggle with ourselves and fail to get where we want to go.

I like the connection between being in the here and now and paying attention. It does cost something — that’s why it’s called “paying” attention • to be in the present moment. We have to set aside the past and future in order to notice those things that are going on and make a difference in the here and now. That’s the cost, but it’s an investment worth making.

In his book, The Inner Game of Work, Tim Gallwey tells the story of his consultations with AT&T, soon after the breakup of their communication monopoly. Being in a competitive marketplace was a new experience, and the corporate culture was having a hard time adapting. “That’s not how we do things here,” was a spoken and unspoken rule. Fear of the future was rampant. They knew they had to do things differently, they just didn’t know what or how.

Gallwey was brought in to work with the customer service team, those operators who answer the phone when people call with a problem or complaint. AT&T wanted to improve the “courtesy ratings” of these operators without increasing the average time per call. It was a daunting task, to be sure. And Gallwey agreed to take the assignment on two conditions. First, participation had to be voluntary. No one would be forced to take the training or use the tools.

Second, “courtesy” would not have to be the subject of his training. In fact, he eschewed the notion of a traditional training program preferring, instead, to adopt a coach approach to improving the experience of work itself. The assumption, of course, was that one would follow the other • that satisfied operators would lead to satisfied customers. But this agenda was not put on the table as either the rationale for or the intended output of the program.

Gallwey was free to work with people his way, and he began by observing the operators at work, interviewing some of them, and identifying the major obstacles. “The picture,” Gallwey notes, “became clear quite quickly. (1) Most operators were bored and were doing their jobs very mechanically. (2) In spite of the boredom, there was a lot of stress on the job because operator productivity was monitored and measured closely and constantly. (3) Operators felt they were treated like kids in elementary school by the system and by their supervisors.”

These conditions produced a lot of discontent and hostility. No wonder courtesy was in such short supply! Gallwey’s solution? Deal with the root causes. Instead of insisting upon courtesy, the desired outcome, design a game that operators could play while they worked to reduce on-the-job boredom, stress, and unhappiness. It was a brilliant strategy, getting the operators to grapple in new ways with the here and now of a routine job.

At first the operators were skeptical. How could they reduce on-the-job boredom, stress, and unhappiness? That went with the territory, and there was nothing they could do about. But using the coach approach, Gallwey got 100% of the operators interested in giving it a try.

They decided to focus on what they could learn about each and every customer from the tone of their voice and any background noises. They actually rated the customers, on a scale of one to ten, as to how agitated they were. Then they tried to impact the customers’ attitudes by expressing different qualities in their own voices. It became a fun game, as the operators acted in different ways to see how different approaches would impact the customer.

These new listening and responding skills proved to be of so much value that many operators reported using them off the job as well, with family and friends. And, as Gallwey suspected, their on-the-job courtesy ratings improved dramatically, in spite of the fact that the operators were not trying to be more courteous. They were learning to listen, to express more of themselves, and to have fun. When those things were in place, things like courtesy came naturally.

Another way to put what Gallwey accomplished with these operators is that he got them to be in the here and now. Instead of focusing on the things they didn’t like about their job, or the things they didn’t like about their manager, or the problems they had at home, or the things that were outside their control, Gallwey got these operators to be in the present moment with the person on the other end of the phone. And that made all the difference.

So can it be for you. Do you feel like a victim of circumstance? Do you feel trapped in your current situation? Do you walk around with the “could-a, would-a, should-a” tape playing in your head? Then you are ripe for Gallwey’s Inner Game. Try finding things in the present moment that are interesting, that you can learn from, and that you can, in fact, control. By focusing on those things, in the here and now, life really can get better.

Of course, no one can maintain attention all the time. We need to take breaks along the way.  That wisdom comes through loud and clear in The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz. They understand that human beings have rhythms, along with the rest of life. There’s a reason for day and night, summer and winter, high tide and low tide, waking and sleeping, working and resting. Rhythms are built into the structure of life itself.

If you find yourself unable to pay attention to the here and now, it may be that you are pushing yourself too hard or not hard enough. Recent research into Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder has suggested the intriguing possibility that this is more of a sleep disorder than an attention disorder. By failing to get enough sleep, people with ADHD are unable to pay attention during the day. And so, some have experienced dramatic day-time relief through practices and medication designed to improve their night-time rest.

Whether or not you have been diagnosed with ADHD, it behooves us all to respect the natural rhythms of life. Neglecting them impacts not only our ability to pay attention, it impacts our energy levels, health, performance, and growth as well as our enjoyment of life and work.

Winston Churchill was adamant about the importance of an afternoon nap. “And no halfway measures,” he quipped. “Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do.” By sleeping during the day, Churchill found that he got more done and that he was better able to handle the stress of his responsibilities, particularly during World War II.

If you want to be more successful and fulfilled in life and work, then perhaps it’s time to pay more attention to the here and now. You are not a victim. You can pay attention in ways that make you more productive, open, and grateful. This may require that you establish better rhythms in life and work. And although a coach may assist you to figure out how best to get this done, you can certainly do it yourself.

Coaching Inquiries: Are you paying attention to what’s going on in the here and now? Or is your mind somewhere else? Could your attention difficulties be related to a lack of sleep? How could you establish better rhythms and approaches to life?

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

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

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


I’m a Chinese girl who is studying English and preparing to go to the USA. I was introduced to your web site by my classmate who always downloads the content in your web to his PDA. When I went to your web, I was surprised that there were so many useful articles from which I could learn something. I am twenty now, and am planning my life from this age. You give me a lot of suggestions. Thank you!!! I hope you write more articles about career and love.


As I explore what I want to do in my life, the idea of helping others avoid the mistakes I have made seems to give me a great sense of purpose. Does LifeTrek have any plans to set up coaching service in Australia? If so, I would love to be involved. What you do, and do so well, is a great inspiration to me. Keep up the great work.


Thank you so much for the effort you put into making a difference to people’s lives. Over the last 2 years, I have learned about the many things you talk about, unfortunately from harsh experience. I don’t tell you this for sympathy, but to validate your work. Although my discoveries have come a bit late, I now seek to help others find their core purpose and become, as you say, well rounded and holistic in their view of life. If I can help your cause please let me know.


With an only child, 6 years old, I am having a difficult time being both fun and authoritative. I know this can be confusing to her, one moment we are having fun and the next moment I need to be serious. I want the best of both worlds. Any suggestions? (Ed. Note: This week’s Provision, Be Here and Now, speaks to the importance of being in the present moment. It is hard to switch gears, but it’s not beyond a 6-year-old to understand. Be sure, when you’re having fun, that you’re really having fun. And vice-versa.)


Thanks for the refocus and view about what is really important. Your insight is remarkable and your reminder about boundaries is much appreciated! 



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