Provision #408: Avoid Spiritual Illness

Laser Provision

Next week we will begin to look at the things we need to embrace for spiritual wellness. Before moving on, however, today’s Provision summarizes the twelve things we need to avoid if we hope to avoid spiritual illness. We’ve covered these things in detail since the start of the year, but if you were not able to read an issue or two, this Provision will give you the Reader’s Digest version of them all.

LifeTrek Provision

Since the start of this series, we have considered twelve things to avoid because they contribute to spiritual illness. There are, of course, many other things that can get us off track spiritually, but these twelve point us in the direction we need to go. Simply put, they set us on the path toward spiritual wellness.

Their wisdom notwithstanding, one of the problems of this series has been the titles. They have all highlighted twelve kinds of thinking we need to avoid in order to promote spiritual wellness, as though spirituality was primarily or even exclusively a matter of thinking. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Spirituality is primarily a way of being in the world. As with all ways of being, spirituality involves our thoughts. But it also involves our feelings, intuitions, ambitions, bodies, practices, environments, finances, communications, and relationships. In other words, it involves our whole being and we have to pay attention to the whole person if we hope to generate a field of spiritual wellness.

This will become clear in the second half of this series, as we move on to the things we need to embrace for spiritual wellness. We will consider twelve positive dynamics that move far beyond the cognitive realm and that capture both the richness and the power of spirituality. If you want to seize the day for zestful living, we hope you will stay with us for the ride.

Before we get started on our first embrace, I want to use today’s Provision to summarize the main points we have covered so far:

1. Avoid Magical Thinking. Too often spirituality smacks of woo-woo, hocus-pocus formulas for success and fulfillment. Think the right thoughts, and all will be well. Believe the right things, do the right things, practice the right things, or sacrifice the right things, and all will be well. Robert Farrar Capon calls these the “creed, cult, and conduct formulas” of religions that kill the spirit. There’s one big problem with these formulas: none of them work. There is no magic pill, whether natural or supernatural, that can always make everything better. What’s more, thinking that there is such a pill is just no fun. It slowly takes the zest out of life as we try, but fail, to make the formula work. Better to avoid magical thinking altogether, living mindfully in the here and now, than to go through life weighted down by thoughts of a transactional universe.

2. Avoid Cynical Thinking. Once people are freed from magical thinking, it’s easy to swing all the way over to cynical thinking. But that too provokes spiritual illness. Just because there is no guaranteed, esoteric, invisible, or unassailable system for getting what we want out of life does not mean that there is nothing worth doing or paying attention to in the present moment. First of all, there are things that work more often than not. So better to increase your odds than to not play the game at all. Secondly, and more importantly, there is great joy that comes from living with our eyes wide open. When we stop looking for the magic pill we can start living in the here and now. We can stop worrying about the future and fretting about the past. We can set aside the pain of expectation and embrace the joy of discovery. We can live free for love.

3. Avoid Positive Thinking. This one generated a lot of interest when the Provision first came out. I mean, how could anyone be against “positive thinking!” Unfortunately, for all too many people, “positive thinking” becomes another one of those magical systems that interferes with our ability to really see, hear, smell, taste, and feel what’s going on in the present moment. When intention overshadows attention we lose the balance that makes for spiritual wellness. When positive thinking becomes a system of control or influence over life, rather than a system of recognition and respect for the underlying perfection of every situation, we fail to live from a posture of joyful fascination. So forget about “positive thinking.” Discover, instead, the power of nonjudgmental witnessing awareness. It can certainly make life better, through good times and bad.

4. Avoid Negative Thinking. When you consider the state of the world, “negative thinking” is a far bigger problem than “positive thinking.” It’s easy to look around and see things to complain, whine, moan, and fret about. All of which can lead to a victim mentality, as we irrationally and fearfully turn a little bad thing into a much bigger bad thing. This illustrates how the problem with “negative thinking” is not much different from the problem with positive thinking: both approaches garble our awareness and appreciation of life based upon either our fear (that nothing will work out) or our faith (that everything will work out). By filtering things through our favorite lens (are you a pessimist or an optimist?), we distort our responsibility, usually make matters worse, and miss many opportunities for discovering meaning, purpose, awareness, attachment, and identity in the here and now.

5. Avoid Unexamined Thinking. Socrates may have said it best: “an unexamined life is not worth living.” Yet many people go through their days with mindless inattention to their thoughts, feelings, actions, and intuitions. No wonder so many people suffer from a dearth of both knowledge and wisdom! That is not the way to spiritual wellness. Through regular practices of self-reflection and self-examination we can turn this around for life. “Whatever is true,” wrote the apostle Paul, “whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Don’t just think about these things, I would add, but read, write, pray, meditate, create, dialogue, and act upon these things. Ponder every external and internal voice until you clearly hear their wisdom. Raise your conscious awareness of what you stand for and how you carry yourself in the world.

6. Avoid Exclusive Thinking. This one also came as a surprise, since “exclusive” is such a popular word in so many circles. People like exclusive clubs, opportunities, stories, resorts, properties, contracts, sales, and truths. Everyone likes to receive special perks, privileges, and treatment. So why, then, did the poet Carl Sandburg call “exclusive” the “ugliest word in the English language?” Perhaps because of the way it separates us, one from another. “We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish,” said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters. Our abundance has brought us neither peace of mind nor serenity of spirit.” When we avoid exclusive thinking we avoid these dire consequences. When we embrace love in the here and now, we commune with the divine in both this life and the next.

7. Avoid Anxious Thinking. It’s as easy to succumb to anxious thinking as it is to succumb to negative thinking. There are not just problems in the world, there are scary problems. That’s why many have labeled this the age of anxiety. But through adjusting our awareness, position, community, and intentions, we can keep our anxiety at bay. Keeping our awareness in the present moment, rather than worrying about tomorrow or fretting about yesterday, is an anxiety antidote. Especially if we keep things in perspective. Every moment has its blessings. But awareness is not just a function of mental focus; it is also a function of position. Sometimes, to avoid anxious thinking, we need to take action in order to shift our perspective. Other times we need to connect with people who can assist us to relieve our anxiety even as we disconnect from those who pile anxiety on. And it never hurts to look at the sunrise to be reminded that everything will be all right.

8. Avoid Aimless Thinking. Aimlessness lies on the opposite end of the spectrum from anxiety. Anxious thinking comes either from our attachment to what we want to happen or from our aversion to what we don’t want to happen. We get so attached to a particular outcome, and a particular course of action, that deviations cause us to fall into the anxiety pit. Those who fail to make the necessary adjustments in awareness, position, community, and intentions can find themselves adrift in aimlessness. We abandon our aspirations and ambitions in order to protect ourselves from the anxiety pit. In the process, we rob life of the very things that make it worth living. “Vision,” it’s been said, “is a target that beckons.” So don’t be afraid to see your own visions and to dream your own dreams. They have the power to move us forward toward spiritual wellness.

9. Avoid Superior Thinking. There’s only one thing worse than a poor loser, and that’s a poor winner. When our aspirations and ambitions are working out, it’s tempting to boast and to develop a superiority complex both during and after the fact. That, however, is a surefire way to not only develop spiritual illness but also to sow the seeds of our own demise. Such attitudes disengage us from the very things that brought us to the dance in the first place. University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has noticed how this works in his studies of flow. The harder we try to overcome a challenge that is just about manageable, the less likely we are to experience flow. That’s because we get in our own way through the prideful exercise of control. Better to let go of pride in favor of humility. Better to do things for their own sake than for some later external goal. Better to receive every accomplishment as a gift.

10. Avoid Inferior Thinking. Of course the pendulum can swing too far in the other direction. If every accomplishment is a gift, then we can discount our contributions and sidestep our responsibilities to the point where we are paralyzed by an inferiority complex. We can become discouraged and hopeless in the face of adversity, as though neither we nor anyone else can turn things around. But remember the resurrection. There is always hope for the flowers! Especially when we expand our awareness to include the instinctive intelligence and rapid cognition explored by Malcolm Gladwell in his latest book, Blink. Armed with these tools, there really is no place for inferior thinking. We can always overcome the odds, even if that means having to snatch life from death.

11. Avoid Scarcity Thinking. Another factor which contributes to spiritual illness is viewing time, money, energy, and love as limited commodities that we trade for and protect carefully. This view contributes to a sense of time, money, energy, and love scarcity which, unfortunately, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Better to think of these dimensions as essential experiences to be enjoyed and shared with reckless abandon as though our generosity would generate more than enough for one and all. Fortunately, this too is a self-fulfilling prophecy. By giving them away, we discover that there is no scarcity of time, money, energy, or love. These things can be found in abundance, everywhere we look. Life is full of opportunities, resources, rhythms, and relationships from which we can draw strength and live. So go forth and act accordingly.

12. Avoid Selfish Thinking. We concluded our series with the admonition to avoid selfish thinking, and the Provision created a stir among our readers (see our Reader Replies). Some thought it was the best one ever, others that it was both misguided and unfair. My point, simply put, was to make other-care the foundation for self-care (rather than vice-versa). Putting self-care first sounds like a good idea (loving ourselves so we can love others) but it’s open to too much manipulation and self-deception. Putting other-care first (loving others so we can love ourselves) creates a spiral of caring: caring increases geometrically with each iteration. Unfortunately, as evidenced by some of the comments, not everyone experiences caring in this way. Some care for others to the point of exhaustion (deficiency) while others care for themselves to the point of self-absorption (excess). Well, don’t do that! The point of this Provision was to highlight the symbiotic relationship between other-care and self-care, not to counsel one over the other. Do whatever it takes to create a rhythm between the two movements since herein lies the promise of a better world for all.

Coaching Inquiries: What do you need to do to avoid spiritual illness? Do any of these recommendations speak to you? Which ones would you like to learn more about? What’s the best way for you to learn? To read a book? To write in a journal? To talk with a coach? To go for a walk? Why don’t you do one of these things, right now?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form 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 appreciate your insight. I am in total agreement with your Provision regarding selfishness. I do not know what scripture passage it is but there is a Christian hymn that it inspired that goes something like this: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and its righteousness. Then all these things will be added unto you. Alleluia!” Whenever I hum that hymn and think about the words, it puts everything into perspective and helps me keep my priorities in line. My husband and I certainly believe that God rewards faithfulness and compassionate hearts.


Thanks for the inspirational Provision to Avoid Selfish Thinking • it ranks among your best.


I disagree with your last Provision on selfishness. I spent many years of my life putting other people first, especially family and friends, and that never led to excellent self-care. It just led to a messy and unbalanced life. We need to put self-care first if we hope to actually do it and do it right.


Once again, your Provisions topic came at the most perfect moment to assist my inner Being with enduring and ultimately Transforming a situation in which I am currently involved. Thank You!!


I usually enjoy your columns, but I cannot agree with your point of view on selfishness. Although I believe in helping others and have instilled those values in my children, I would be unable to give love to anyone else if I did not first love myself. I would have no idea what love was. I cannot give away what I do not own. If I did not take care of myself I would not have had energy to raise healthy children.

The great people you noted as being unselfish were in my opinion very selfish. All of them fought to overcome situations that oppressed them. Mandela did not fight for the rights of Hispanics. Gandhi did not advocate for the rights of Native Americans. Anthony did not fight for suffrage for 18 year olds. Although their examples are a model to others, they all fought for the rights and freedom for people like themselves. It was indeed extreme selfishness.

Perhaps you might want to review your article or run it by someone whom you know and whose opinion you value. But I think you were way off base on this one. In a humorous way, it reminds me of Gilda Radnor’s little old news-lady character who took something out of context and ran off into left field with it. 


Your last Provision was an excellent restatement of Ayn Rand’s interpretation of “selfishness.” Good perspective.


Thank you so much for the window into nature today. Your pictures of the hawk Click, as well as your words, were just what I needed.


Like Christina, I too have been inspired by Tim McGraw’s song. I really don’t think much of him as an artist, but I had great respect for his dad (Tug McGraw), for whom this song was written. I was a high school kid in suburban Philadelphia when Tug McGraw was at the peak of his pitching career in major league baseball. I can still see the footage of him being hoisted above his teammates in jubilation when the Phillies won the world series in 1980. I was lucky enough to be able to shake his hand when, along with a few friends. I marched down Broad Street with thousands of other fans in a parade that ended in Veterans Stadium, which no longer exists.

I too remember when Tim McGraw started to become popular and how it was well known (to anyone that watches national entertainment or network news shows) that he and his dad were “estranged”. It was only when Tug became ill that they found themselves able to mend fences. That was their “wake up call”, as you say. It is unfortunate that it all too often comes to that, unfortunately I think it’s SO hard for many of us, myself included, to get out of the “comfortable rut” we might find ourselves in to love deeper and speak sweeter and live a more enriched, authentic life (like we were dying). If you find a way to capture the urgency needed to take on that challenge • let me know.


Your Provision to Avoid Scarcity Thinking was simply wonderful. My life is filled with miracles everyday … absolutely joyful in the way the universe works … gratitude for every Provision you write pours from me!!! Thanks.


You mentioned your legs felt tired after a long run. Hot whirlpools after a long run may feel good, but do not help your legs much. To help with the inflammation after a long run use cold water or take an ice bath. (Ed. Note: You are right about that. Thanks for the reminder!)



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 #407: Avoid Selfish Thinking

Laser Provision

This Provision will challenge your thinking. If you are like most people, you think more about your own welfare than the welfare of others. You may even have developed an elaborate justification for such selfish thinking. But what if the way to self-care was not through making self-care your goal? What if it was not the product of selfish living, but the byproduct of generosity, justice, peace, and love? This Provision invites you to consider such a turning of the tables.

LifeTrek Provision

Before we get into this week’s Provision I want to celebrate the birth of a new member of the LifeTrek family. On Thursday morning, after less than 10 hours of labor and delivery, Elek Sol Aslan Jackson was born to Coach Erika Jackson and her husband, Theo. A healthy baby boy, weighing in at 7 lbs 14 oz (3.6 kg), Elek will no doubt find other ways on other days to make it into the pages of our Provisions and Pathways. Welcome Elek and congratulations Erika and Theo!

We come, then, to the conclusion of the first half of our series on spiritual wellness by challenging a generally accepted principal in the coaching industry, namely, that selfishness is a good thing. None other than the dean of the modern coaching movement himself, Thomas J. Leonard, made this clear in chapter one of his book, The Portable Coach: 28 Surefire Strategies for Business and Personal Success.

“Become incredibly selfish,” he writes. “Adopt the concept of extreme self-care. Put yourself first. Embrace the notion that, ‘If it’s good for me, it’s probably going to benefit others.’ Feel more independent and less pulled by your roles. Get a lot more of what you want, more often, and then build a reserve. Answer to the callings of your heart and mind before you answer to the callings of the tribe. Take what you feel you need, even if it seems that others won’t get as much.”

“Stop hanging around people who abhor selfishness,” he urges. “People who build their identity on trying to ‘do good’ all of the time, or who try to ‘evolve’ beyond their ‘ego,’ are usually drainers. Why? Because it takes a lot of ego to pretend you’re above having an ego • and a lot of energy to keep up that kind of pretense. If you spend time with such people, you’ll find yourself paying for their tickets.”

This self-described “incredibly selfish” man, whose extreme self-care routines included support by no fewer than ten health-care professionals (e.g., a physician, a coach, a nutritionist, a therapist, and a deep-tissue massage specialist), died in 2003 of a massive heart attack at the age of 47. All that self-care could not save him from a premature death. And he may have even reached the point where all that self-care became counterproductive.

In his defense, Thomas Leonard had much to say about his brand of selfishness that was on target and wholesome. He clearly states that “being selfish does not mean being a jerk. It doesn’t mean being pitiless, cold-hearted, and unwilling to help lift less fortunate people out of their circumstances.” He also states the coaching principle that we can ill-afford to take care of others at the expense of ourselves. And he repeatedly makes the connection between extreme self-care and the care of others.

“Tremendous numbers of people in this world are struggling and drowning in adversities of many kinds,” he writes. “You can help them by being a lighthouse on a solid foundation; you can help them by jumping into the waves with a buoyancy vest and lifeline to the shore. But you can’t help them if you yourself go under.”

“They say that when one is totally taken care of, his or her ‘cup runneth over.’ When this becomes true of you and your life, you’ll have extra resources, super reserves, that others can freely take advantage of without any risk to you. And you’ll have clear, solid boundaries that won’t allow anyone to take too much.”

Leonard, in other words, was not urging selfishness in the customary sense of the word. He was not urging people to care for themselves at the expense of others; he was urging people to care for themselves in order to “build a base that will give them the power to be generous • without the burnout syndrome that plagues so many people with good-hearted intentions.”

As much as I celebrate the notion of building a base for generosity, I don’t think it helps to frame that in terms of being “incredibly selfish.” Such language can turn self-care into an entitlement and its practitioners into demanding, Type-A personalities. That’s because self-care is not an end in itself, a goal to be pursued, or a product to be obtained. Doing so too often leads to excessive self-concern. Self-care is better generated as a byproduct of generosity itself.

Allow me to illustrate. In eight days I will be running the Boston Marathon. That means, among other things, that I have spent countless hours taking care of myself in training. It means I have paid attention to how I eat, rest, breathe, stretch, and work out. Those things alone count for at least 12 hours per day. It also means, this past week, that I scheduled an extra deep-tissue massage since my right hip was starting to hurt. I wanted to nip that in the bud.

For many people, including Leonard, all this time and all these activities would be viewed as “extreme self-care.” But that’s neither how I experience nor describe them. I rather enjoy these rhythms as part of how I reach out in the world. They enable me to share in the dreams of others and provide grist for the mill of Provisions. They make me happy because I don’t just do them for myself.

I would turn Leonard’s advice on its head. Don’t pursue self-care in order to practice generosity; practice generosity in order to pursue self-care. By giving ourselves away to others, by pouring ourselves out in service to the world, we will find both the reason and the opportunity for the very self-care Leonard was talking about. But we will do so without the self-absorption that comes from putting the cart before the horse.

Another concern I have about Leonard’s advice is that the great spiritual traditions of the world never urge people to be “incredibly selfish.” That was certainly not what brought so many people to Rome to honor the memory of Pope John Paul II. The great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” can just as well be translated, “Love your neighbor in order to love yourself.” But it cannot be translated the other way around (“Love yourself in order to love your neighbor.”).

Leonard was quick to dismiss this as old-world, old-school, and old-paradigm thinking. For him, loving yourself • selfishly, lavishly, and with reckless abandon • was the foundation for everything else. But that is not, it seems to me, the way to spiritual wellness. It’s by loving others that good things happen, both for them and for us. It’s by removing ourselves from the denominator of the equation that it can finally be solved. It’s by doing the right thing that we get things right.

The reason it helps to start with generosity, rather than with selfishness, is that we can all too easily rationalize self-care at the expense of others. In the name of laying the foundation for generosity many people never actually get around to being generous. There’s always one more section of the foundation to be poured.

“Once I build up six-months worth of living expenses, then I will help out those less fortunate.” “Once I am not so stressed by my job, then I will have the time to volunteer for others.” “Once I have a full practice, then I will start giving away some of my services.”

Sound familiar? When we make self-care the precondition for generosity, it’s easy to find excuses for why here and now are not the right place and time. But when we make generosity our way of being in the world, we generate the very structures of self-care that Leonard sought and so ably extolled. They develop naturally, as a byproduct of generosity. People don’t help those who help themselves; they help those who help each other.

Finally, it seems to me that Leonard’s advice comes from a privileged and naive understanding of how the world works. Generosity is not the only and often not even the best way to assist others. Justice requires a deeper look at the structures and systems which maintain the status quo. I am reminded of Saul Alinsky’s story of the lifeguard who kept pulling people out of the river.

Exhausted after repeated rescues, he eventually gave up. But he didn’t retire to his trailer for some much-needed rest and “extreme self-care.” Instead, he put on his clothes and went up river to put a stop to whoever or whatever was throwing all these people into the river. In other words, he took action for justice.

Do we really think that the people who changed our world for the better, after millennia of old-world, old-school, and old-paradigm thinking, did so because they thought of themselves as “incredibly selfish?” Do we really think that the changes would ever had happened if Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Mother Jones, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela (to mention only a few) had been focused on practicing “extreme self-care?” The very suggestion appears ludicrous.

These people, like so many others, put generosity and justice above everything else, including their own well-being. They were passionately committed to the pursuit of a better way for one and all, and we stand on their shoulders today even as our world yet cries for continued transformation. That is why I cannot cozy up to the idea that we need to become “incredibly selfish” in order to make our own lives and the world a better place to be. I am too aware of the struggle and of what it takes to set people free.

So avoid selfish thinking. For all I know, if Thomas Leonard were still alive and we could talk face to face, we would find more common ground on this one than I suspect. Perhaps we’re dealing with a semantic issue. But semantics are important, especially when it comes to something as important as the word “selfish.” Perhaps, with enough redefinition, the word can be redeemed. But why bother?

Especially when we know that generosity, justice, peace, and love, are the basis for not only spiritual wellness but for all good things. Seek these things first, and everything else will follow. Seek your own selfish well-being first, and nothing else may follow. At least nothing else that’s worth writing on your tombstone.

Coaching Inquiries: What do you seek first? The welfare of yourself or the welfare of others? Do your values guide your life? How could you become more committed to and experienced with generosity, justice, peace, and love? How could you develop a stronger rhythm of caring for others and caring for yourself? Who could assist you along the way?

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 the encouragement to avoid scarcity thinking!


I am very interested in learning more about finding sources for wild game, fish, seafood and eggs! Is it affordable? Is it easily accessible? I would love to be able to prepare pesticide free, antibiotic free, steroid free foods for our family but I have always perceived it as being too expensive. Tell me more. (Ed. Note: It is more expensive per pound, but if you eat modest quantities it is affordable. Fortunately, many organic and even many regular grocery stores have started carrying these products. For a listing on the Internet, Click Here.)


Your words are interesting and grand generalizations, because they do not take into account differences of individual psyches and needs and situations. That is one of the problems of listening to the many e-gurus around, too. Finding oneself coming up short by an unfitting measure. Better to learn which paths you are personally fit to follow rather than continually try to do/be/have what others say “should” make you happy. (Ed. Note: I agree! Consume these Provisions at your own risk. They are but food for thought on the trek of life.)



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 #406: Avoid Scarcity Thinking

Laser Provision

It’s tempting to succumb to scarcity thinking. When we view time, money, energy, or love as limited commodities we trade and protect them carefully. But what if we viewed them as essential experiences to be enjoyed and shared with reckless abandon? What if coming from a place of abundance proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy that would make life better for one and all? Read on if you are hungry for more.

LifeTrek Provision


Before concluding the first half of our series on spiritual wellness, focusing on the things we need to avoid, I want to review two more areas of concern: scarcity and selfishness. Both have their positive aspects but, overall, they more often lead us away from rather than toward spiritual wellness.

Scarcity thinking is, of course, the way of the world. Who has enough time, money, energy, or love? If we see them as limited commodities to be exchanged or traded, then it won’t be long before they become endangered species needing to be sheltered, protected, and hoarded. Our scarcity thinking becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as we struggle with “deficit-spending” in the areas that make life worth living.

— Time Scarcity. Time poverty has been described as the plague of the Information Age. It may be even more common and debilitating than economic poverty.  Ironically enough, the technology that was intended to help us do things faster and better is the very technology that has created an unparalleled sense of urgency, stress, multitasking, distraction, and deprivation.

No wonder people view time as a scarce commodity that needs to be earned, protected, and hoarded! There’s only so much time in a day • right? It depends upon how we think about time. To think about time chronologically generates scarcity thinking. 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute. Time is money, and the clock is ticking. So we better do as much as possible, as fast as possible, before time runs out.

But what if we thought about time experientially? Forget the hours, minutes, and seconds. Focus on having a great experience with the time you have now. Notice what’s happening in the present moment. Think in terms of opportunity rather than data points. Replace your sense of time poverty with an awareness of and appreciation for the positive current value of time.

When that happens, we get lost in time as though it were a great movie. Nothing else matters; not yesterday, today, or tomorrow. There is no shortage of time because there is no cognitive overload. We are doing just one thing and doing it well. That’s one thing I love about running; when I put on my running clothes and head out the door or stand on the starting line, nothing else matters. I have all the time in the world to run.

— Money Scarcity. Economic poverty has been a plague in every age. No one ever seems to have enough money to take advantage of the all opportunities and to meet all the expectations of their station in life. Many do not even have enough money for basic necessities. Ironically enough, wealth does not necessarily eliminate cash flow problems and money scarcity. Being asset rich and cash poor is an all too frequent lament. The consumer economy has an insatiable appetite for more.

No wonder people view money as a scarce commodity that needs to be earned, protected, and hoarded! There never seems to be enough money • right? This too depends upon how we think about money. The richest people on earth may make the annual Forbes’ list based upon their net worth, but if we think of money solely in economic terms we will again generate scarcity thinking. They have more, we have less. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. So we better fight for everything we can get.

But what if we thought about money experientially? Forget the dollars, euros, and yens. Focus on having a great experience with the money you have now. Think about how you can be content in the present moment. Articulate your own definition of having enough. Replace your sense of economic poverty with an awareness of and appreciation for the positive current value of money.

When that happens, money is no longer the issue. We feel rich, with any balance sheet, because we approach what we have as a precious gift. This leads not only to gratitude but generosity. There is no shortage of money because there is no consumer overload. We don’t need to continually get more in order to spend more. We can rather do more, both for ourselves and for others, with the resources at our disposal.

— Energy Scarcity. Energy poverty stems directly from shortages of time and money. Feeling stressed and broke, with no time and no money, is a surefire formula for fatigue and exhaustion. So, too, is feeling bored and indulgent, with too much time and money. Either way, ironically enough, we suffer the same effects: a diminishment of our passion, possibilities, and performance. It’s as though we find ourselves constantly driving on Empty with rising prices at the pump.

No wonder people view energy as a scarce commodity that needs to be earned, protected, and hoarded! We go from one energy crisis to the next • right? Once again, it depends upon how we think about energy. If we only understand the entropy side of the equation, then every situation will look liked a closed-loop system with a limited supply of energy. When it’s gone, it’s gone, becomes the mantra of the age.

But what if we thought about energy experientially? Forget the analogy to fossil fuels. Focus, instead, on the experience of athletes who not only recover from the expenditure of energy but end up stronger than before. Think about how you could alternate periods of exertion and with periods of rest in order to replace your sense of energy poverty with an awareness of and appreciation for the positive current value of energy.

When that happens, we relate to the ebb and flow of energy in totally different ways. This morning I went out for my final long run before the Boston marathon. I ran more than 15 miles at a steady 8-minute per mile (5-minute per kilometer) pace. It was a great run. Afterwards, I sat in a whirlpool and took a nap. Now, my legs feel tired. Does that concern me? No! I know the difference between muscles on the mend and muscles in trouble. And these are definitely on the mend.

So too when it comes to the management of all energy, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social. There is no shortage of energy because we know how energy works. We are not in a closed-loop system. We are in systems that recover and restore their energy through rest and renewal • a fact that frees us to give every moment our very best.

— Love Scarcity. Relationship poverty is the final indignity suffered by too many people. Although the human population is at an all-time high and growing, with more than 6 billion people alive on the planet today, we also suffer from all-time high rates of isolation, loneliness, addiction, neglect, and abuse. We increasingly don’t eat, play, or talk together as families, know our neighbors’ names, or hang out with friends in real-world encounters.

No wonder people view love as a scarce commodity that needs to be earned, protected, and hoarded! The planet is teeming with people to whom we feel little or no connection and against whom we often compete. To talk of love is to ignore the hard, cold realities of life • right? Well it depends upon how we think about love. If love is the private possession of lovers, then they can ill afford to give love away or to take it outside the home.

But what if we thought about love experientially? Forget the old adage that “good guys finish last” not to mention the understanding of work as doing things we probably would not be doing unless someone were paying us money. Focus on seeing the people in your life as gifts who can assist you to not only do great things but to have a wonderful learning experience along the way. Think in terms of colleagues rather than competitors. Replace your sense of relationship poverty with an awareness of and appreciation for the positive current value of love.

When that happens, the world goes around both more slowly and more smoothly. That’s not because love is blind, but because love engages us with others in service of the common good.  It lubricates the day with value. There is no shortage of love unless we cut ourselves off from the stream. Those 6 billion people are 6 billion opportunities for love. And we would do well to distinguish ourselves as people who shamelessly and selflessly promote the growth of others.

So avoid scarcity thinking. There is no scarcity of time, money, energy, or love. These are the things the world is made of. We can find them in abundance, everywhere we look. Life is full of opportunities, resources, rhythms, and relationships from which we can draw strength and live. David Whyte has captured the essence of this abundance so ably in five lines of poetry called, “Loaves and Fishes.”

This is not the age of information.
This is not the age of information.
Forget the news and the radio and the blurred screen.
This is the time of loaves and fishes.
People are hungry, and one good word is bread for a thousand.

Do you hear that “one good word”? Then go forth and live accordingly. Do it for you. Do it for others. Do it for all.

Coaching Inquiries: When you look around, do you more often see scarcity or abundance? Do you build people up or tear people down with your approach to life? How could time, money, energy, and love become your allies rather than your enemies? Who could assist you to make the shifts you want to make?

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..


Erika and Bob did a great job hitting a nerve in my LifeTrek with last week’s Pathway and Provision. His installment about instinct opening possibilities, versus cold calculated intellect, really fit right into Erika’s idea that focusing too much on logical and possible outcomes can squelch our true desires. I know that I have passions somewhere down in my gut, but my Self 1 has been so dominant in filtering those passions into what is safe and do-able. I have desires…I just dismiss them as impractical. I sometimes, and even now, am not really sure what they are because I don’t let them live.


I do so enjoy your weekly LifeTrek Provision. I always find something that gives me pause and allows me the time to reflect on my life and be thankful. A few years ago, in fact November 25, 2001, you started a Provision series’ entitled “Be Brave” (with BRAVE serving as an acronym). I have most of what the letters stand for but cannot find the complete explanation for the entire acronym. Is there any way I could get another copy of this? I would be most appreciative. Thank you. (Ed. Note: The acronym stood for being Bold, Responsible, Active, Versatile, and Endurable. It went with another acronym for Being NICE • Neighborly, Interested, Connected, and Etiquette. You can view this, and every past Provision, in our on-line archive. Click)


What does “Carpe manem!” mean? (Ed. Note: OK, you caught me. I used this Latin expression in July of 2001, in Provision #212, Respect the Morning Click. I used it to mean “Seize the morning!” but I should have spelled it “Carpe mane!” Mea culpa! I have corrected the spelling in the archive.)



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 #405: Avoid Inferior Thinking

Laser Provision

Do you think poorly about yourself and your situation? Or do you just think poorly? Either way, this Provision has something for you. If you have an inferiority complex, of any sort, or if you fail to function and think at the top of your game, then this resurrection-day message will offer you both hope and strategies for turning things around.

LifeTrek Provision

When it comes to spiritual wellness, today is the day for many people around the globe. The celebration of Easter, when Christians memorialize the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, culminates a 40-day period (not counting Sundays) when Christians pay special attention to their spiritual lives.

Reminiscent of other symbolic 40-day periods, such as the days of rain in the life of Noah, the days on the mountain in the life of Moses, under the Bodhi Tree in the life of Buddha, in the wilderness in the life of Jesus, and in the cave in the life of Mohammed, the preparations that lead up to Easter are designed to assist people in the ways of spiritual wellness.

By the time Easter rolls around, Christians are ready for some good news. Many have sacrificed perks and pleasures during the preceding period. Then come the observances that memorialize the popular rejection and political execution of Jesus. It’s a challenging period, and a difficult story, all the way through to the bitter end.

Fortunately, rejection and execution are not the last and final words. The resurrection represents a powerful turning of the tables, as life wins out over death. As such, it gives each and every one of us reason to avoid inferior thinking.

  • Are your ideas being rejected, or even persecuted?
  • Are you alienated from people at work or at home?
  • Have you tried and failed to accomplish your goals?
  • Have you been told that you’re not good enough to do what you want to do?
  • Do you lack the resources to make your dreams come true?
  • Do you live with chronic pain or another physical disability?
  • Do you feel depressed and discouraged about life?
  • Can you hardly remember your last good day?

These are but a few examples of situations and circumstances that can lead to inferior thinking. But we do ourselves a great injustice to go down this path. Whether we are Christian or not, news of the resurrection reminds us of life’s ability to overcome adversity through persistence, mystery, and miracle. As long as the sun still rises, there is no excuse for inferior thing.

Nor is there any excuse for superior thinking. In last week’s Provision Click, I noted that superior thinking arises when we take credit for success, as though it were a product of our own ego and effort. Christians succumb to superior thinking when we take ownership of or credit for Easter. We turn the story into a case statement for our religion instead of a hopeful message for our world.

But the resurrection does not belong to Christians or to any other particular group. The resurrection is the dance of life itself, coursing from one generation to the next. It is the ark in the storm, the message on the mountain, the enlightenment under the tree, the spirit in the wilderness, and the poetry in the desert. It is a metaphor of possibility rather than a mandate for presumption. It is a byproduct of divine grace rather than a product of human striving.

As such, it leaves us with no basis for either superior or inferior thinking since, in the end, it was not our doing and it is not up to us to either contain or control. Keep that in mind the next time you are feeling full of yourself (superior thinking) or out of gas (inferior thinking): there is an indomitable spirit, coursing through life and not dependent upon us, that has a way of setting things right.

Another metaphor for the resurrection, beyond that of the dance, might be to speak in terms of divine flow. The resurrection is what happens, to paraphrase Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, when the divine capacity is fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable. There’s no way to predict when the conditions will be just right, but we can become more sensitive to their emergence by using what Malcolm Gladwell calls our instinctive intelligence in his excellent new book, Blink.

Blink is about learning to trust and to master our inklings in the pursuit of life. Inklings come and go quickly, in the blink of an eye, so it is easy to both miss and dismiss them. The more wedded we are to rational intelligence, to the cold calculus of capacities and challenges, the more likely we are to succumb to both superior and inferior thinking because we get lost in our own thinking processes and we fail to see the entire picture.

In case after case, Gladwell demonstrates how instinctive intelligence, properly understood and used, can both make us smarter and give us hope. It makes us smarter because we start paying attention to our hunches (in addition to other information). It gives us hope because we know there is more to life than meets the eye. And that “more” can often mean the difference between success and failure.

When we learn how to master the power of “thinking without thinking,” as Gladwell likes to say, we “quickly get below the surface of a situation” where we discover a whole new world of possibilities • possibilities that can snatch victory from defeat and even life from death.

People who seem to have the magic touch are people who know how to make good use of their instinctive intelligence. They do not make as many mistakes, and they do not suffer as many self-esteem problems, because they have learned to how to employ their intuition in the service of meeting challenges and developing skills. Life becomes a joy not because everything always works out but because no situation is beyond hope when the full picture is seen.

One might say that people who are highly-intuitive are dancing their way through life. They avoid both superior and inferior thinking because they recognize themselves as channels of instinctive intelligence. Things happen through them more than to them or because of them.

From this perspective, they can avoid taking either the credit or the blame for the vicissitudes of life. And what a powerful point of view to come from! Whether they are winning or losing, whether they are up or down, whether the odds are in their favor or stacked against them, these people seize each and every moment as an opportunity.

So let that be your frame of mind on this resurrection day. Avoid inferior thinking. Don’t think poorly about yourself or your situation. And certainly don’t think poorly. Instead, expand your thinking to include instinctive intelligence. When that happens, there’s no telling just what might happen next. You may even see the resurrection.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you trust your instinctive intelligence? Does it more often help you out or lead you astray? How could you master the art of seeing every situation as an opportunity? How could you become smarter about 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..


Great Provision, as usual, on Superior Thinking. However, I have two questions: 1. What does “proleptic” mean? I’ve never seen the word before and didn’t really get it from the context. (Ed. Note: “Proleptic” is the adjectival form of “prolepsis,” which literally means to “look ahead” or to “anticipate.” “Proleptic” is often used in reference to living as though a desired future state were already true.)

2. You wrote that “stimulating work, active hobbies, and meaningful social relationships are pursued vigorously not as means to an end but as ends in themselves. They are enjoyed for their own sake, not for the attention or benefits they may generate.” This is why I am not good at networking or negotiating. I see them as a means to an end, not as something worth doing for its own sake. How does one make the shift? (Ed. Note: Until you connect with people as intrinsically valuable, rather than as means to an end, your network will not work.)


It was through the “Internationalnetfriends” website of Albert Morin, a member of the AdlandPro Community, that I noticed the opportunity to sign up for your free newsletter. I have been browsing through the commentaries on your site and am very impressed with the integrity of your organization. The content of your site is very encouraging so I just wanted to introduce myself and to say God Bless You All!!!



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 #404: Avoid Superior Thinking

Laser Provision

When we are doing our best, and we know it, it is tempting to develop a superior attitude. “Hey! Look at me!” we want to shout to the world. But showing off and taking credit are not the way of true mastery. Even worse, they sow the seeds of our demise. They disengage us from the very things that brought us to the dance in the first place. So don’t be that way! Stay humble. Stay engaged. Stay attentive. Stayed tuned.

LifeTrek Provision

As we discovered during our six-month series on coaching metaphors, in which we interviewed current and former clients about their experience of coaching, there are many ways to describe the coaching dynamic. At its core, however, coaching is a conversation about goals, passions, and possibilities (whereas therapy tends to be a conversation about wounds, problems, and pain).

There is a time and a place for both conversations • indeed, some people choose to work with a therapist (to talk about their problems and pain) at the same time as they choose to work with a coach (to talk about their passions and possibilities) • but the coaching conversation works best when people are more change-ready than change-resistant.

That’s what makes coaching so much fun. We work with strong people who are ready to move forward in their life and work. They see beckoning glimmers of a new vision and they retain our services to assist them to make that vision a reality.

Another metaphor to describe what coaching does for people is that we assist clients to find flow in their life and work. Instead of struggling to make their dreams come true according to a prescribed success formula, we assist our clients to enjoy the process of discovering, learning, and mastering their own secrets for success.

For more than 30 years, University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has described and studied the process of finding flow. Although he never thought of himself as writing a manifesto for the coaching profession, his words could well be taken as such.

“Psychotherapy relies primarily on recalling and then sharing past experience with a trained analyst,” he writes in his book Finding Flow. “This process of guided reflection can be very useful, but the popularity of this form of therapy unfortunately leads many people to believe that by introspecting and ruminating upon their past they will solve their problems.”

“This usually does not work, because the lenses through which we look at the past are distorted precisely by the kind of problems we want solved. It takes an expert therapist, or long practice, to benefit from such reflection. Moreover, the habit of rumination that our narcissistic society encourages actually might make things worse. Most people only think about themselves when things are not going well, and thereby they enter a vicious circle in which present anxiety colors the past, and then the painful memories make the present even more bleak.”

“One way to break out of this circle,” he notes, “is to invest psychic energy in goals and relationships that bring harmony to the self indirectly. After experiencing flow in a complex interaction, the feedback is concrete and objective, and we feel better about ourselves without having had to try.”

“In order to experience flow, it helps to have clear goals • not because it is achieving the goals that is necessarily important, but because without a goal it is difficult to concentrate and avoid distractions. Thus a mountain climber sets as her goal to reach the summit not because she has some deep desire to reach it, but because the goal makes the experience of climbing possible. If it were not for the summit, the climb would become pointless ambling that leaves one restless and apathetic.”

Well, that is exactly what coaches work on with our clients. We get our clients to talk out loud about goals and relationships that might bring harmony to their life and work. We dance in the conversation through a series of steps that imitate and foreshadow the real thing, thereby giving our clients the creativity, confidence, courage, and craft to boldly go where they may never have gone before.

Coaching can therefore be described as a proleptic conversation: it anticipates experience so as to make the real thing more likely, easier, and more successful. Great sports coaches have long known about and employed the power of such prolepsis. They equip their athletes with images, mantras, and game plans in anticipation of the big day. They train, train, train until the sport becomes second nature. Then they go for it.

So too with business and life coaching. We get in the flow of the dance, during the conversation, so our clients can get in the flow of the dance, during the rest of the week.

But what is this thing called flow? Csikszentmihalyi describes it this way: “Flow is a metaphor used by many people to describe the sense of effortless action they feel in moments that stand out as the best in their lives. Athletes refer to it as ‘being in the zone,’ religious mystics as being in ‘ecstasy,’ artists and musicians as aesthetic rapture. Athletes, mystics, and artists do very different things when they reach flow, yet their descriptions of the experience are remarkably similar.”

I can relate to “being in the zone.” Right now, running is that way for me. The challenges I set out for myself are perfectly matched to my level of skill, ability, and conditioning. I have no idea how long this will last, but I know it won’t last forever. So I’m enjoying every minute of it. And I’m learning some important life-lessons in the process.

Csikszentmihalyi would not find my learning to be surprising since, he notes, flow is not limited to athletes, mystics, and artists (although it is easier to come by in goal-oriented activities that provide immediate feedback). Flow is available to just about anyone, in just about any station of life, in just about any activity, as long as “a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable.”

The coaching conversation itself can, and often is, an occasion for finding flow. In the proleptic consideration of new goals and relationships, people can experience all the dimensions of real life. Over the course of a single coaching conversation, we can experience flow as well as many other ways of being. Masterful coaching moves with the client to make flow more likely.

Csikszentmihalyi’s research indicates that we fail to experience flow when there is either imbalance or inadequacy as to the challenges we face and the skills we possess. Low challenge and low skills generates apathy. As our skills increase, but our challenges fail to keep up, we can experience boredom, relaxation, or control. As our challenges increase, but our skills fail to keep up, we can experience worry, anxiety, and arousal. Putting high challenge together with high skill generates flow.

Masterful coaching assists clients to get into this zone. During the coaching conversation we listen for where our clients are in the challenge-skills matrix. We test one side and then the other to see whether we need to ramp up the challenge or the skill. By introducing another voice, the coach’s voice, we generate new perspective, focus, dissonance, harmonies, challenges, goals, lessons, and movement.

Then, when all is said and done, the real test appears. The proleptic coaching conversation is over, becoming grist for the mill of life. That’s when the dance steps, practiced in the safety of a coaching relationship, are tried out and modified with others.

Masterful coaches understand this dynamic of being dance partners and flow agents with our clients. At its best, coaching produces truly sensational results. Both the coach and the client may experience flow more often, on the way to even higher summits than either one had ever imagined possible. And that, finally, is the point of this Provision.

When you are in the flow zone, when you are fully engaged with your goals and relationships, avoid superior thinking. Flow is not a product as much as it is a byproduct of that engagement. It is not something we accomplish and take credit for as much as it is something we allow and notice. It is not something we insist upon as much as it is something we invite into our lives through attention, awareness, and inexhaustible curiosity.

My running again serves as a case in point. There are, of course, things that I have done to ratchet up both my challenges and my skills. That makes flow more likely but it does not guarantee flow nor does it make flow my doing. There is no way to predict whether any particular run will flow or not. I set the conditions, but it’s not until I set my course and start running that I experience flow (or not, as the case may be).

True flow generates humility rather than superiority. I will never forget the moment, many years ago, when I was watching a basketball game with Michael Jordan who was definitely, on that occasion, in the flow zone. No matter what he did, it worked. If he shot the ball, it went in. If he passed the ball, it lead to a score. If he defended the ball, it led to a turnover. After a barrage of 3-point shots (and he was not known as a 3-point shooter), Jordan looked at the TV camera and shrugged as though to say, “Don’t ask me. I have no idea what’s going on.”

That’s what happens when we experience flow. We succeed beyond our wildest imagination, but without any sense of ego or effort. In his excellent book, The Inner Game of Work, Tim Gallwey suggests that flow takes place when we stop trying to force an outcome and start trying to enjoy the experience. This shift from outcome to experience, from achievement to enjoyment, from extrinsic to intrinsic rewards, is the inner game. And that is the game we have to win if we ever hope to experience flow.

So let superiority be your guide. It doesn’t matter how great you are doing. If you are impressed with your own accomplishments, if you have the urge to say to the world, “Look at me! I’m the best!”, if your goals and relationships are occasions for boasting and gloating rather than for rejoicing and serving, if you are fishing for compliments rather than for challenges, if you are more interested in getting the goods than in being good, then you are not in flow and your happiness is not secure.

Flow is most often experienced, notes Csikszentmihalyi, when people “do things for their own sake rather than in order to achieve some later external goal.” This orientation and focus makes people “more involved with everything around them because they are fully immersed in the current of life” instead of just those things that are pleasurable or vested with self-interest.

Stimulating work, active hobbies, and meaningful social relationships are pursued vigorously not as means to an end but as ends in themselves. They are enjoyed for their own sake, not for the attention or benefits they may generate. In other words, the flow zone is less about self-concern than about concern for life itself. Csikszentmihalyi calls this “disinterested interest” because “it is not entirely at the service of one’s own agenda.”

Perhaps that’s why so many spiritual traditions have urged people to avoid superior thinking as a prerequisite for spiritual wellness. We can hardly hope to sustain our zest for life if our only concern is to avoid threats or to reap rewards. “Only if attention is to a certain extent free of personal goals and ambitions,” Csikszentmihalyi concludes, “do we have a chance of apprehending reality in its own terms.” And, I would add, do we have a chance of dancing to its beat.

Coaching Inquiries: How often do you experience flow? Do you dance or slog your way through life? Are you more concerned with external recognition or internal inspiration? What goals and relationships could shift your life in a positive direction? How could you take action today?

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

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

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


Thank you so much for your excellent rendering of the gap between anxiety and ambition. Click It is exactly where I find myself lately, overwrought by extreme anxiety yet unwilling to engage in aimlessness. My life is committed to co-creating Transformation on the planet and that seems to call forth unceasing Vision, Intention, and Love coming forth to contribute.


I really enjoyed the description of your “Personal Bests” at the Birmingham Marathon and the Colonial Half Marathon. I especially appreciated your kind generosity in walking your buddy thru to the finish line……you’re a GOOD guy!!!


Hi. I hope you can help me. Some time ago, you mentioned in one of your articles about a breathing pattern that could substitute for a Breathing Machine that would lower high blood pressure if used 2/3 time a week. Is it possible for me to access that article. I believe it was towards the end of 2004. Thank you for all your helpful articles. (Ed. Note: I described that pattern in Wellness Pathway #245, which is archived at our Web site. Click)


I was looking for Provision #392, but I couldn’t find it. Is it available? (Ed. Note: Provision #392 was not a normal Provision, but our end of the year greeting with a theme poem for 2005. You can read the poem, Deep, along with other poems at our Web site. Click)



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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

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

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

Provision #403: Avoid Aimless Thinking

Laser Provision

To avoid anxiety it’s tempting to give up on ambition. After all, if we’re not aiming for something then it doesn’t much matter what path we take. Hakuna Matata! But such aimlessness takes its own toll on the human psyche. It leads to boredom, lethargy, and depression. Fortunately, there is a way to stand in the balance between aimlessness and anxiety, as this Provision makes clear.

LifeTrek Provision

Two weeks ago I urged you to Avoid Anxious Thinking in order to promote spiritual wellness. Last week, I wrote about a number of recent personal bests in my sport of choice: endurance running. I didn’t see the connection between the two until I went out this morning for a 23-mile training run, and it has something to do with today’s recommendation to Avoid Aimless Thinking.

Aimless thinking is, in many respects, the other side of the coin of anxious thinking. Anxious thinking comes either from our attachment to what we want to happen or from our aversion to what we don’t want to happen. We get so invested in a particular outcome, and a particular course of action, that deviations cause us to fall into the anxiety pit.

And it’s hard to climb out of that pit. Anxiety turns us into grasping fools, doing more harm than good in our desperate attempts to produce or to escape an outcome. We end up working harder rather than smarter until the anxiety gets the better of us and we suffer the consequences. To follow the analogy, we end up making the pit even deeper and more uncomfortable.

So I made some suggestions two weeks ago on how we can avoid anxious thinking. I offered up some strategies on how to modify our awareness, habits, communities, and intentions to assuage anxiety into nonexistence. I also offered up the paradoxical suggestion that everything is going to be alright, even when it’s obviously not.

In other words, I suggested that we detach ourselves from particular outcomes if we want to cultivate spiritual wellness. Deepak Chopra identifies such detachment as one of the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. Trying to force an outcome, Chopra notes, limits the possibilities for new, and perhaps even better, outcomes to emerge.

“Relinquish your attachment to the known,” Chopra writes, “step into the unknown, and you will step into the field of all possibilities. In your willingness to step into the unknown, you will have the wisdom of uncertainty factored in. This means that in every moment of your life, you will have excitement, adventure, and mystery. You will experience the fun of life • the magic, the celebration, the exhilaration, and the exultation of your own spirit.”

This applies in every situation. Writing in the area of business management and adult learning, Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey make the same point when it comes to constructive criticism. The big assumptions behind constructive criticism, they note, are that the perspective of the feedback giver is right, that there is only one correct answer, and that the feedback giver has the lion’s share of the responsibility to make things right.

No wonder giving constructive criticism provokes anxiety! When it’s on our shoulders to define the problem, to offer helpful suggestions, and to hold someone accountable, we not only become attached to a particular outcome, we become anxious (and perhaps vindictive) when our recommendations fail to produce positive results.

Kegan and Lahey suggest a different approach to feedback that sounds a lot like Chopra’s “law of detachment.” Instead of presenting “the truth,” they suggest that we share our point of view as one possible truth. “When we enter a conversation knowing that we may not be totally right or may even be wrong, we can shift from thinking about kind and clever ways to help someone see it our way to thinking about trying to understand what’s been happening and whether our criticism is warranted.”

‘We become explorers,” they conclude, “tentative with our meanings, and open to changing them when we discover new vantage points or information.” From this vantage point, criticism becomes an opportunity for learning without victimization. Everyone welcomes the opportunity to look for new possibilities and new ways of doing things.

These authors understand that to avoid anxious thinking we dare not flip all the way over to aimless thinking. “Hakuna Matata!” was no good for Timon and Pumbaa in The Lion King as a philosophy and it’s not good for us either. “Well, then, forget it!” is an all-too-common response if we can’t have our own way. But to give up on aspiration altogether is to lose our inspiration for life, at least for a time. We become bored, lethargic, and depressed.

That’s what aimlessness will do to a person and, ultimately, to our world. In the absence of ambition, life leaves much to be desired. “Vision,” it has been said, “is a target that beckons.” And, again, that “without vision people perish.”

So don’t do that! Recognize that aimlessness is not the same thing as detachment from particular outcomes. It’s not good to stop caring about what happens in order to avoid anxiety. It’s better to care profoundly, albeit in a very different way. Instead of deciding that we know the best outcome and how to get there • generating the anxiety of attachment • we can decide to put our best intentions and our best selves out into the world to see what possibilities they unleash • generating the excitement of possibility.

“The law of detachment,” notes Chopra, “does not mean that you give up the intention to create your desire. You don’t give up the intention, and you don’t give up the desire. You give up your attachment to the result.”

So, too, with Kegan and Lahey. “Transformational learning,” they note, does not require that we deny our own concerns or discount our own negative evaluation of things. Rather, it requires us to hold two simultaneous realities together: we must respect our own negative evaluation and we must respect the other’s evaluation as one that might usefully inform our own.

This is the yin and the yang of anxiety and aimlessness. We give up attachment to a particular outcome but we do not give up our ambition to make things the best they can possibly be. By standing in the balance between anxiety and aimlessness, by embracing both ambition and detachment, we become artisans of possibility and denizens of hope. We give birth to a better world yet to come.

I realized all this during my 23-mile training run this morning. In the past seven days, as part of my training for the Boston Marathon, I have run about 65 miles or 105 kilometers. What makes me do this? It is not attachment to a particular outcome. How do I know? Because I feel no anxiety at all about my running.

If I was attached to a particular outcome, I would have plenty of occasion to feel anxiety. If I missed a run, if I could not keep pace with my training plan, if I had to nurse an injury, if I could not go to the Boston Marathon, if I did not finish the Boston Marathon (at all or in a particular time) • all these and more frequently haunt and drive a runner’s ego.

But it’s not about ego; it’s about our true self. Visions beckon, they don’t demand. When we are in the presence of a demanding spirit, whether internal or external, we know all about anxiety. But the flipside is equally stressful. To be in the presence of a boring spirit, whether internal or external, is to know all about aimlessness and despair.

It takes ambition to run 65 miles in a week. It does not take attachment to a particular outcome. It takes being filled with passion and wonder for the opportunities movement affords. On my run today I watched the sun rise, waved to countless motorists, talked with a goose, high-fived a runner coming from the opposite direction, listened to some great tunes, found water just when I needed it most, and marveled at how good I was feeling in the final two miles.

I had no attachment to those particular things as I went out for my run. But I did have the ambition to experience fully a good, long run. It wasn’t until I got back home that I even realized the week added up to 65 miles. The whole thing snuck up on me as a delicious surprise. And it made me realize the importance of standing in the gap between anxiety and aimlessness. Don’t let either one catch hold of you. Instead, find the freedom for life.

Coaching Inquiries: What’s your ambition in life? Is it attached to a particular outcome? Or do you have little to no ambition at all? How could you become an artisan of possibility? What freedom do you need to extend to yourself or to others? Where could you turn to get the fire burning?

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’ve been aware of LifeTrek from way back in the beginning. I have to admit that I stopped reading your site for a while. When we first talked a few years ago LifeTrek was small and warm, like a small cafe with a few good friends. It then evolved into something huge, like a big Mall. A year after just “looking” at the weekly Provision, I dove back in. Wow! Your site is jam packed with great, applicable bits of life and coaching. You have created something that is going to leave a mark long after you’re gone. LifeTrek has taken on a new look and is getting better with each improvement. You have led by example and shown that applying your suggestions can make goals come to fruition. It is pleasure to know of you. Thanks.


I have been a reader of LifeTrek Coaching for a short time now. So far, I have been extremely pleased. I would like to mention that because of your focus on Spiritual Wellness; it prompted me to contact one of your coaches for a complimentary coaching session. The session was very helpful; I certainly sensed a sincere warmth in her voice at the same time as she remained very professional during our conversation. Thank you for the hard work you do. It is greatly appreciated more than you know.


I enjoyed your description of your last two runs and I especially appreciated the significance you drew from the two poles of experience as “Personal Bests.” It was very meaningful. I forwarded that Provision to everyone in my contact list that I thought would be even vaguely interested. Who knows, you may obtain some new subscribers and future clients. Thanks.


I love the poems on your Website, especially Passion. Click Great stuff in general here. It always makes me think. 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 #401: Avoid Anxious Thinking

Laser Provision

We live in an age of anxiety. The troubles and terrors • both of natural and human origin • are real. But that does not mean we need to succumb to anxious thinking. Indeed, anxious thinking usually makes things worse. Better to set anxious thinking aside through the exercise of awareness, habits, community, and intention. Read on to learn more of how this works so that you, too, can know in your bones that “everything is going to be all right.”

LifeTrek Provision

It’s ironic that our trek toward spiritual wellness would take us, this week, to a discussion about anxiety. Last week you may remember reading about the server problem that delayed delivery of our newsletter. I happily announced that the problem had been solved • only to have it recur all over again. For the second time in as many weeks, some people did not receive their copy of Provisions until Thursday, and there was nothing we could do about it.

On Sunday, my anxiety level rose as the recurring problem became apparent. It was embarrassing, disconcerting, and troubling • especially given my announcement and knowing that we have readers who look forward to receiving and reading their weekly issue on Sunday morning. I thought about sending out another copy, using a different system. I tried contacting my Web host, on his day off, to see if he could do anything to fix the problem. I spent a couple of hours stewing about what to do, and then I remembered Rule Number 6.

What’s Rule Number 6? Allow Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, to tell the story. “Two prime ministers were sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: ‘Peter,’ he says, ‘kindly remember Rule Number 6,’ whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws.”

“The politicians returned to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by an hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: ‘Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.’ Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology.”

“When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: ‘My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?’ ‘Very simple,’ replies the resident prime minister. ‘Rule Number 6 is: Don’t take yourself so damn seriously.'”

“‘Ah,’ says his visitor, ‘that is a fine rule.’ After a moment of pondering, he inquires, ‘And what, may I ask, are the other rules?'”

“‘There aren’t any.'”

Rule Number 6 got me to laughing at myself, and that made all the difference. “Who do you think you are?” I pondered with amused incredulity. “This is neither rocket science nor brain surgery. This is a modest reflection on the meaning and measure of life that can easily wait a few days before it completes its journey through cyberspace. So settle down and relax. Enjoy the day. Don’t make yourself crazy!” On the heels of such self-coaching, I worked out in the yard, cooked up a storm, and curled up with a good book before retiring early for bed.

Two weeks ago I had another experience of such self-coaching, following minor outpatient surgery. The surgery went well, and I was allowed to go back to running on the third day. Everything was progressing on course until, about a week after the surgery and in the middle of the night, I experienced a painful tear of the wound accompanied by fresh bleeding.

The pain was so intense that it radiated out, in throbbing waves of warmth, to all parts of my body. I took some deep breaths to calm down, but I was soon experiencing chest pains and a serious case of anxiety. Even though it was after midnight, I called my doctor to be coached as to whether or not to head to the hospital.

“It sounds normal to me,” he said, “and if you go to the hospital, there’s really not much we could do. So I suggest that you wait it out.” Easy for him to say! Between the pain and the subsequent rush of adrenalin, I could not sleep and I could not find a comfortable position lying down.

Thank goodness for La-Z-Boy Recliners! I went downstairs, stoked up the fire, found a blanket, took some more deep breaths, and turned on the television. Surfing through the channels, I was both amazed and numbed by how many infomercials were being broadcast at 3:00 in the morning. Their constant drone was enough to dissipate my anxiety and put me to sleep.

12 hours later, at noon the next day, I was even more amazed to be feeling pain free and completely normal again. The bleeding from the night before was gone. And although it took me several more days to recover from the lost sleep and the adrenalin rush, less than a week later I successfully paced a friend to his second marathon finish in Birmingham, Alabama. Now that’s what I call recovery!

It reminds me of an old flower lady who used to sit inside a small archway when I lived and worked in the inner-city of Chicago. She would have flowers for sale, on top of a spread-open newspaper, for passersby. On one particular day, noticing the smile on her wrinkled old face, I said to her, “You sure look happy today!” “Why not?” she answered. “Everything is good.”

Given her lot in life, that struck me as quite a claim. “Everything is good?” I asked her, “Don’t you have any troubles?” “You can’t reach my age and not have troubles,” she replied. “But I take my cue from Jesus. Easter Sunday comes three days after Good Friday, so I just wait three days whenever I have troubles. By then, most things look a whole lot better.”

Oh, that we might all have such faith! Whether it be through Rule Number 6, channel surfing, or remembering that Easter Sunday comes after Good Friday, we would each do well to avoid anxious thinking.

Unfortunately, in the “age of anxiety,” that’s easier said than done. It doesn’t take many tsunamis, wars, suicide bombings, terrorist alerts, and global warming trends • not to mention old-fashioned poverty, discrimination, and exploitation — to confirm that we are living in difficult and dangerous times. The growth of our technology has clearly exceeded the growth of our humanity, making it increasingly possible for even the smallest of groups to inflict the largest of damages.

All the more reason to anchor life in non-anxious awareness, habits, communities, and intentions. Anxiety is like a rocking chair. We can rock, rock, rock • we can worry, worry, worry • but we never get anywhere. In fact, anxiety usually makes matters worse. To quote a line from Bobby McFerrin’s 1996 hit song, Don’t Worry, Be Happy, “In your life expect some trouble, but when you worry you make it double.”

So don’t do that! Instead, make a point to change the things you can change, to accept the things you cannot change, and to discern the difference between the two. Modify your awareness, habits, communities, and intentions to assuage your anxiety into nonexistence. How do we do that?

First, pay attention to what’s going on in the here and now. What’s really going on? Are we dying? Or is this to be expected and will it pass? Are we seeing the big picture? Or are we looking at only one slice of the pie? Where are the signs of life?

Second, do things that will put the anxiety on hold. Take action! Call the doctor. Stretch, breathe, pray, or meditate. Change your position. Go for a walk. Curl up, if you can do nothing else, in a comfortable chair with the television remote at 3:00 in the morning. Do whatever it takes to shift your mind away from the anxiety and toward something else.

Third, get connected to people who tend to lower anxiety. Avoid the walking encyclopedias of horror stories. Perhaps you know people like that. No matter what someone is going through, they know someone else who ended up dead or disabled as a result of the same thing. To avoid anxious thinking we may have to avoid such people. The key is to set up appropriate boundaries • a task we work on with many coaching clients.

Finally, set an intention to stay anxiety-free. Make sure that your attention, habits, and communities continuously express life rather than death. Marinate your mind in the perspective of Derrick Mahon’s poem, Everything Is Going To Be Alright:

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling.

There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.

The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.

The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.

I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the daybreak and the clouds flying.

Everything is going to be all right.

To avoid anxious thinking, we need to cultivate that “watchful heart.” Noticing sunrises, beautiful cities and flying clouds, noticing our pretensions, pains, and fears, noticing the dying and rising ways of life • in spite of everything • is the best prescription I know to live, moment by moment, as though “everything is going to be all right.”

Coaching Inquiries: What do you know in your bones? Do you see catastrophes around every corner? Or do you see opportunities? Do you take yourself too seriously? Do you assume the worst when things go wrong? Do you see new life where others see death? How could you nurture a more watchful heart?

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

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

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


I think this Provision series is your most potent since I began reading you.


Thanks for the challenge to Avoid Exclusive Thinking!


I have really liked your “thinking” Provisions. How about doing one on critical thinking, which would include ways of looking with critical eyes at the media?


Someone forwarded me a recent piece you did on the unexamined life, which I really enjoyed. Please put me on your subscription list. Thanks.


Hey, I go 2 school in England I am doing work on children’s packed lunches. I need a product which I would like to be healthy, easy to eat, and could be sold in a shop. Have u got any suggestions or advise? (Ed. Note: How about bags of organic, baby carrots?)


I was researching coaching and came across your site. I’m not sure I need a coach because it seems that I know what I need to do just that it will be a frustrating path because of needing a salary and benefits for the family. Plus all the misinformation out there I’ve been researching to find the right path. It seems almost a waste of someone’s time if I know what I need to do and just have to find a way to get there. Also on how to start up the new career. I would be interested in your honest feedback. (Ed. Note: You can certainly proceed without a coach. But a coach may be able to assist you to get where you want to go more quickly, easily, and reliably. Let us know if you want to talk further.)



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 #400: Avoid Exclusive Thinking

Laser Provision

It’s easy to get seduced by the word “exclusive.” It sounds so attractive, favorable, and special. From exclusive offers to exclusive communities, we find ourselves drawn to privileges and perks. But this is not the road to life. Interdependence, inclusion, and involvement lead to far greater rewards, not to mention a better world for us all.

LifeTrek Provision

Welcome to Provision number 400! Since our first issue, more than six years ago (on January 28, 1999 to be exact), we have been blessed by the opportunity to serve you a weekly piece of our collective minds. Not everyone gets to do that! Your continued support and readership is much appreciated. Keep those cards and letters coming.

We are focused, in this series, on the things that make for spiritual wellness. And although I was not exactly sure how this series would go when I started writing, it’s now clear that we are going to explore 12 things to avoid — because they lead to spiritual illness • before we explore 12 things to embrace • because they lead to spiritual wellness. And we’ve already covered a lot of territory:

Avoid magical thinking, as well as cynical, positive, negative, and unexamined thinking. All these things lead to spiritual illness either because they represent our attempt to package life according to our expectations or because they represent a failure to think about life at all. Yet there are many other things that lead to spiritual illness, not the least of which is exclusive thinking.

When the poet Carl Sandburg was once asked by a television interviewer, “What is the ugliest word in the English language?” He thought for a while, repeated the question, and then thought some more. Finally, after looking off into the distance for a considerable time, he turned toward the interviewer and said, “The ugliest word … the ugliest word is … ‘exclusive.'”

Does that surprise you? It might, since more often than not people seek out the “exclusive” as a positive good:

— Reporters want exclusive stories.
— Honeymooners want exclusive resorts.
— Golfers belong to exclusive clubs.
— Executives demand exclusive accommodations.
— Restaurants boast of exclusive menus.
— Developers look for exclusive properties.
— Recruiters seek exclusive talent.
— Museums curate exclusive exhibits.
— Agents negotiate exclusive contracts.
— Stores advertise exclusive sales.
— Lenders offer exclusive terms.
— Religions proclaim exclusive truths.

How, then, could “exclusive” • so universally sought after and approved of • be the “ugliest word in the English language?” Perhaps Martin Luther King, Jr. can point us, as he so often does, in the right direction. “We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish,” he once noted in a sermon, “but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters. Our abundance has brought us neither peace of mind nor serenity of spirit.”

That’s what happens when we seek or claim exclusive rights and privileges. We benefit at someone else’s expense. We get the scoop while someone else gets left out. We are shown hospitality while someone else is turned away. We eat while someone else goes hungry. We sign the contract while someone else licks their wounds. We get a discount while someone else pays a premium. We go to heaven while someone else goes to hell.

“We are fools!” Dr. King proclaims, “if we fail to realize our dependence on others. We are victims of the cancerous disease of egotism if we fail to realize that wealth always comes as a result of the commonwealth. We cannot plow the fields and build the barns alone. We are heirs of a vast treasury of ideas and labor to which both the living and the dead have contributed. When an individual or a nation overlooks this interdependence, we find a tragic foolishness.”

“In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All people are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

It is a structure that gets torn asunder by every exclusive claim and practice. Discrimination in one area leads to discrimination in others. Judgment for one leads to judgment for all. And when the structure of reality gets torn asunder by such claims and practices, we are headed not only for physical and political problems but for spiritual problems as well.

That’s because things of the spirit have everything to do with “the interrelated structure of reality.” There’s no way to take care of me, in the here and now, to the exclusion of others, without taking a toll on us all in both this life and the next. The 15th century Indian poet, Kabir, claimed by Hindus and Muslims alike, expresses this sentiment powerfully in a poem rendered into modern English by Robert Bly. Here is the relevant portion:

Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think…and think…while you are alive.
What you call “salvation” belongs to the time before death.

If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after?

The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten —
that is all fantasy.

What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next life
you will have the face of satisfied desire.

What beautiful imagery! What a challenging message. “What is found now is found then.” Don’t misconstrue that as yet another exclusive self-help claim. The point is not to get all we can here so we can get all we want there. The point is to embrace love now in order to experience satisfaction both in this life and the next.

That’s what it means to “break our ropes” and to “jump into experience while we are alive.” These are neither the exclusive perks of privilege, position, and power nor the exclusive benefits of private pastimes and pleasures. We cannot achieve these things for ourselves, while the rest of the world goes to hell. To “make love with the divine” is to embrace interdependence, to “break our ropes” is to embrace inclusion, and to “jump into experience” is to embrace involvement.

Interdependence, inclusion, and involvement are the things that make for spiritual wellness. The more we avoid exclusive thinking the better it will be both for ourselves and for others. It’s exclusive thinking that leads to the “isms” of the world. Whether our concern has to do with race, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability, politics, economics, or religion • the more we establish our way as the exclusive way the more likely we will be to end up with “simply an apartment in the City of Death.”

Do what you can to avoid such an unfortunate outcome! No matter how well you can defend your position, no matter how sure you may be of your convictions, no matter how confident you may be of your experience, do not make your way the only way. Instead, draw the circle wide. Indeed, make room for those who want to color outside the circle. Then stand back and smile at the delightful variations in life.

Outside my window are two birdfeeders, Click to View, one filled with seed and the other with suet. As I write this, there’s a woodpecker on the suet as well as finches and a tufted titmouse on the seed feeder. On the ground are sparrows, chickadees, towhees, mourning doves, and squirrels. Apparently, birds of a feather do not always flock together! If birds can avoid exclusive thinking, surely we can too.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you insist on your way as the only way? How much latitude do you allow for diversity and difference? Are interdependence, inclusion, and involvement part of your worldview? How could you become more loving and tolerant of others?

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..


This week’s Provision is outstanding. I am going to email it to some friends. I think too many people ignore the spiritual side of life and just don’t understand why they aren’t happy. I met you in 2002 at the Baltimore Marathon and have been receiving and reading your posts ever since. Sometimes more sometimes less. You are truly inspiring. Recently I inspired my sister to take up running at the age of 53! It’s never, never too late!!


I just wanted to say Thank You, and to let you know that your last Provision, Avoid Unexamined Thinking, is probably the most inspiring piece that I have received from you in the two-plus years that you have so generously sent me these Provisions.


I have been reading your Provisions everyday and I think they’re kind and refreshing. I would like to contribute to the world in this way, but haven’t found a way in yet. Keep up the good work.


I’m a Chinese girl who subscribes to your Provisions. I love them! They always remind me to work hard when I have lapses, so I will give my true thankfulness for you and your team!



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 #399: Avoid Unexamined Thinking

Laser Provision

Socrates may have said it best: “an unexamined life is not worth living.” Yet many people go through their days with mindless attention to their thoughts, feelings, actions, and intuitions. No wonder so many people suffer from a dearth of both knowledge and wisdom! That is not the way to spiritual wellness. Through regular practices of self-reflection and self-examination we can turn this around for life.

LifeTrek Provision

Many people ask why we put so much time and effort into the weekly production of LifeTrek Provisions. After all, it represents a serious piece of original writing, many pages in length, that takes hours to write and even more hours to distribute and upload to the Web, all of which is given away, free of charge, to more than 65,000 people in 146 countries around the globe.

Why do we do this? Well, for one thing, because you read them. That fact never ceases to amaze and bless us. Hardly a week goes by that we don’t hear from someone, usually a total stranger, who begins his or her note, “I have been reading your Provisions for many months (or many years). They have truly become a staple in my life that I look forward to each and every week. Thanks for all that you share with the world.”

It doesn’t take too many replies like that to keep us writing. The knowledge that we are touching the lives of thousands, if not tens of thousands, is at once humbling and inspiring. On occasion, it’s also good for business. Putting our wisdom out into the world is the primary driver of our contacts for coaching. People read what we write and request our assistance, at least for a time, on the trek of life.

But our reading public and paying clients notwithstanding, there is another reason, more profound and fundamental, for writing these Provisions each and every week: they represent a spiritual discipline and create a weekly rhythm. The discipline, simply put, is to think and express ourselves clearly about the meaning and conduct of life. LifeTrek Provisions is little more than a very public journal, as we examine our thinking in order to discover what new things we may have learned along the way.

The weekly rhythm of writing Provisions is all part of that discipline. It is usually sent out at the same time, early in the morning, on the first day of the week. Everything revolves around that publishing schedule. Although I’m continuously collecting ideas and illustrations, Friday is my designated writing day with everything having to be done by Saturday evening at the latest. That is the life we’ve come to know and love.

One of the more amusing reasons for creating and maintaining this publishing schedule, as I like to tell the story, is what led to the creation of LifeTrek Provisions in the first place, back in 1999. For the 20 years before that I had served as a local church pastor, during which time I would often prepare a weekly sermon or message to be delivered to my congregation in worship. After leaving parish ministry in early 1998, I no longer had the same impetus or reason to write. This reduced my reading as well as my engagement with life.

By 1999, my wife was noticing the difference. “You know, you’re getting boring,” she said. “You used to read, write, preach, and constantly come up with new things to talk about. You don’t do that as much any more, and I miss the richness that brought to our relationship.” That’s when we came up with the vision of a weekly newsletter as part of our fledgling coaching practice. “I started Provisions,” I usually say with a chuckle and a smile, “to save my marriage.”

In reality, however, I got this going to save my soul. Without the occasion for rigorous self-examination, my spirit and presence in the world was starting to languish. And that’s no way to live.

People have known this, of course, for thousands of years. About 2,500 years ago, Socrates, an ancient Greek philosopher, observed that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Around the same time, Lao Tse, the first Chinese philosopher in the Taoist tradition, noted that “to know others is to be learned, to know oneself is to be wise.”

500 years later, in my own tradition, the apostle Paul made clear what my spiritual discipline and LifeTrek Provisions are all about: “Whatever is true,” he wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

So that’s what we do through LifeTrek Provisions. We examine life. We come to know ourselves. We think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

These are the things that make for spiritual wellness. And if you are sailing through life without thinking much about them, if you are living an unexamined life, then you are setting yourself up for spiritual illness and, since you’re not doing it, you don’t even know what you are missing.

Unfortunately, unexamined thinking is a common phenomenon. Thoughts are handed down and passed around, from one person or place to the next, without people spending much time in reflection and critical self-appraisal as to their veracity and import. Take Nazi Germany as an example. How else can one explain that terrible tearing of the fabric of human life? An awful lot of people were thinking and doing an awful lot of things without examination.

This happens, of course, on every level • all the way down to the trivial. You have perhaps heard the story of the woman who was cutting off the ends of a piece of meat before roasting. When her daughter asked why she did that, she said that was the way her mother taught her to do it. So they asked the grandmother why she did that, only to receive the same reply. When they finally asked the great-grandmother, she replied, “Oh, I did that because it was too big for my  pan.”

Old habits, especially unexamined old habits, die hard. And as we saw in the example of Nazi Germany, or in any other case of racism, sexism, jingoism, prejudice, and stereotypes • let alone of genocide and ethnic-cleansing • unexamined thinking can do great harm. Blind faith and adherence to any idea, from any source, is not something we can afford to entertain. Not even the monotheistic world religions insist upon such submission.

That’s what I take from a poem called “Happiness,” by Saadi Youseef, originally written in Arabic • the language of Islam, the “religion of submission to the will of God.”

To fill your eyes
there are rose shrubs
and branches of a lemon tree.

The stone houses
you once hated
rise higher and higher,
wet with rain.

Thinking is not enough.

O happy is the person
who opens a window
unto the morning!

Unexamined thinking, to be more specific, is not enough. To be happy, spiritually well, and zestfully alive we must “open a window unto the morning.” We must examine our thinking in order to fill our eyes love.

Doing so requires more than just an occasional flirtation with the morning window. It takes a regular commitment of reading, writing, and thinking (note the order of those words • so often I find that my reading and writing generate thinking, rather than the other way around). In our case, we have the regular discipline of all that’s involved with the publication of LifeTrek Provisions. It generates its own daily habits. But that is hardly the only way.

Julia Cameron, for example, author of The Artist’s Way books, has become famous for her practice of “morning pages:” three pages written in long-hand, every morning, no more and no less. Morning pages are quintessentially stream-of-consciousness writing, examining whatever comes to mind. There is no right or wrong way to do them. There is no agenda. Rather she encourages us to capture our thoughts as though they were pieces of art, seen for what they are, and for whatever revelations they may present.

Other people use coaches and the discipline of a weekly coaching conversation to examine their thoughts. Here too, as we saw in our study of coaching metaphors, there is no right or wrong way to converse. Here too the life of the client is approached as though it was a work of art. By staying with the conversation over a period of weeks, months, and even years, we enable more truth and light to break forth than we had perhaps thought possible.

Sitting meditation and contemplative prayer are two other ways that people avoid unexamined thinking. It’s not that we sit or pray to examine our thoughts; indeed, we often sit or pray to empty our thoughts. But doing so opens us up • like Cameron’s “morning pages” and Youseef’s “morning window” • to the very examination thoughts require in order to make life worth living.

So that is my hope for those of us who would seek to be spiritually well. Avoid unexamined thinking! Question every external and internal voice until you clearly hear their wisdom. Raise your conscious awareness of what you stand for and how you carry yourself in the world. Become mindful of those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Make a contribution in life if you want life to make a contribution in you.

Coaching Inquiries: Are you prone to unexamined thinking? What are your routine practices for self-examination? How can you strengthen them? Is there one thing you can do this week that would expand your awareness and move you forward in wisdom?

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, use our Contact Form, or give us a call in the U.S.A. at 757-345-3452 to request a complimentary coaching session.

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 just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy LifeTrek. I’m in the retail industry and our whole philosophy is that we as managers are not managers, but coaches. What a concept…huh?! I wanted to thank you for making LifeTrek available for my PDA. I sync it and take it with me!


I appreciate Erika’s reminder in last week’s Pathway to pay attention to our gut feelings for guidance. Throughout my life I have often lived to regret it when I overrule those leadings with logic. But I wonder what role superstition might play in causing us to have fearful feelings about things we don’t really need to fear?


Can you tell me more about The Road Less Traveled. Is this something I could recommend to my book group? We are church members who read both religious inquiry books and general topics as well. (Ed. Note: The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck, is one of the better books of the 20th century, with sales of more than seven million copies and translations into more than twenty-three languages. Although it is approaching 30 years old, it is not out of date and I recommend it highly.)



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 #398: Avoid Negative Thinking

Laser Provision

Most people would agree that negative thinking is to be avoided, but perhaps not for the reasons you suspect. Yes, negative thinking can make us feel worse about things. But it also robs us of our freedom and separates us from reality such that it makes it harder, if not impossible, to develop a healthy sense of meaning, purpose, awareness, attachment, and identity in life. This Provision will show you what to watch out for and why.

LifeTrek Provision

The theme of our 2005 coaching intensive, “The Art of Zestful Living,” is not far off from the focus of our current Provisions’ series on spiritual wellness. Since our definition of and approach to spiritual wellness is non-sectarian, we are focusing on those things that make for the well being of human individuality, that vital force in each of us which animates and expresses our presence in the world.

From this vantage point, spiritual wellness is all about the art of zestful living. To be spiritually well is to pursue not only survival but also the things that make life worth living. Maslow spoke of this in terms of “self-actualization,” Jesus in terms of “eternal life,” and Buddha in terms of “Dharma.” Whatever we call it , we infuse life with zest by paying attention to our sense of meaning, purpose, awareness, attachment, and identity in life.

To encourage such noble attention, or what is sometimes called “right thinking,” we have been writing about things to avoid because they lead to or stem from spiritual illness. In the past three weeks, we have coached you to avoid magical, cynical, and positive thinking as systems of interpretation and control over the course of life. They too often add insult to injury, fail to work, and take the fun out of life. They certainly tread on thin ice when it comes to meaning, purpose, awareness, attachment, and identity.

So too when it comes to negative thinking. As a system of interpretation and control over the course of life, negative thinking too often adds insult to injury, fails to work, and is just no fun. It leads to whining, having a victim-mentality, and “catastrophizing,” or irrationally and fearfully turning one bad thing into a much bigger bad thing.

Unfortunately, extrapolating from one localized instance to dire generalized thinking is all too common. When something bad happens, many people have a tendency to assume the worst. Consider the following examples, to mention only a few:

  • We try a new food after which we experience indigestion or gastrointestinal problems. As a result, we develop negative thinking about that food and may never be willing to try it again.
  • We experience a disabling or disfiguring injury after which we experience both limitation and embarrassment. As a result, we develop negative thinking about public situations and may never be willing to go out again.
  • We have a run-in with a co-worker after which we experience changed office dynamics. As a result, we develop negative thinking about that person and may never be willing to interact with them again.
  • We suffer a slump in sales after which we experience a significant dip in our personal income. As a result, we develop negative thinking about sales and may leave the profession altogether.
  • We lose our job after which we experience a protracted time of searching for new employment. As a result, we develop negative thinking about the economy and may give up looking for work altogether.
  • We clean up our office or home environment after which things get messed up again. As a result, we develop negative thinking about environmental modification and may abandon such efforts altogether (until we can’t stand it anymore).
  • We work really hard to meet a deadline after which the project is put on hold. As a result, we develop negative thinking about management and may never be willing to work that hard again.

These examples reveal that the problem with negative thinking is not much different from the problem with positive thinking: both approaches garble our awareness and appreciation of life based upon either our fear  (that nothing will work out) or our faith (that everything will work out). By filtering things through our favorite lens (are you a pessimist or an optimist?), we distort our responsibility, usually make matters worse, and miss many opportunities for discovering meaning, purpose, awareness, attachment, and identity in the here and now.

When it comes to distorting responsibility, the problem with negative thinking is the inverse of the problem with positive thinking. As we discussed last week Click, the problem with positive thinking is an overdeveloped sense of control. We make ourselves, and our positive thoughts, responsible for everything. So when things don’t work out, we have no one to blame but ourselves. What fun is that?

The problem with negative thinking is an underdeveloped sense of control. We make others, and our negative thoughts, responsible for everything. So when things don’t work out, as we knew would happen, we blame everyone and everything except ourselves. Which is also no fun and a far stretch from the truth. The world, both externally and internally, is just not that blameworthy.

It’s probably easy to see how this works when it comes to the external world. If you believe that the world is out to get you (“The food was just too tempting.”), then you have become a victim of the world. And victims, by definition, lack control.

The same dynamics play out when it comes to the internal world. If we believe that we are tragically flawed (“I just can’t stop eating.”), then we have become a victim of our own negative thinking. And such victims not only lack control, they also lack the ability to discover a healthy sense of meaning, purpose, awareness, attachment, and identity in life.

In his classic book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck notes that most people who come to see psychiatrists are suffering from “disorders of responsibility. The neurotic assumes too much responsibility; the person with a character disorder not enough. When neurotics are in conflict with the world they automatically assume that they are at fault. When those with character disorders are in conflict with the world they automatically assume that the world is at fault.”

In other words, neuroses and character disorders represent opposite ends of the responsibility spectrum. Neurotics think they can control everything (extreme positive thinking) while those with character disorders think they can control nothing (extreme negative thinking). And, as Peck so ably describes, both extremes represent mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual illness.

Both extremes also have a way of making matters worse. Trying to control everything, with extreme positive thinking or any other system, is as bad as trying to control nothing, with extreme negative thinking. They both set us up for failure.

We can see how this works in the examples given above, where negative thinking generates a clear constriction of life. Avoiding foods, situations, people, professions, systems, solutions, or superiors because of some prior experience that has been “catastrophized” into the present moment makes us lose not only opportunities but also our very freedom in life.

That is the real tragedy behind both positive and negative thinking. We become slaves to our thinking profile rather than students of life. And there is so much to be discovered, learned, and shared once we are free to explore the universe as we find it, with neither the overconfidence of positive thinking nor the under confidence of negative thinking.

Christopher Reeve is an example of a person who could have easily adopted or justified negative thinking, after suffering a fall in an equestrian competition in 1995 that left him paralyzed from the neck down. But that would have denied his zest for life. Instead, he learned to accept and work with his situation in order pursue the opportunities available to him. And pursue them he did.

In 1997 he made his award-winning directorial debut with “In the Gloaming.” In 1998 he published his bestselling autobiography, Still Me. In 1999 he won a Grammy for the audio recording of that autobiography. And the best was yet to come. It was then that he became a prominent activist on behalf of research to develop effective treatments and a cure for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders. As a result, many have benefited from his work and many more know of his legacy.

Reeve is an example of someone who went beyond half-full or half-empty thinking to seeing the glass itself. He was the epitome of someone who took responsibility for the things he could change, who accepted the things he could not change, and who had the wisdom to know the difference. The world grieved when Reeve died on October 10, 2004 precisely because his pursuit of meaning, purpose, awareness, detachment, and identity in life had become so coupled with our own.

May that be a lesson for us all! Whatever our situation in life, avoid negative thinking. Avoid positive thinking. Just think about what is going on in the here and now. Look for signs of new life and new creation. Work on things that build up and heal. Pursue opportunities that express the best of what it means to be human. Avoid taking too much or too little responsibility. Take off your favorite lens in order to come to our senses with love.

Coaching Inquiries: Are you prone to positive or negative thinking? Do you try to muscle your way through life with willpower? Or do you whine your way through life as the victim? What could you do to shed these roles in order to enhance your sense of meaning, purpose, awareness, attachment, and identity?

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, use our Contact Form, or give us a call in the U.S.A. at 757-345-3452 to request a complimentary coaching session.

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..


This series is getting dangerously close to Eastern Religions! Vipassana meditation has correlates in Buddhism and Mahayana-type meditation, where simple mindfulness and awareness of the world is stressed. Thich Nhat Hanh urges meditating upon the miracle of life and what is everyday, and bringing that awareness inside of ourselves. 

Being nonjudgmental, in his approach, is very important: “you can kill one, two, five with a gun, but you can kill millions with an ideology”. This is an invitation to “nonjudgmental witnessing awareness” as a way to prepare ourselves for a larger mission in the world.

Interestingly, many Americans think Buddhism is not a religion, but a philosophy, either by confusing it with Confucianism, or because it is does not invoke magic. If you have one sentence to distinguish Eastern from Semitic religions, it is the emphasis on personally adapting to an awesome but impersonal universe. If you have two sentences, it is also complete lack of exclusivity; you don’t have to join a club to be on God’s good side.

Once again, excellent series and very thought provoking. I hope you do not lose many readers who are looking for “quick and dirty” answers.


I agree some with your Provision on positive thinking. I have thought the same thing about people saying their prayers had been answered…I always thought…what about the people who had the opposite of what they were praying for happened…did it mean their prayers weren’t answered and G-d only answered some prayers? The people who survived cancer because of their prayers??? What about the people who didn’t survive?

I know there is more to this and people say it is G-d’s will but it still seems like more guilt and pressure to get the prayers right. I find much of organized religion tries to take this path…believe in positive, prayers or in specific beliefs and you will survive, not just now but for an eternity. The G-d I believe in wants me to experience all life…good, bad, ugly and will still love and care for me.. How can I not look at the earth that was created and say, “Isn’t it fascinating!” in beauty and in storms.

I believe in prayers, meditation and sharing for other people. I just try not to have expectations for them and want the highest good for all.


I’ve been a subscriber to your weekly Life Trek Provision series for a long time now and have found them to be of great value with useful topics and thought provoking ideas. I have often thought of engaging in a coaching relationship but have not gone through with it for one reason or another. I particularly found your series on listening very helpful in my work as a social worker and have bought the e-books from your site. Thanks so much for your service.


I’m greatly enjoying your “Avoid … ” series. How about doing one on avoiding affirmations? Or I could do one for you if you are interested?


Your poem titled “Deep” is truly wonderful. I’m currently reading “The Purpose Driven Life.” This writing takes me deeper in thought of truly finding my purpose. I also write poetry. Keep writing.


As a comment on Wellness Pathway #255: Start Fidgeting. I saw the article you referred to in The Washington Post several days ago. I am a world-class fidgeter, constantly in motion. I work as Director of Research for a food flavor company and basically, I eat for a living. We are always tasting something. I always wondered how I managed to stay slim. Now I know. It also gives me a great come back when my wife complains about the fidgeting. 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