Provision #168: Be Great

Laser Provision

Do not be afraid. Be great to yourself; be great to others. Live with courage, boldness, and passion. Live as though you were never going to die. Take responsibility for your time, energy, commitment, and focus. Be great.

LifeTrek Provision

For the past five weeks I’ve been writing about healthy self-care. I’ve talked about being grateful, gracious, generous, gentle, and grounded. If I could summarize everything I’ve written and everything I believe about healthy self-care in a single sentence, it is this: be great to yourself and be great to others. It’s that simple. It’s that hard.

The two are interconnected. Healthy self-care is never one or the other. Being great to yourself, and yourself alone, is nothing but selfishness. Being great to others, and always to others, is nothing but martyrdom. Healthy self-care is doing both, and doing both well.

I know a woman • Joy Rockwell • who, in addition to holding down a regular full-time job, is the number one fundraiser in the nation for the American Diabetes Association through their annual America’s Walk for Diabetes program. Listen to her inspiration and passion:

“In 1987, I was involved in a terrible car accident in which my right foot was severed and my kids were in comas for months. Doctors told me they would reattach the foot as best they could, but that I’d probably never walk without a limp or crutches. After 12 surgeries, I learned to walk again. About the same time of my last surgery my husband found out he had diabetes. That weekend, while in the pharmacy picking up my husband’s insulin, I saw the America’s Walk for Diabetes brochure. It reminded me that there are others out there that need help…I wasn’t the only one down and out. Besides, I wanted to prove that I could walk again. That was the beginning of my love affair with the Walk. It’s become a big part of my life.”

In the past six years, Joy has single-handedly raised more than $100,000. She’s done it for herself. She’s done it for her husband. It has become her passion. And it has made her great. As Benjamin Disraeli wrote back in 1944, “People are only truly great when they act from the passions” (Coningsby).

And then there’s the story of Lance Armstrong who for the second time in two years prepares to ride again this weekend around the Champs-Elys•es in Paris wearing the yellow jersey that symbolizes victory in the Tour de France • arguably the most challenging and grueling of all athletic endeavors. Lance is not only a phenomenal athlete, he’s also a cancer survivor • having once been given less than a 3% chance of surviving testicular cancer that had metastasized throughout his body, including his brain. Listen to his inspiration and passion.

“I was near the end of the journey. But there had been two journeys, really: the journey to get to the Tour, and then the journey of the Tour itself.”

“The truth is, if you asked me to choose between winning the Tour de France and cancer, I would choose cancer. Odd as it sounds, I would rather have the title of cancer survivor than winner of the Tour, because of what it has done for me as a human being, a man, a husband, a son, and a father.”

“In those first days after crossing the finish line in Paris I was swept up in a wave of attention, and as I struggled to keep things in perspective, I asked myself why my victory had such a profound effect on people. Maybe it’s because illness is universal • we’ve all been sick, no one is immune • and so my winning the Tour was a symbolic act, proof that you can not only survive cancer, but thrive after it. Maybe, as my friend Phil Knight says, I am hope.”

“I would just like to say one thing,” Lance told the press in the finish area, choking back tears. “I’m in shock. I’m in shock. I’m in shock. If you ever get a second chance in life for something, you’ve got to go all the way.” (It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, G. P. Putnam’s Sons • New York, 2000).

Do you get it? Vauvenargues, a French soldier and moralist, wrote in 1746: “To achieve great things we must live as though we were never going to die” (R•flexions et maximes). Jesus put it another way: “You will not live in the reign of God, unless you become like little children.” Perhaps that’s why, as Lance observes, children with cancer have higher cure rates than adults with cancer: “Adults know too much about failure; they’re more cynical, resigned, and fearful.”

Don’t let that happen to you. Be great to yourself; be great to others. Live with courage, boldness, and passion. Live as though you were never going to die. Take responsibility for your time, energy, commitment, and focus. Be brave. Be grateful, gracious, generous, gentle, grounded, and great.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #167: Be Grounded

Laser Provision

Healthy self-care means being grounded in a strong, personal foundation. This takes a regular discipline of meditation, stretching, and/or exercise. Use your body to heal your soul.

LifeTrek Provision

Last week’s issue of LifeTrek Provisions, “Be Gentle,” prompted some discussion by its implication that we can, in certain senses, do no wrong. Even bad choices contribute to our growth, I observed, and to the growth of others. That’s why I called for a spirit of gentleness with ourselves and with others, since things have a way of working out even when we make stupid decisions or take poor actions.

Some readers found that notion to be dangerous, arguing that it trivialized evil and discounted the end product of our actions. Others found it to be comforting, since they had long had a tendency to second-guess everything and to be hard on themselves as well as others.

I plan on saving my response to the ethical and theological question (If good can come from evil, does that make evil good?) for another issue LifeTrek Provisions. In this issue, I want to bring us back to the focus of the series, namely healthy self-care. How do we know if we’re practicing healthy self-care? One sure sign is that we are grounded in a strong, personal foundation. Such grounding enables us to weather the storms of life with serenity and courage; it also, I might add, enables us to do less evil and to make better decisions.

What is a strong, personal foundation? It is nothing less than the source of life itself. That foundation is there, inside and outside of each and every one of us, but it often buried by the pressures and anxieties of the moment. Fortunately, like archaeologists uncovering the ruins of an ancient city, we too can sweep away the debris that hide and often overwhelm the foundation of a rich and full life.

I would suggest three useful tools for this most important of digs: meditation, stretching, and exercise. They can be used in tandem or individually to uncover and connect ourselves with the ancient of days. A strong, personal foundation is impossible to find and to build upon without the use of at least one of these tools • or of some tool that has the power to shift our awareness away from the urgent and to the important.

Meditation. Meditation is often shrouded in mystery, as though it is the sole purview of monks and other religious professionals. Nothing could be further from the truth. Meditation is little more than being silent. A silent mind is a powerful mind because of its focus. It is incredibly difficult to be silent for even a few moments. The mind quickly rushes to fill the void. Slow, rhythmic breathing can help quiet the mind. True meditation is, in fact, generally impossible without disciplined breathwork. When your mind wanders off, remember to be gentle with yourself. Refocus on your breathing until the noise and chatter cease.

Stretching. Stretching is another way to sweep away the debris that hides the foundation of life. A series of slow, static stretches can refresh the body and make the spirit whole. Stretching should never hurt. Simply strike a pose until you feel the stretch; then lean into it just a bit more and hold for 30 seconds. With all the urgent things that need doing, stretching can seem like a total waste of time. But it’s not. The essence of Yoga is stretching plus meditation; the ancient yogis recognized that stretching, like breathing, can trigger a powerful focused awareness of self, others, and God.

Exercise. In the Western world, aerobic exercise is often the preferred path to enlightenment. Running on a treadmill in front of a television is not what I have in mind. Getting out in nature on a regular basis, whether it be walking, running, cycling, or swimming, is more like it. Such activity can sweep out the cobwebs and freshen up the day. The rhythm of exercise can quiet the mind just as effectively the breathwork of meditation or the bodywork of stretching. It may take a mile or two, but if you keep going there will come a moment of transcendent awareness.

I know coaches who refuse to work with people who are either unwilling or unable to commit themselves to a regular (as in most every day) discipline of meditation, stretching, or exercise. They’ve learned that without such a discipline people are unable to be grounded in the things that matter and are, therefore, unable to make progress in the journey of life.

What about you? Are you using one of these tools to uncover and build upon the strong, personal foundation that exists in your life? If not, you may want to try them out to see which one or ones work best for you. It’s never too late to get a life.

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #166: Be Gentle

Laser Provision

Healthy self-care means being gentle with yourself and with others. Don’t kick yourself about what could’ve, should’ve, or would’ve been. Instead, look for love in any and every situation. That is, after all, the point.

LifeTrek Provision

Last weekend was a holiday weekend in the United States of America, Independence Day, and so • in the spirit of healthy self-care (the subject of the current series of LifeTrek Provisions) • we took a break from our weekly publication schedule. The weekend was full of family get-togethers and holiday activities, including plenty of swimming, biking, and running as well as the ubiquitous parades, picnics, and fireworks.

Although the holiday was wonderful, there were of course some things that didn’t get done last weekend. Bank reconciliation, mail management, and lawn mowing to name a few. I know there was more. I also know how easy it is to be hard on yourself for the things that you don’t do that you should do as well as the things that you do that you shouldn’t do.

Unfortunately, being hard on yourself is neither a very enjoyable nor a very productive way to live. Some people, in fact, live with so much shame and guilt, so much regret and anger, so much sadness and remorse, that they become overwhelmed and paralyzed. They become unable to take important actions and make big decisions out of fear that they’ll screw something up. They end up being more reactive than proactive, more bitter than blessed.

If that sounds like you, even a little bit like you, then I have an encouraging word for you today: be gentle with yourself and with others. In the end, there’s no way to screw up important actions or big decisions, other than to fail to take them or make them. So learn to accept them for what they are: your opportunity to grow through the never-ending journey of life.

Does it surprise you to learn that there’s no way to screw up important actions or big decisions? If so, then you’ve probably succumbed to the notion that the destination is more important than the journey and that you can, in fact, determine the destination through some combination of hard work, careful planning, and driving ambition. This notion is, in fact, the way of the world. It is the culture in which most of us live and breathe from the cradle to the grave. And yet it is a lie.

The melancholy writer of Ecclesiastes observed, thousands of years ago, that hard work, careful planning, and driving ambition do not guarantee success. “I’ve seen it all,” the Quester observed, “and it’s nothing but smoke • smoke, and spitting into the wind. Life’s a corkscrew that can’t be straightened, a minus that won’t add up.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14f, The Message)

If that’s true, then there’s no reason to be hard on yourself for trying and failing. It works out that way all too often. Try shifting your focus to making the most of the opportunities and interests that come your way, to living each day to the fullest, to enjoying the present moment for what it is: a gift.

Listen again to that same ancient Source of Wisdom. “After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. That’s about it. That’s the human lot.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18, The Message)

Such wisdom sounds like a prescription for healthy self-care to me. Focus on the journey rather than the destination, the process rather than the product, the contest rather than the score, the means rather than the ends, the present rather than the past or the future.

Here’s a case in point. A few weeks ago I shared with you my partner’s decision to accept a position on the faculty of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. That’s a big decision. After our son graduates from high school, we’ll sell our house and move there. In the meantime, Megan will commute back and forth as time, opportunity, and money permit. Once we arrive, I’ll reinvent myself all over again.

Is that the right decision? Who knows! Who cares! It’s our decision and we now have the opportunity to experience and explore that decision, in all its fullness. If things don’t work out according to plan, if things end up being more difficult than we think, if life ends up being harder than we’d like, or if the summers end up being hotter than we can bear • that’s OK, because there’s no way to know or to control such things in advance. All we can do is to make the best of what comes our way, for as long as God gives us life.

So be gentle with yourself. Don’t kick yourself about what could’ve, should’ve, or would’ve been. Instead, look for love in any and every situation. It’s there. And finding it is, after all, the point.

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #165: Be Generous

Laser Provision

Healthy self-care leads us to be generous with our time, energy, and resources. Our cup overflows with love. And that can make all the difference in the world.

LifeTrek Provision

The Chautauqua Institution on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in western New York State is a family favorite for summer vacation. We’ve gone there every summer since 1994. It’s a place that brings out the best in people. For 125 years, Chautauqua has featured top-rate artistic, educational, recreational, and inspirational opportunities at affordable prices. You can visit Chautauqua on line at http://www.ciweb.org.

Going to Chautauqua is, for us, a part of healthy self-care. We come away guided and inspired to be better people, truer to our own ideals. By taking care of ourselves we’re better able to care for others. That’s one way to discern whether you’re just being selfish or practicing healthy self-care. If the time, energy, and resources that you spend on yourself and your family make you a more generous person, not just in spirit but also in actual practice, then you’re on the right track indeed.

Consider the story Dreams Come True, written by Patricia E. Moniot who lives in Jamestown, New York, which is just down the road from Chautauqua. The story illustrates the beautiful way generosity goes around and comes around.

“I began a struggle with manic-depressive illness in 1968, just as I was entering graduate school. Through years of hospitals, group homes, and homeless situations, it was music that healed me • always. I had studied piano throughout high school and college, and played for the college glee club as bravely as I could. In the •60s, when living in mental health facilities, there always seemed to be a piano within easy reach. Playing the piano kept my mind focused and gave me hope of recovery. In the •70s, music brought me out of a depression that had made me bedridden for three years: I tried playing the organ at our church. The job lasted for eight years. It improved my mental health so much that I was able to move away from home and start working in the mainstream of life.”

“In 1968, the famous Jamestown pianist, Dorothy Brooks, first caught my attention when I was a patient in an institution. There she was, performing a sing-along session involving us in singing and clapping.”

“Dorothy Brooks has volunteered in our community for decades, playing in hospitals, senior centers and any place where people could benefit from, and join in, her lively programs. Through the years, I encountered her and her music in many local places, and for a while, we were neighbors. She always told me to use my talents. I dreamed of someday playing music for her.”

“Finally, I bloomed, and started playing the piano twice a month at local nursing homes, churches, senior functions, and even at my mother’s funeral. I developed groups of singing partners, including my 83-year-old father, Joe, who plays the harmonica, sings tenor and tells jokes. His wife Ruth reads her sister’s poetry during our programs. I also accompany a wonderful German lady, Ingrid Grunert, who has a strong, inspiring voice and a generous spirit. She wears German dirndl dresses and enlivens any group.”

“My dream finally came true last April 1997 when I played at the nursing home where Dorothy Brooks now resides. She sat in the front and kept saying, •I know that song!’ A frail 95 years of age, she was still a shining star. So I say life is mysterious, and out of darkness can come light.”

Such a simple act: singing and clapping in hospitals, group homes, and senior centers. Who knows what motivated Dorothy to be such a generous spirit? It may have been the illusion that she could change the world. But, as Rousseau asked in the 18th century, “Who would not prefer the illusions of a generous spirit, which overleaps all obstacles, to that dry, repulsive reason whose indifference to the welfare of humanity is ever the chief obstacle to all schemes for its attainment?”

Dorothy may not have changed the world, but she did change the life of Patricia Moniot. And no act of generosity, no matter how small, goes unrequited. The Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, puts the precept this way:

We may feel that we don’t have the time to make people happy • we say, ‘time is money,’ but time is more than money. Life is for more than using time to make money. Time is for being alive, for sharing joy and happiness with others. The wealthy are often the least able to make others happy. Only those with time can do so, (and when we do), we will improve all the time.”

Do you have the time to make someone happy? Give yourself to others and you will discover the meaning of life. Be generous with your time, energy, and resources and you’ll never go wanting for more. Be they random or well-designed acts of kindness, you have the power to choose life rather than death. Your choice can make all the difference in the world.

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #164: Be Gracious

Laser Provision

Healthy self-care leads to an attitude of gratitude, and gratitude leads to graciousness. We’re so happy to be alive that we become less demanding and more understanding of others.

LifeTrek Provision

Last week I talked about gratitude as a sure sign that you’re taking good care of yourself. When your routine includes regular doses of healthy self-care, it’s hard not to feel thankful and glad to be alive. That’s true in good times and in bad. Tend the garden of your soul and you’ll harvest gratitude as one of the first fruits.

Mixed in with the harvest of gratitude you’re sure to find sprigs of graciousness. The two grow well together. One might say they have a symbiotic or mutually beneficial relationship. The more thankful we are to be alive, the less demanding and more understanding we can be of others.

Instead of obstinate, we can see them as strong. Instead of ugly, we can see them as nervous. Instead of prejudiced, we can see them as scared. Instead of self-serving, we can see them as thoughtful. Instead of slow and lazy, we can see them as deliberate and careful. Instead of spendthrift, we can see them as generous. Instead of weak, we can see them as humble. Instead of extravagant, we can them as fashionable. Instead of spiteful, we can see them as frank. Instead of foolhardy, we can see them as shrewd.

Such willingness to give another person the benefit of the doubt and to respond with understanding rather than impatience is the essence of graciousness. The gracious person suspends his or her judgment of others in order to focus on where the other is coming from and what they’re going through.

I’ve had countless opportunities to ponder this mystery. When I was in the parish ministry, I would frequently become privy to people’s secret lives and pains. Walking down the sidewalk or riding in an elevator, you may have no idea that the person next to you just lost a loved one, a job, a relationship, or a fortune • let alone their health, integrity, trust, or home. You may also know nothing of the exhilaration, expectation, or triumph they may be feeling. Yet all these things and more factor into who they are and how they act at this point and time.

Gracious people understand this and conduct themselves accordingly, both one-on-one and in groups. They embody the 800-year-old wisdom of St. Francis, when he prayed, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace … grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.”

Stephen Covey picked up on this ancient wisdom when he flagged it as the fifth habit of highly effective people: “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Covey calls this habit the practice of empathic communication. “(This) involves,” Covey writes, “a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak. They’re filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people’s lives.” (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Simon & Schuster • New York, 1989).

That’s not the way of gracious people. Gracious people patiently seek to get inside another person’s frame of reference. They are so thankful just to be alive, that they graciously extend courtesy and respect to others. They neither look down upon nor condemn. They simply bring the spotlight of their undivided, nonjudgmental attention to the joys and sorrows, the ups and downs, the triumphs and tragedies, the twists and turns of life. In the process of doing so, and often without any particular agenda to serve as change agents, they become powerful conduits of transformational energy. It’s no wonder that Covey calls them “highly effective people.”

Are you a gracious person? If you are, then you’re probably taking good care of yourself. When we feel neglected or abused, stressed or tired, chaotic or crazy, rushed or hungry, then we really can’t extend a gracious presence to others. But when these basic needs are met, and when we allow ourselves to appreciate that fact, we can stop demanding and start understanding others. We can shift our way in the world to a softer touch. We can let go of irritation and resentment in order to hold on to love.

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #163: Be Grateful

Laser Provision

Gratitude is one sure sign that you’re taking good care of yourself. If you wake up, go through the day, and fall asleep feeling grateful, then you’ve mastered a most important quality of being.

LifeTrek Provision

The good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we will be moving to Williamsburg, Virginia during the summer of 2002. Not very many people can predict the future in such detail so far in advance, but that’s one of the gifts we’ve been given. Between now and then, Megan will commute to Williamsburg from Columbus to teach on the educational leadership faculty of the College of William & Mary School of Education.

We spent the last few days in Williamsburg, searching for and finding a wonderful, furnished, efficiency apartment that’s a 20-minute walk from Megan’s office and a 10-minute walk from Colonial Williamsburg.

Sometimes I think runners have the best of all possible lives. On Friday morning I got up early and ran about fifteen miles around Jamestown Island • site of the first permanent English settlement in America (dating back to 1607) and, alas, of the first African slaves in the original 13 colonies (dating back to 1619). The sign on the Colonial National Historical Park, which controls the island, said something about no Motorized Vehicles, Bicycles, or Pedestrians allowed before 8:30 a.m. I arrived around 6:15 a.m. and since the sign didn’t saying anything about Runners, I figured it was safe to proceed. 🙂

It turned out to be not only safe but also beautiful. The place was teeming with early-morning life, all of it seemingly poised to greet me as I ran by. If I saw one deer I saw fifty. The birds went from large families of geese and goslings to bald eagles to brown pelicans to yellow finches and red cardinals. Each time I went around the five-mile route I stopped at Black Point for a view of the James River, as the sun rose in the east.

My overwhelming response through the entire run was a feeling of gratefulness. The growing heat and kamikaze flies could not outweigh the majesty and mystery of the moment. It was perfect.

That feeling of gratefulness is, I would suggest, one of the surest signs that you’re practicing healthy self-care. The two just naturally go together. If, instead, you go through your days with a sense of cynicism, weariness, arrogance, or entitlement, then you’re either neglecting or fooling yourself.

Neglect is the most common destroyer of gratitude. We too often fail to take the time to do enjoyable things. In two weeks I’ll compete in my first triathlon, so this afternoon Megan and I went up to Alum Creek Lake, where the triathlon will be held, to enjoy the beach and to practice my swimming. It cost virtually nothing and we had a great couple of hours. On the way home, I said, “We’ve lived here for seven years and this is the first time we’ve gone to the beach.” “That’s because we’ve always been too busy,” Megan replied. And so go the excuses.

What’s your excuse? Too little time? Too little money? Too much stress? Too much effort? Making excuses is no way to go through life. Carpe diem! Seize the day! Even the smallest opportunities, like a winning hand of solitaire or a terrific and timely song, can become the cause of thanksgiving once they are acknowledged and claimed as true gifts.

Of course you can fool yourself into discounting these things or, worse yet, into taking them for granted as though you were somehow entitled to or deserved them. Too many people have wonderful opportunities but a terrible attitude about life. They become merciless misers, like Ebenezer Scrooge, instead of grateful benefactors and magnanimous hosts.

Want to know if you’ve been taking good care of yourself? Look at your attitude. Do you wake up every morning, go through the day, and fall asleep with an attitude of gratitude? Then chances are you’re on track to master an essential quality of being. If not, it may be time to stop neglecting and fooling yourself. Life is too short to be lived any other way.

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #162: Practice Healthy Self-Care

Laser Provision

If you’re working too hard and living too little, it’s time to get smart. Caring for yourself is an inescapable fact of life. Do it right, and you’ll find yourself “blessed to be a blessing.” Do it wrong, or fail to do it at all, and you’ll pay the price.•

LifeTrek Provision

This week I start a new series on the signs and principles of healthy self-care. Coaches spend a lot of time on this with their clients. Coach University likes to call it “extreme self-care” to emphasize the point that we can never show too much affection and concern for ourselves. Rather than being content with “just enough,” coaches operate from a philosophy of abundance. It really is possible to have it all.

That may sound selfish and even outrageous to those who’ve spent a lifetime caring for others. It may also sound unrealistic and yet enviable to those who’ve spent a lifetime working hard for others. And to those who study socioeconomic trends, it may sound like nothing more than yet another self-serving rationalization of the affluent elite while millions sweat and starve.

Such objections fail to grasp the true concept of healthy self-care. When it’s done right, healthy self-care enables us to care more for others, to work more for what matters, and to transform the world in the process. Indeed, healthy self-care is known by its fruits. If the things we do for ourselves do not bear the fruit of caring and productive lives, then those things are either not really healthy or not really self-care. The link is that direct.

They’re Not Really Healthy. Too many people choose to reward themselves with unhealthy pastimes and pursuits. I know of runners, for example, who believe a long run entitles them to a cigarette or to a meal loaded with alcohol and saturated fat. I know of dieters who reach their goal weight only to gain it all back by overindulging in the foods they’ve been denying themselves. I know of managers who believe that a hard day or week at the office entitles them to be a couch potato at home. Cigarettes, alcohol, saturated fat, gluttonous delights, and a sedentary lifestyle may feel like self-care, but they’re not really healthy for you.

They’re Not Really Self-Care. Too many people choose to reward themselves with other people’s ideas of self-care. Magazines and tabloids frequently promote the latest quick-fix fad for body, mind, and spirit: Get a Massage, Go to a Spa, Get a House Cleaner, Exercise Daily, Get Rolfed, Get a New Wardrobe, Redecorate, Get a Manicure, Go on a Retreat. The problem with all such lists is that they may not fit with your likes and dislikes, your personal style, your idea of self-care. What if you don’t like massages? What if you like cleaning your own house? Someone else’s notion of self-care may not really be self-care for you.

Healthy self-care presents the winning combination. It evokes the image of making time for the things and people that are good for you. Doing so makes you feel good. It nurtures your physical, emotional, vocational, and spiritual health. It restores your soul.

There really is no better way to make it from the cradle to the grave. We can work 24/7 and get a lot done, but we’ll end up overloading our circuits in the process • provoking mistakes, frustration, impatience, and weariness. Healthy self-care is about working smarter rather than harder. We can deny ourselves the pampering and preening that we enjoy, the down time for rest and relaxation, as well as the opportunities for creative expression and physical exercise, but we’ll end up dead all the same. Healthy self-care is about living better rather than longer.

One thing I like about the notion of “extreme self-care” is that it communicates the radical nature of healthy self-care. It’s not about taking an occasional day away while killing yourself the rest of the time; it’s about developing a lifestyle that sustains your spirit so that you can sustain the spirit of others. This was the promise to Abraham in the Jewish scriptures. “I will bless you,” God says, “so that you will be a blessing.” The rest of Abraham’s life was difficult, to say the least, but he never forgot the Promise and he never stopped going back to the Source. As a result, his difficult life was rich and full.

Healthy self-care is about living like Abraham, connecting regularly with the Promise and the Source of life • balancing time for renewal, work, and other activities. When we do that right, with daily, weekly, monthly, and annual rhythms, our lives will burst forth with blessings. Over the next six weeks, I’ll review six of those blessings and the disciplines of healthy self-care that under gird them.

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #161: STOP

Laser Provision

Tim Gallwey says that everyone should STOP: Step back, Think, Organize your thoughts, Proceed. Short STOPs every day. Long STOPs at critical junctures. This has been such a time for me.

LifeTrek Provision

I ran into one of my coaching tip subscribers on Thursday night. “I can hardly wait,” she told me, “to get back from my Memorial Day travels to find out what you decide in the •Name that Newsletter’ contest.” I had no idea the contest was so gripping! In any event, the waiting is over. LifeTrek Provisions it is.

Here’s the skinny on the contest: I received 51 ideas from 35 subscribers. Sorted first by frequency and then by name: Life Wisdom, Life Line, LifeTrek Wisdom, Leader Line, Leader Wisdom, Life Lines, LifeTrek, Life Cereal, LifeTrek News, Running Wisdom, Wise Lines, Custom Coach, Effective Leadership, Energy Zone, e-sage, For the Journey, Goal Getter, Insight, Journey Quest, Journeys, Leading Creatively, Let’s Get Goaling!, Life in Stride, Life Journeys, Life Channel, Life Gifts News, Life Improvement, Life Sentences, Life Support, Life Training, LifeTrek Line, LifeTrek Booster, LifeTrek Compass, LifeTrek Guide, LifeTrek Strategies, LifeTrek TripTik, Life Walk, Life Zone, Living Well, Living Wisdom, Making a Difference, Prodding, Self Actualization, Skill for Living, Spirit Quest, Synergies, Trekking, Use Your Mind, Wisdom in Stride, Wisdom + Life, Wisdom Words, and Words of Wisdom.

Now some will say that I picked LifeTrek Provisions, which isn’t even on the list, so I didn’t have to give away the free month of complementary coaching. Au contraire! My own coach held me accountable to that promise, by suggesting that if the contest prompted a new idea I should hold a drawing among all entrants to offer the free month of complementary coaching. So be it. I had my son pick a number and the winner comes to us from shawneelink.net. Congratulations.

What led me to LifeTrek Provisions were the following astute observations:

  1. LifeTrek is a “brand name” that should not be lost or changed. If anything it should be more prominent, so that more people hear about and come into the LifeTrek community.
  2. Although names involving “Life” and “Wisdom” received the most number of votes, I was struck by the comment that “Wisdom” sounds rather high and mighty • as though I had everything all figured out. Given that is neither true nor desirable, I decided to move in a different direction.
  3. Avoid cutesy, gimmicky, jargon, buzzword names. This is not a cult, but a process that contributes to success and fulfillment in life and work. The name should be accessible to all our clients: executives, managers, administrators, ministers, educators, and athletes (to name a few).
  4. My LifeTrek Provisions have not, at least on the surface, been especially targeted to leaders. Including “Leader” or “Leadership” in the name might require or prompt a change in focus.
  5. Don’t make the publication any longer or more comprehensive. People like the narrative, one-point-a-week style. I don’t need to add to the problem of e-mail overload and overwhelm.
  6. The name should easily complete the sentence: “Subscribe to….” That sentence and hyperlink will start appearing throughout our Web site and first-time visitors will receive a pop-up applet that invites them to subscribe. The name should also make for a good e-mail subject line.

Your observations have prompted me to take what Tim Gallwey calls a long STOP in his book The Inner Game of Work (Random House • New York, 2000). STOP stands for Step back, Think,Organize your thoughts, Proceed. Gallwey recommends short STOPs every day: immediately after waking up, when you arrive at your desk, before speaking, upon hearing a complaint, when you’re under pressure, when you’re asked a question, at the end of the workday, when you need a rest. Short STOPs, he writes, “can make all the difference between a satisfying day of conscious choices and what otherwise could feel like a fatiguing day of needless interruptions.”

Long STOPs make for great coaching projects. What am I really trying to accomplish here? What is driving the proposed change? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Are the people involved capable and ready to make the change? Have alternative changes been considered? Is the proposed change in sync with direction? Who or what will be affected by this change? What communications are necessary? What is the best time, place, and means for those communications? What can or should be learned before attempting this change?

My long STOP has made it very clear that I want to go from hundreds to thousands of subscribers. I see LifeTrek Provisions as a valuable tool in the pursuit of success and fulfillment, and I want it to reach as large an audience as possible. I want to make it easier, rather than harder, to read • for busy people who have a very short STOP at the start of their week. I may want to develop a special “leader’s edition,” where the leadership application will be explicit, clear, and unmistakable. I want LifeTrek Provisions to prompt more prospective-client inquiries, from those who’d like to apply these Provisions to their life and work through a one-on-one or group coaching relationship.

So why Provisions? Because adequate provisions make the trek safe, fun, easy, and successful. The dictionary defines “trek” as “a long difficult journey, especially on foot and often over rough or mountainous terrain.” To go on such a journey without adequate provisions, including rations, gear, maps, and compass, risks getting hurt, confused, lost, and stranded. In a worst-case scenario, it risks death itself. One can ruin a perfectly wonderful trip without adequate provisions. That’s as true in life as it is on foot. The word provision literally means “a forward vision.” That’s what LifeTrek Provisions seeks to provide: the proactive vision before the journey of life that makes us all more successful and fulfilled. It is the STOP before the journey that enables us to go with confidence.

I also like two other connotations. A “pro” vision can be seen as a “positive” and as a “professional” vision. That too is what LifeTrek Provisions seeks to provide: well-researched, well-thought-out answers to the questions of life.

All of the above and more has been prompted by the STOP to “Name that Newsletter.” Thank you for your input. It has been more valuable than you will ever know, especially my partner Megan’s creative participation. In addition to the name change, I’ve decided to add a Laser Provision at the start of every issue. In one minute or less, busy people will be able to get the point and stock up on what they need for the week. If it grabs them, they can read on for more. I’ve also decided that if I develop a special leader’s edition, it will be called LifeTrek Leader Provisions. But I haven’t made a definite decision about doing so.

Next week we start a new six-part series on the signs of healthy self-care. We’ll move out of the “Hs” and into the “Gs”! If you can think of people who might enjoy the series, please send me their e-mail addresses and I’ll put them on the list. You might also think of forwarding the first Provisionin each series to your entire address book with the following intro: “I’ve been receiving this weekly e-newsletter for a while, and find it to be a great source of information and inspiration. It’s well written and has some great ideas. Take a look and, if you’re interested, send coachbob@lifetrekcoaching.com an e-mail.

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #168: Be Great

Laser Provision

Do not be afraid. Be great to yourself; be great to others. Live with courage, boldness, and passion. Live as though you were never going to die. Take responsibility for your time, energy, commitment, and focus. Be great.

LifeTrek Provision

For the past five weeks I’ve been writing about healthy self-care. I’ve talked about being grateful, gracious, generous, gentle, and grounded. If I could summarize everything I’ve written and everything I believe about healthy self-care in a single sentence, it is this: be great to yourself and be great to others. It’s that simple. It’s that hard.

The two are interconnected. Healthy self-care is never one or the other. Being great to yourself, and yourself alone, is nothing but selfishness. Being great to others, and always to others, is nothing but martyrdom. Healthy self-care is doing both, and doing both well.

I know a woman • Joy Rockwell • who, in addition to holding down a regular full-time job, is the number one fundraiser in the nation for the American Diabetes Association through their annual America’s Walk for Diabetes program. Listen to her inspiration and passion:

“In 1987, I was involved in a terrible car accident in which my right foot was severed and my kids were in comas for months. Doctors told me they would reattach the foot as best they could, but that I’d probably never walk without a limp or crutches. After 12 surgeries, I learned to walk again. About the same time of my last surgery my husband found out he had diabetes. That weekend, while in the pharmacy picking up my husband’s insulin, I saw the America’s Walk for Diabetes brochure. It reminded me that there are others out there that need help…I wasn’t the only one down and out. Besides, I wanted to prove that I could walk again. That was the beginning of my love affair with the Walk. It’s become a big part of my life.”

In the past six years, Joy has single-handedly raised more than $100,000. She’s done it for herself. She’s done it for her husband. It has become her passion. And it has made her great. As Benjamin Disraeli wrote back in 1944, “People are only truly great when they act from the passions” (Coningsby).

And then there’s the story of Lance Armstrong who for the second time in two years prepares to ride again this weekend around the Champs-Elys•es in Paris wearing the yellow jersey that symbolizes victory in the Tour de France • arguably the most challenging and grueling of all athletic endeavors. Lance is not only a phenomenal athlete, he’s also a cancer survivor • having once been given less than a 3% chance of surviving testicular cancer that had metastasized throughout his body, including his brain. Listen to his inspiration and passion.

“I was near the end of the journey. But there had been two journeys, really: the journey to get to the Tour, and then the journey of the Tour itself.”

“The truth is, if you asked me to choose between winning the Tour de France and cancer, I would choose cancer. Odd as it sounds, I would rather have the title of cancer survivor than winner of the Tour, because of what it has done for me as a human being, a man, a husband, a son, and a father.”

“In those first days after crossing the finish line in Paris I was swept up in a wave of attention, and as I struggled to keep things in perspective, I asked myself why my victory had such a profound effect on people. Maybe it’s because illness is universal • we’ve all been sick, no one is immune • and so my winning the Tour was a symbolic act, proof that you can not only survive cancer, but thrive after it. Maybe, as my friend Phil Knight says, I am hope.”

“I would just like to say one thing,” Lance told the press in the finish area, choking back tears. “I’m in shock. I’m in shock. I’m in shock. If you ever get a second chance in life for something, you’ve got to go all the way.” (It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, G. P. Putnam’s Sons • New York, 2000).

Do you get it? Vauvenargues, a French soldier and moralist, wrote in 1746: “To achieve great things we must live as though we were never going to die” (R•flexions et maximes). Jesus put it another way: “You will not live in the reign of God, unless you become like little children.” Perhaps that’s why, as Lance observes, children with cancer have higher cure rates than adults with cancer: “Adults know too much about failure; they’re more cynical, resigned, and fearful.”

Don’t let that happen to you. Be great to yourself; be great to others. Live with courage, boldness, and passion. Live as though you were never going to die. Take responsibility for your time, energy, commitment, and focus. Be brave. Be grateful, gracious, generous, gentle, grounded, and 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 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.

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 #167: Be Grounded

Laser Provision

Healthy self-care means being grounded in a strong, personal foundation. This takes a regular discipline of meditation, stretching, and/or exercise. Use your body to heal your soul.

LifeTrek Provision

Last week’s issue of LifeTrek Provisions, “Be Gentle,” prompted some discussion by its implication that we can, in certain senses, do no wrong. Even bad choices contribute to our growth, I observed, and to the growth of others. That’s why I called for a spirit of gentleness with ourselves and with others, since things have a way of working out even when we make stupid decisions or take poor actions.

Some readers found that notion to be dangerous, arguing that it trivialized evil and discounted the end product of our actions. Others found it to be comforting, since they had long had a tendency to second-guess everything and to be hard on themselves as well as others.

I plan on saving my response to the ethical and theological question (If good can come from evil, does that make evil good?) for another issue LifeTrek Provisions. In this issue, I want to bring us back to the focus of the series, namely healthy self-care. How do we know if we’re practicing healthy self-care? One sure sign is that we are grounded in a strong, personal foundation. Such grounding enables us to weather the storms of life with serenity and courage; it also, I might add, enables us to do less evil and to make better decisions.

What is a strong, personal foundation? It is nothing less than the source of life itself. That foundation is there, inside and outside of each and every one of us, but it often buried by the pressures and anxieties of the moment. Fortunately, like archaeologists uncovering the ruins of an ancient city, we too can sweep away the debris that hide and often overwhelm the foundation of a rich and full life.

I would suggest three useful tools for this most important of digs: meditation, stretching, and exercise. They can be used in tandem or individually to uncover and connect ourselves with the ancient of days. A strong, personal foundation is impossible to find and to build upon without the use of at least one of these tools • or of some tool that has the power to shift our awareness away from the urgent and to the important.

Meditation. Meditation is often shrouded in mystery, as though it is the sole purview of monks and other religious professionals. Nothing could be further from the truth. Meditation is little more than being silent. A silent mind is a powerful mind because of its focus. It is incredibly difficult to be silent for even a few moments. The mind quickly rushes to fill the void. Slow, rhythmic breathing can help quiet the mind. True meditation is, in fact, generally impossible without disciplined breathwork. When your mind wanders off, remember to be gentle with yourself. Refocus on your breathing until the noise and chatter cease.

  1.  Stretching is another way to sweep away the debris that hides the foundation of life. A series of slow, static stretches can refresh the body and make the spirit whole. Stretching should never hurt. Simply strike a pose until you feel the stretch; then lean into it just a bit more and hold for 30 seconds. With all the urgent things that need doing, stretching can seem like a total waste of time. But it’s not. The essence of Yoga is stretching plus meditation; the ancient yogis recognized that stretching, like breathing, can trigger a powerful focused awareness of self, others, and God.
  2.  In the Western world, aerobic exercise is often the preferred path to enlightenment. Running on a treadmill in front of a television is not what I have in mind. Getting out in nature on a regular basis, whether it be walking, running, cycling, or swimming, is more like it. Such activity can sweep out the cobwebs and freshen up the day. The rhythm of exercise can quiet the mind just as effectively the breathwork of meditation or the bodywork of stretching. It may take a mile or two, but if you keep going there will come a moment of transcendent awareness.

I know coaches who refuse to work with people who are either unwilling or unable to commit themselves to a regular (as in most every day) discipline of meditation, stretching, or exercise. They’ve learned that without such a discipline people are unable to be grounded in the things that matter and are, therefore, unable to make progress in the journey of life.

What about you? Are you using one of these tools to uncover and build upon the strong, personal foundation that exists in your life? If not, you may want to try them out to see which one or ones work best for you. It’s never too late to get a 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 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.

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