Provision #423: The 12 Embraces (How To Be Happy)

Laser Provision

For the past twelve weeks we have considered twelve embraces that lead to spiritual wellness. Before that, we considered twelve things that lead to spiritual illness. In this Provision, we put them all together as the key to being happy in life and work. This is one Provision to come back to and review regularly. It can make spiritual giants out of us all.

LifeTrek Provision

I have been encouraged by the feedback to the current Provisions’ series, which ends today. It began more than six months ago as we decided to tackle the matter of spiritual wellness. Over the years we’ve provided coaching on physical, financial, professional, psychological, and relational wellness. Underlying them all, however, is spiritual wellness. It is the ground of being from which flows everything else.

My sense from your feedback is that you’ve been getting the message. As a reader from Uganda wrote this past week, “I want to affirm my gratitude for your continued insight into daily living using the Provisions of LifeTrek Coaching. I have followed them consistently here in Uganda. Your last insight into living love has re-opened my own quest to serve in love and to be love. Thanks!”

Such feedback makes the effort of writing Provisions very gratifying indeed. To think that people around the globe actually put these Provisions into practice is high praise. It is also an awesome responsibility to make clear the embraces we have been advocating when it comes to spiritual wellness. This Provision aims to do just that, with a succinct reconnaissance of the past 24 issues. If you’ve read none of the other ones, this one may be enough.

1. Avoid Control / Embrace Freedom. As human beings we have a natural desire to control things. And over the millennia we have developed a wide variety of control systems, including magic, religion, politics, and science. But sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, those systems fail to work. Sometimes, the panacea fails to cure, the security fails to protect, and the foam insulation still flies off the fuel tank. To think we can control the course of life is magical thinking that we best give up if we hope to promote spiritual wellness.

Better to embrace freedom instead. Freedom from attachment to particular outcomes, from addiction to particular practices, and from adherence to particular illusions. We must intentionally give these up if we hope to be spiritually well. And to stay well it takes more than just intention. It takes the assistance of other people and of the Great One to complete the past and to move forward in freedom. For all its uncertainty, the way of freedom is a better way to be.

2. Avoid Cynicism / Embrace Possibility. Once we give up on our ability to control particular outcomes, it’s easy for the pendulum to swing all the way over to cynicism. “Why bother!” we exclaim. “If there are no systems that are guaranteed to work, then why strive for anything at all? Better to just live for the moment, since tomorrow we may die.”

Although living in the moment is an important part of mindfulness, to stop striving for anything is to ignore the possibility that human beings do have a natural ability to influence things. Just because nothing works all of the time does not mean that nothing works any of the time. In fact, the possibilities are limitless. Spiritual wellness brings this awareness to the forefront. We approach life not with guarantees as to what the future holds but with confidence as to what holds the future.

3. Avoid Manipulation / Embrace Mindfulness. Unfortunately, this confidence can incline us to manipulation. We may not be able to control the future, but perhaps we can beg or barter our way to the top. “Do me this one favor,” we promise the Great One, “and I’ll be good.” But the Great One cuts no deals. Not even “the power of positive thinking” can make everything turn out all right. As it turns out, positive thinking is not very powerful at all.

But that doesn’t mean we should stop thinking or paying attention to life. Indeed, paying attention is a powerful spiritual practice. Instead of trying to control life with the power of mind over matter, we seek to notice life with the attention of mind to matter. Instead of whining about life because it doesn’t conform to our expectations, we engage with life as it proceeds in the here and now. The more mindful we become in the present moment, the more opportunities we will discover to move forward in the direction of our dreams.

4. Avoid Pessimism / Embrace Responsibility. While the cynic questions whether anything will ever work out, the pessimist knows that nothing will ever work out. In some cases, that’s because pessimists blame the world. In other cases, that’s because they blame themselves. Either way, they suffer from what M. Scott Peck calls “disorders of responsibility,” taking on either too little or too much responsibility to be spiritually well.

Better to embrace the ability to respond, regardless of what comes our way. In good times and bad, we can be responsible. But don’t confuse this with being accountable. Accountability is about answering for something, as in taking the credit or the blame. Responsibility is about engaging with something, as in giving our best selves to every situation. In both challenging and comfortable times, we can take responsibility for life.

5. Avoid Distraction / Embrace Silence. There are many things that can distract us from examining our lives. Some of us live at a frenetic pace, allowing precious little time for reflection and planning. Others are numbed by chemical and social mendicants, such as alcohol or television. Still others have never learned to appreciate the value of critical thinking. Whatever may be your distraction, Socrates was right when he observed that “an unexamined life is not worth living.”

That’s because we have to go deep if we want to give our lives a sense of meaning and purpose. These things do not emerge without some measure of wrestling and contemplation. So finding moments of silence, both short and long, becomes an important spiritual discipline. There we can learn to release our fears and to approach others with gratitude. There, in the absence of noise, we can learn the truth about ourselves and about our place in the family of things.

6. Avoid Exclusivity / Embrace Diversity. 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. Exclusivity does more harm than good. It sets people up, one against the other, in competitive us-versus-them relationships. It tears at the fabric of human community and undermines our ability to be spiritually well.

Better to embrace diversity as though the whole human family were of one body, mind, and spirit. “We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 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 comes only when we learn to embrace the rich multidimensionality of the human community as not just a fact of life but as a positive value to be celebrated and encouraged.

7. Avoid Anxiety / Embrace Mystery. We live in an age of anxiety. Troubles and terrors, both of natural and human origin, are real. But that does not mean we can afford to live from that anxiety. Not only is anxiety unproductive, it undermines creativity, obscures possibility, and negates temerity. It brings us up short in the game of life.

Which is especially unfortunate given the mysterious way things have of working out. What may, at first, seem to be a catastrophe often appears, in hindsight, to be a blessing. Indeed, the very nature of our quantum universe argues against anxiety, which is itself a remnant of the Newtonian principles of cause and effect. If that’s the only way things happen, then we have reason for anxiety. But if the universe can jump natural barriers, respond to subtle energies, and generate synchronicities then we can embrace mystery as our way of being in the world.

8. Avoid Aimlessness / Embrace Hope. It’s hard to say what represents the most frequent reason people come to coaching. Many, of course, want assistance to make their dreams come true. Many others, however, want assistance to remember their dreams. Life has become an aimless routine of getting up and going through the motions. There is little to no engagement with a personal or professional sense of cause. As a result, life has become empty, flat, and devoid of meaning.

Enter the mystery of hope. Working with a coach is itself an act of hope. The notion that we can together discern the themes and dreams of a person’s life implies that we believe they are there, even when they are buried. Learning to manifest those themes and dreams is yet another act of hope. It is to come from the place that believes we can make a difference in the world, even if we sing as but one solitary voice. Even when the odds are stacked against success, hope enables us to make a strong and vital witness to the things we hold dear.

9. Avoid Superiority / Embrace Humility. Just as confidence in what holds the future can incline us to manipulation, so can hope incline us to a superiority complex. We can become so certain of our witness that we can bowl people over along the way. We start showing off, taking credit, and demanding privileges for all that we do, say, have, and are. But this is not the way of true mastery and it sows the seeds of our own demise.

Remembering that there are no guarantees in life, that we exercise influence rather than control, it is both more appropriate and more effective to become a humble witness to the things we hold dear rather than a haughty one. No one enjoys people with an attitude! But humble people, who know the ground from which they come and the shoulders on which they stand, attract the energy that makes their hopes and dreams come true. They don’t boast of what they know; in fact, they hardly notice what they know as they seek to give themselves away in service to others.

10. Avoid Inferiority / Embrace Beauty. But humility is not to be confused with inferiority. Humble people do not think poorly of themselves, they just don’t think of themselves. And they certainly don’t think poorly of others. Inferiority breeds failure since it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think, feel, speak, act, and pray as though you don’t have what it takes to make things work, then things won’t work. If all you can see is impossibility, then nothing is possible. If you deny your access to intuition and instinctive intelligence, then you won’t notice the things that make for success.

Embracing beauty is an antidote for inferiority. No matter how poorly you think of yourself or the world in which we live, noticing beauty will lift your spirits and move the human community in the direction we need to go. Sometimes beauty is easy to see, especially when we are surrounded by nature, art, culture, and love. Other times we have to look hard, such as when we suffer the indignities and shattering blows of life. Either way, beauty is always there for the noticing and doing so makes all the difference in the world.

11. Avoid Scarcity / Embrace Justice. In a world that’s drowning in a sea of abundance, where self-storage has become a bigger industry than the motion-picture industry, it’s hard to believe that people still suffer from a scarcity mentality. But this mentality • that there just isn’t enough to go around • lies behind the practices and policies of many institutions, movements, and people in the world today. Time, money, energy, and love are all viewed as limited commodities that need to be traded and protected carefully.

So instead of pursuing justice for all, we end up pursuing justice for some. We can’t even see the perspective of oppressed peoples, global ecology, and world peace since these things threaten to undermine our standard of living and our sense of security in the world. But what if our standards are the very things that contribute to our insecurity? Spiritual leaders the world over, from every tradition, have long made this connection. Apart from justice, there is no chance for wellness of any sort to flourish and prosper.

12. Avoid Selfishness / Embrace Love. Selfishness is the personal manifestation of scarcity thinking. Lest we fail to have, do, or be enough, we hoard everything that comes our way. “More, more, more” and “mine, mine, mine” become our mantras. We can even come to justify this in terms of extreme self-care. Unless we take good care of ourselves, we reason, we can’t take good care of others. So we live selfishly with the hope that it will somehow benefit one and all.

Fortunately or unfortunately, that’s not the way the world works. Self-care is not a product of selfish living but a byproduct of pursuing generosity, justice, peace, and love. These are the things that make for spiritual wellness and all other forms of wellness. The more we extend ourselves for others, not because of who they are and what they can do for us but because of who we are and what we can do for them, the more joy we will find in life and love.

These, then, are the twelve embraces that make for spiritual wellness. Freedom, possibility, mindfulness, responsibility, silence, diversity, mystery, hope, humility, beauty, justice, and love are the things that make life worth living. The more we incorporate them into our daily living the more we will contribute and the closer we will be to the Great Spirit of life.

Coaching Inquiries: Which of the twelve embraces do you practice most regularly? Which ones do you practice only occasionally? Which ones would you like to practice more? How could you make all of them more a part of your life?

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

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

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

I recently read about the “Four Levels of Happiness.” They sure fit with this Provision.

Level 1: Immediate Gratification.
We all know about this one. “You’re worth it! Get it now! Why wait, you deserve it.” The benefit to Level 1 happiness is that it usually works … for a while. When the good feelings wear off, though, we can often find ourselves emptier than before. If we’re honest, we usually “live” at Level 1 when we are trying to feel better about ourselves or to avoid or subdue our fears. It’s a pretty shallow happiness. 

Level 2: Gratification Through Achievement.
This one is less self-centered than Level 1. We are using our talents to achieve goals, to accomplish something good. There will be some short-term gain and we can experience a sense of success. If we remain here, though, we can become fearful of failure, isolated, jealous, and cynical. Happiness becomes something to be worked at endlessly. After years of this, the burden can become overwhelming. 

Level 3: Gratification Through Contribution.
In this level we take our eyes off ourselves and begin serving others, helping to meet their needs. The benefits of this kind of living can far outweigh more self-centered tendencies. We begin to see ourselves as part of a community, able to make a real difference in the lives of others. Our own happiness increases as we stop grasping for it. And finally … 

Level 4: Transcendent Gratification.
We are now living for a purpose that is larger than us, something truly worthy of a life, worthy of our life. We seek the happiness and joy of others by giving our energy to justice, peace, beauty, love. We are living for something that will outlast us, something that will contribute to many, many lives, not simply our own.

We call it “transcendent” because it gets us in touch with that which is beyond us. Those who are happiest become the kind of people that naturally use their signature strengths, in a virtuous fashion to make a contribution. I commonly see people who gain power, control and money in their business lives thinking this will make them happy. Most of them will tell you it’s an illusion. Those who don’t, haven’t thought about it.

You are so right about how we should stop wanting what we do not have. I have a Zen of the Day calendar this year, and the philosophy you speak of, not only in this Provision on love, but the underlying theme of your entire series, is in tune with Zen, yoga, meditation, and at the very root of most religions. There appears to me to be one real truth for any one that has ever wanted to see it: Love is the way. However, this is much easier said than done, and is something that I work at every minute of every day. Daily I battle negative thoughts abut myself (why did I eat that cookie?) and others (why is she shoving her work on to me?). One day at a time, that’s all we can do.

Bravo! Your last Provision was LOVE-ly. Thanks for sharing this.

Just a quick note to let you know how much I’ve appreciated your thoughts on spiritual wellness. I haven’t been reading your newsletter until this summer when I felt I had more time to digest them. You do a great job of distilling others’ ideas and motivating your audience to give it a try!

I really appreciated Erika’s Pathway this week urging us to Get Beyond Guilt Click. Yes, I would like to change my to-do lists to I-want lists. This message had good timing for me. The job I am doing now just asked me to continue on through the fall because they have not found a replacement for me yet. I gave them notice over a month ago. I was debating it because I do not want to leave them with no one. But, I really think that one full time job and graduate classes will be enough. So I will have to tell them no. And Erika’s Pathway helped me to see that, even though I will still feel guilty. Thanks for your thoughts and motivations.

I’m really impressed with your website. I’ve started to read one Wellness Pathway a day. They are very helpful but I can’t read too many at a time! You should write a book • something like Living Healthy for Dummies • it’s really hard for the regular person to negotiate all the stuff that is out there.

I want to affirm my gratitude for your continued insight into daily living using the Provisions of LifeTrek Coaching. I have followed them consistently here in Uganda. Your last insight into living love has re-opened my own quest to serve in love and to be love. Thanks! 

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
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
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #422: Embrace Love

Laser Provision

Love, they say, makes the world go round. And, guess what? They’re right! When love is properly motivated, when it is not viewed as a means to an end but as an end in itself, then love becomes the most powerful force in the universe. It can see life through the toughest of times and infuse life with the most sublime of joys. If this sounds like spiritual wellness to you, then you’re well on the way to understanding the thrust of this Provision.

LifeTrek Provision

There’s no better way to conclude our series on spiritual wellness than to encourage you to embrace love. It is the sine qua non • the essential, crucial, and indispensable ingredient • apart from which neither spiritual wellness nor any other wellness is possible.

Of course there are many kinds of love. Romantic love (what the ancient Greeks called eros) is filled with passion and desire. We seek to connect with another person on intimate and deep of levels. Buddy love (called phileo) is filled with camaraderie and cooperation. These are the people we enjoy playing, working, and relaxing with. They are our friends. Altruistic love (called agape) is filled with generosity and commitment. We put the welfare of others ahead of our own welfare, even if that entails personal suffering.

Another way to speak of these three kinds of love is in terms of their primary impetuses. Romantic love is conditional “because of love.” We love someone “because of” their beauty, character, kindness, potential to make us complete, or any number of other possible reasons. We may not be aware of all the reasons that cause us to love someone, but where there is romance there is always reasons!

Buddy love, on the other hand, is conditional “if love.” I will treat you right if you treat me right, play shortstop if you play pitcher, work on your project if you work on my project, or give you a present if you give me a present. We may not state the contract so explicitly and we hopefully know better than to demand immediate reciprocity but we definitely want our friendships to be mutually satisfying.

Altruistic love is unconditional “in spite of love.” We do not condition our love on the basis of cause or contract. It matters neither how wonderful someone or something is nor if they will respond, or even if they have the potential to respond, in kind. We simply love them, right where they are, and just the way they are, without any strings attached.

All three kinds of love are worth embracing for spiritual wellness. It’s not that romance or friendship are incompatible with or lesser forms of love just because they are more conditional and self-interested. On the contrary, they are essential parts of life that often serve as great spiritual teachers. But romance and friendship are not complete and will not endure without the more unconditional and selfless impetuses of altruistic love.

M. Scott Peck defines love as “the will to extend oneself for one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” Milton Mayeroff defines it as “the selfless promotion of the growth of the other.” Tim Sanders defines it as “the act of sharing your intangibles with others.” Sharon Salzberg defines it as “the ability to embrace all parts of ourselves, as well as all parts of the world.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin defines it as “the universal synthesizer.”

These definitions all point to the more durable and transcendental dimensions of altruistic love. We give ourselves for others not because of who they are and what they can do for us but because of who we are and what we can do for them. When this becomes the focus of our joy, when we take pleasure in being kind for the sake of kindness alone, we find ourselves standing in the mystery and fullness of love. 

Perhaps no description of love is better known than the poem penned by the apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian church. It is a quintessential expression of altruistic love. If you haven’t read it in a while, or if you have never read it at all, then perhaps you will enjoy this rendering cobbled together from a variety of translations as well as my own understanding of the ancient Greek:

“If I speak with human wisdom and angelic ecstasy but I fail to love, then I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I can discern hidden mysteries and make everything plain as day, and if I have the faith to move mountains, but I fail to love, then I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and sacrifice my body to the cause, but I fail to love, then I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, know, or do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep a record of wrongs,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. What we speak, pray, and know about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete comes, our incompletes will be canceled. Then we will put an end to childish ways. We will stop squinting in the fog and peering through the mist. We will see and know things just as clearly as God sees and knows us. But until then, we would do well to trust steadily in God, to hope unswervingly, and to love extravagantly. Of these three, the greatest of these is love.”

Now that’s a description of altruistic love! And it makes clear the connection with spiritual wellness. The love that cares for others is the love that draws us close to God and the love that cares for God is the love that draws us close to others. There is simply no way to have one without the other.

The relationship is like that of a tree and its shadow, which we can come at from either direction. Climb up in the tree • pour out your love for God • and you’re bound to cast a shadow. Work in the shadow • pour out your love for people • and you’re bound to see the tree. True love in any sector carries over to true love in every sector until we make visible the hidden power supply of the universe.

Emmet Fox gives a soaring description of this power in his interpretation of The Sermon on the Mount: “There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer,” he writes; “no disease that enough love will not heal; no door that enough love will not open; no gulf that enough love will not bridge; no wall that enough love will not throw down; no sin that enough love will not redeem…. It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble; how hopeless the outlook; how muddled the tangle; how great the mistake. A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all. If only you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world.”

Yet that realization comes only to those who set aside their ambition for such remarkable results. As soon as we make the results our concern, rather than the expression of love, we slip back into love that is motivated by causes and contracts. Only when we abandon such ambitions, only when we stop wanting what we do not have, will we be able to love so fully and completely as to discover the happiness that we seek.

Such a paradox! By doing what’s right just because it’s right, and not because of what it may or may not produce, we end up producing far more of what we want than if we go after the result itself. That’s why coaches speak of success as a byproduct rather than as a product. Success is not what we go after. It is what comes as a byproduct of going after love.

As I write this my wife and I are in Atlanta, Georgia assisting our daughter to set up her new home before she starts her third year of medical school on Tuesday. Why are we here? Because we want to be with her for a few days to share the work and to coach her through this time of transition. In some ways it would have been easier and less expensive to stay home, but that would not have been the loving thing to do. And neither one of us would have felt as good as we do right now.

Last weekend we did the same thing with our son and daughter-in-law in Charlottesville, Virginia. As they set up housekeeping as a married couple, it helps to have the support, encouragement, and press of those who have gone before. They, like our daughter, could have done all this on their own, but it would not have been so well mixed with love.

Do you see how these things work? Altruistic love is not about doing things because one has to, ought to, or must. It is not a should that generates guilt when it is not done. Altruistic love is a selfless impetus that generates goodness when it is done.

So get yourself in that frame of mind. Forget about the quid pro quo calculation of what your good deeds will bring you. Instead, focus on the pure pleasure of loving others as God has loved you. In so doing, you too will discover the spiritual wellness of love.

Coaching Inquiries: What motivates you to love? Is it selfless and unconditional? Or is it based upon causes and conditions? Do you focus more on what you can do for others or on what they can do for you? Does it bring you joy to reach out to others in love? How could you become more joyful and energized by love?

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..

We have no reader feedback to reprint from the past week. We encourage you to send your thoughts, questions, and reactions to Provisions in the weeks ahead. 

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
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
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #421: Embrace Justice

Laser Provision

Spiritual wellness is not just about personal enlightenment and faith. It is also about global justice and passion. If your life lacks a sense of passionate purpose then this Provision may make your heart sing. It offers a formula, based upon the witness of seven spiritual leaders, that anyone can use to make their life and their contribution in the world both more positive and more fulfilling. Read on to find out how.

LifeTrek Provision

We have only two installments left in our series on spiritual wellness, and we would be remiss if we failed to make plain the justice connection. There’s simply no effective way to pursue wellness for oneself without pursuing justice for all. The two are that interconnected.

Perhaps that’s why so many of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders have also been known for their courageous work on behalf of oppressed peoples, global ecology, and world peace. Consider seven of the better known voices.

— Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, peace activist, and author of Being PeaceThe Miracle of MindfulnessAnger, and many other books. He lives in a monastic community in southwestern France called Plum Village, where he teaches, writes, gardens, and works to help refugees worldwide. He conducts retreats throughout the world on the art of mindful living and has conducted special retreats for American Vietnam War veterans, psychotherapists, artists, environmental activists, and children. He seeks to unite the practice of personal and social transformation. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 Click.

— The Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is traditionally both the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the temporal leader of Tibet. As such, he embodies the connection between spirituality and justice. This connection was heightened when the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, fled into exile in India in 1959 to escape political oppression. Since that time he has inspired many with his teachings on spiritual wellness and global justice. In 1989 he received the Nobel Peace Prize, with the Committee noting that he had “developed his philosophy of peace from a great reverence for all things living and upon the concept of universal responsibility embracing all humankind as well as nature” Click.

— Mother Teresa. Who has not heard of Mother Teresa? This humble woman of Albanian descent was as distinguished for her piety as for her work with the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. From there, the order that she founded has spread all over the world as a Christian relief organization. In every instance, their spiritual practices are as important as their public witness. “The fruit of prayer,” she once said, “is a deepening of faith. And the fruit of faith is love. And the fruit of love is service.” Given her impact on the world, it becomes clear that the fruit of service is justice.

— Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s hard to believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated at the age of 39. He was snuffed out far too early in life but far too late to stop the movement of faith-based social action that he epitomized. “With his Bible in one hand and the Constitution in the other,” observes Jim Wallis in his book God’s Politics, “King persuaded, not just pronounced. He reminded us all of God’s purposes for justice, for peace, and for the ‘beloved community’ where those always left out and behind get a front-row seat. And he did it • bringing religion into public life • in a way that was always welcoming, inclusive, and inviting to all who cared about moral, spiritual, or religious values. Nobody felt left out of the conversation.”

— Thomas Merton. After a precocious childhood in France and an out-of-control young adulthood, Thomas Merton became a Catholic monk who spent most of his days cloistered at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Bardstown, Kentucky. From that unlikely place of deep silence and solitude, Merton became a profound commentator on the society around him. “Removed from the world’s motives, profits, and purposes,” writes Joan Chittester, “Merton saw them in the clear light of day and began to speak out about them. Where other spiritual writers emphasized the distance between things of the spirit and things of the world, Merton saw one as an attendant to the other.” He was especially outspoken in his opposition to the Vietnam war and in his respect for Eastern monastic traditions.

— Oscar Romero. The authorities thought Oscar Romero was the perfect choice for bishop in El Salvador. Born a peasant in 1917, he had been brought up in and was indebted to the Catholic church. He became a friend of the religious and political establishment who did not fancy himself as a crusader for justice. But he did seek to be a person of faith. And that made all the difference. Over time, as the establishment unjustly and violently persecuted the church, Romero was transformed. He could no longer preach about the reign of God to come without demonstrating the reign of God in the here and now. So he spoke out on behalf of justice and, like many other such voices over the course of history, he was assassinated for his efforts. But the truth could not be silenced.

— Mohandas K. Gandhi. This shy child from a traditional Hindu Indian family was born before each of these others and rose up to instruct and inspire them all. Hanh, Gyatso, Teresa, King, Merton, and Romero all acknowledged their debt to Gandhi. Perhaps that’s because Gandhi so fully embodied the connection between spirituality and justice. “I have only three enemies,” Gandhi one observed. “My favorite enemy, the one most easily influenced for the better is the British nation. My second enemy, the Indian people, is far more difficult. But my most formidable opponent is a man named Mohandas K. Gandhi. With him I seem to have very little influence.”

This recognition of dealing with both the enemy within and the enemy without, and of how we are often our own worst enemy, lies at the heart of spiritual wellness. Both enemies require transformational coaching and nonviolent resistance if we ever hope to see the light of day. And it is there, at the point of connection between justice and wellness, that these leaders and we ourselves find the sense of passionate purpose that makes life worth living.

One of the books that I discovered on my vacation at the Chautauqua Institution is the Pursuit of Passionate Purpose by Theresa Szczurek. She makes an excellent case for passion arising from the intersection of our values and our gifts. Values, she notes, define who we are and what is meaningful to us. They include our “core beliefs, ideology, ethics, morals, attitudes, and ideals.”

Our gifts, on the other hand, mold how we can uniquely contribute. They include our “talents, experience, abilities, aptitudes, education, and traits.” Although there are more than 6 billion people in the world today, no one else has our unique mix of personal characteristics. Just as no one looks exactly like us or shares our exact DNA, so too does no one else have our exact same gifts.

Passion, Szczurek notes, arises when we can use our gifts in the service of our values. In these moments our hearts sing and we feel fully engaged by the pursuit. In fact, we are often more passionate in the pursuit than in the attainment of something. Anyone who has lost a large amount of weight, trained for a marathon, or pushed to achieve any other significant thing knows exactly how this works. The morning after you achieve your goal, the “Now what?” question looms large in the continued search for passionate purpose.

Although the intersection of our values and gifts describes well the playground of passion, Szczurek observes that its takes a third circle, the needs of the world, to awaken passionate purpose. Drawn as three overlapping circles, it is the intersection of our values and gifts with the needs of the world that put us on the path to greatness. When spiritual wellness and global justice embrace there’s no telling what may shake loose, both for us personally and for the well being of the world.

Of course the needs of the world are many and great. And we live in many worlds at once, both inner and outer. Our inner worlds include all things mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Our outer worlds include our families, friends, neighborhoods, communities, countries, planet, and universe. Now that’s a lot of worlds! And they all have needs. When you discern a need you can meet, perhaps with the assistance of a coach, that will express your values and use your gifts you will have entered the zone of passionate purpose that both spiritual wellness and global justice require.

In his book, God’s Politics, Jim Wallis reminds us of the primary position many spiritual traditions give to the issues of poverty, ecology, and violence. These needs represent the big three when it comes to the needs of our planet. In his sermons and lectures at Chautauqua, Wallis frequently reminded us of how a child dies due to hunger somewhere in the world every 3 seconds. Click your fingers, every 3 seconds, to get a sense of the gravity of this need.

Wallis also pointed to the problems associated with development and climate change as well as war and terrorism. These are the things that preoccupy both world leaders and ordinary citizens. Unfortunately, they do not always get the resources and creative attention they deserve. In other words, they do not always enter into the conversation with our values and gifts. But Wallis argues persuasively that this is the place we need to go if we hope to experience spiritual wellness.

So don’t just think of spiritual wellness as the path of personal enlightenment and faith. It is also the path of global justice and passion. The more often we can bring our values and gifts to bear on the needs of the world the more often we will experience wholeness in our life and work.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you know your values and gifts? How could they be brought to bear on the needs of the world? Would talking with a coach assist you to be more clear and active in this endeavor? How could passionate purpose become a more common denominator in your everyday life? What is the work that would make your heart sing?

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 too was at Chautauqua last week, and am looking forward to two more weeks. I especially enjoyed Friday’s lecture by Daniel Pink. Too bad we didn’t know each other were on the grounds together. I, like you, run marathons and we could have gotten in some runs together. Maybe next year! (Ed. Note: Indeed, we’ll be there again Week 2!)

Your description of Chautauqua and of your vacation gave me the opportunity to “see” this beauty for myself…to share mindfulness with a parent or child…when the past is gone (good or hard) and you might not have a future is to embrace and receive a gift. I am heartened that you had and took advantage of this beauty.

A recent critique I heard defined vulgar as that which is lacking in knowledge and appreciation of beauty. It was used in the context of a commentary on the increasing vulgarity of our public discourse and entertainment. Your Provision “Embrace Beauty” provided a compelling antidote to that spiritual sickness in our society and in our world today. Thanks for the reminder to stop and drink in the beauty all around us! 

This weeks Provision speaks of a Chautauqua lecture that helped you change your diet, will you share with us the name of the lecture and the speaker? Blessings to you for sharing your gifts. (Ed. Note: It was the speech by S. Boyd Eaton Click. I have also written about this myself in many Wellness Pathways, especially #237 on the Paleolithic Diet Click and #238 on the Anti-Inflammation Click.) 

It has taken me a few weeks to get to your most recent Provisions but the one on Embrace Mystery was fantastic and more than worthy of forwarding to several friends (which I did). You have a remarkable gift. Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your writings.

Do you have a Provision that would encourage my boss? She is about to have a second surgery and she is fearful. Can you help by telling me what Provision to pass on to her? (Ed. note: I would urge her to read Provision #401: Avoid Anxious Thinking Click as well as Provision #321: Release Fear Click

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
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
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #420: Embrace Beauty

Laser Provision

To become spiritually well we have to be on the lookout for beauty. Sometimes beauty is easy to see, especially when we are surrounded by nature, art, culture, and love. Other times we have to look hard, such as when we suffer the indignities and shattering blows of life. Either way, embracing beauty will lift the human soul and move the human community in the direction we need to go.

LifeTrek Provision

As I write this, two things are true. First, I have spent the week on vacation at The Chautauqua Institution ( Second, the world has spent the week on alert in response to terrors of both natural (e.g. Hurricane Dennis) and human (e.g. the London bombings) origin. In both instances, embracing beauty stands out as a practice and an opportunity to become spiritually well.

To be on vacation at a place like The Chautauqua Institution is almost like cheating when it comes to embracing beauty. Beauty is dished up, multiple times a day, in every imaginable form. To mention seven:

(1) Nature. If you have never been to The Chautauqua Institution, then it will be hard to appreciate the rich and diverse beauty of the environment. Chautauqua is famous for its lovely gardens, quaint Victorian houses, lake vistas, and wooded paths. As an erstwhile gardener myself, the gardens at Chautauqua are an inspiration. The flowers and plants bring me no end of delight and, to be honest, occasional envy. When I see a flower I like, I go back to it repeatedly in order to appreciate its beauty and learn its characteristics.

The lake vistas, particularly around sunrise or sunset, are breathtaking. The cloud patterns, with occasional wisps of low-lying fog, can make the lake and its reflections all the more dramatic. This year we were on the grounds for the 4th of July, the Independence Day holiday for the USA. At 10:00 pm, the lake (with a circumstance of about 40 miles or 65 kilometers) was illuminated all the way around by red signal flares. The quiet glow of those flares imbued the natural beauty of the lake with both mystery and hope.

(2) Art. As a community dedicated to the arts in its many forms, art abounds at every turn at Chautauqua. Yesterday, as I went out on my morning run, someone was setting up her easel to paint a landscape. As I ran around the grounds, I could enjoy her progress. Later in the day, I saw someone else painting a large modern canvass on his front porch; and when I got home I found my wife painting a watercolor still life on our second-floor porch. I gave her a kiss and a couple of chocolate treats I’d brought for her, before curling up with a good book.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Expressive and creative yard art is the order of the day. In addition, there are permanent art galleries and as well as occasional weekend art fairs on the plaza (my wife just returned with her own delightful find). Many of the houses are themselves works of art. And then there are those artistic surprises such as the rainbow currently being generated by the sprinkler across the way.

(3) Music. As I write this, the music of a rehearsal and sound check for tonight’s concert at the outdoor amphitheater surround me. The theme from Chariot’s of Fire was playing for a time, bringing back fond memories of not only the movie but also of my own running exploits. During the past week, we have heard three symphony concerts, including one by the young people in Chautauqua’s Music School Festival Orchestra. Two of the concerts featured piano soloists, with demanding and beautiful pieces that brought back memories of our Bosnian exchange-student daughter, Dina, and her impressive abilities on the piano.

Beautiful music fills the air at Chautauqua, with snatches of music floating on many a breeze throughout the grounds. There are practice halls everywhere, and young people offer impromptu concerts on the plaza. People also sing, dance, perform, and entertain to music, as was the case on Wednesday night when we witnessed the gymnastics of the Russian American Kids Circus. The artistic beauty and gymnastic talent of those tweens and teens put everyone in a Chautauqua mood.

(4) Rest. One of the delights of vacation, whether at Chautauqua or elsewhere, is the chance to catch up on our “beauty rest.” It’s hard to beat going to sleep when one is tired and waking up when one is refreshed. That is part of the beauty of Chautauqua. There are no deadlines, televisions, phones, cars, or obligations. One can do as much or as little as one wants. Talk about refreshing! People seem to become more beautiful as the tensions and stresses of daily life melt from their faces.

(5) Recreation. In addition to the delight of uninterrupted and restful sleep without deadlines is the delight of uninterrupted and active recreation without deadlines. There is nothing better than playing without a sense of pressure as to when one has to be done or what one has to do next. Twice this week I went cycling around the lake, several times I went running around the grounds, and once I went golfing with my father. In every instance I enjoyed the beauty of being in the moment with my chosen interest. Whether I was gone for 45 minutes or 3 hours made no difference. I was blessed to be freely and fully engaged.

That sense of free and full engagement brings an incomparable degree of mindfulness to exercise, recreation, and play. When the past and future disappear from view the beauty and magnificence of the present moment can loom large. When we take a vacation from our vocation, when we have a break from our calling, we can connect with our true selves even after months or years of neglect.

(6) Information. Chautauqua is like one continuous, multimedia seminar. From early in the morning to late at night there are lectures to attend, classes to take, books to read, and people to engage with. Of course, none of this is mandatory. It is simply there, for the taking, if one is so inclined. The theme for our week was The World of Work, giving me plenty to chew on as a business and life coach. Two of my favorite speakers were Juliet Schor (author of The Overworked AmericanThe Overspent American, and Born to Buy) and Daniel Pink (author of Free Agent Nation and A Whole New Mind). I’m sure you will be reading more about these authors in future issues of Provisions!

There is perhaps nothing more beautiful than a truly fresh idea, especially when that idea is evidence-based with far-reaching ramifications. Such ideas are hard to find, but I encounter them regularly when I come to Chautauqua. In fact, that’s a big part of why I come to Chautauqua. It stretches me • body, mind, and spirit • as it introduces me to new material that I can later incorporate into my life and work. Last year, for example, one lecture completely changed my diet. You can listen to the lectures yourself by visiting I recommend them highly.

(7) Inspiration. A vacation would not be a vacation without some leisure reading, and this year I took a great book given to me by my new daughter-in-law, Michelle. The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb is the true story of three young men, in the early 1950s, who were vying with each other for the honor of being the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes. Michelle wrote on the cover page that it was an “inspirational running story for the most inspirational runner I know.” That inscription meant a lot to me as did the book. It was a beautiful, well-written story.

Inspiration is the heart and soul of Chautauqua, whether light-hearted or hard-hitting. Our chaplains for the week were Jim Wallis (author of God’s Politics: Why The Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It) and his wife, Joy Carroll. They challenged people to address such moral issues as global poverty, climate change, and the spiral of violence. They sought to inspire people to go beyond personal aspirations for success and fulfillment in work all the way to social justice. The worship and conversations around these themes were compelling.

They were also timely. With a hurricane in the Caribbean, the G8 summit in Scotland, and the bombings in London there was plenty of grist for the mill. What business do we have enjoying the beauty of Chautauqua through nature, art, music, rest, recreation, information, and inspiration when the world seems to be coming apart at the seams? Perhaps more business than we know.

While at Chautauqua I was reminded again of the classic work by Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and the founder of logotherapy, suffered greatly during World War II at the hands of the Nazis. He and his wife were interned at several concentration camps, suffering forced labor and indignities which, in her case, eventually led to death.

In trying to make sense of his experience, Frankl notes that there are basically three ways to discover meaning in life: “(1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.” Since the first and most common path to meaning was proscribed to these oppressed, political prisoners, the second and third paths became even more important. They also became inextricably linked.

“As the inner life of the prisoner tended to become more intense,” wrote Frankl, “he also experienced the beauty of art and nature as never before. Under their influence he sometimes forgot his own frightful circumstances. If someone had seen our faces on the journey from Auschwitz to a Bavarian camp as we beheld the mountains of Salzburg with their summits glowing in the sunset, through the little barred windows of the prison carriage, he would never have believed that those were the faces of men who had given up all hope of life and liberty. Despite that factor • or perhaps because of it • we were carried away by nature’s beauty, which we had missed for so long.”

“In camp, too, a man might draw the attention of a comrade working next to him to a nice view of the setting sun shining through the tall trees of the Bavarian woods (as in the famous water color by D•rer), the same woods in which we had built an enormous hidden munitions plant. One evening, when we were already resting on the floor of our hut, dead tired, soup bowls in hand, a fellow prisoner rushed in and asked us to run out to the assembly grounds and see the wonderful sunset. Standing outside we saw sinister clouds glowing in the west and the whole sky alive with clouds of ever-changing shapes and colors, from steel blue to blood red. The desolate grey mud huts provided a sharp contrast, while the puddles on the muddy grounds reflected the glowing sky. Then, after a moving silence, one prisoner said to another, “How beautiful the world could be!”

“Another time we were at work in a trench. The dawn was grey around us; grey was the sky above; grey the snow in the pale light of dawn; grey the rags in which my fellow prisoners were clad, and grey their faces. I was again conversing silently with my wife, or perhaps I was struggling to find the reason for my sufferings, my slow dying. In a last violent protest against the hopelessness of imminent death, I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious “Yes” in answer to my question of an ultimate purpose.”

“At that moment a light was lit in a distant farmhouse, which stood on the horizon as if painted there, in the midst of the miserable grey of a dawning morning in Bavaria. “Et lux in tenebris lucet”• and the light shineth in the darkness. For hours, I stood hacking at the icy ground. The guard passed by, insulting me, and once again I communed with my beloved. More and more I felt that she was present, that she was with me; I had the feeling that I was able to touch her, able to stretch out my hand and grasp hers. The feeling was very strong: she was there. Then, at that very moment, a bird flew down silently and perched just in front of me, on the heap of soil which I had dug up from the ditch, and looked steadily at me.”

Frankl goes on to describe other ways, including art, music, poetry, and humor, in which beauty was able to lift the spirits and form the attitudes of those who were suffering the great terrors of their day. Beauty became a healing balm that saw people through the horror and provoked those inner decisions that enabled people to retain their human dignity even in a concentration camp.

That is how we transform suffering into something redemptive. By consciously embracing beauty, especially when we have to look hard to find it, we rise above the degradation, subjugation, and privation of life with a spiritual freedom that makes life meaningful and purposeful.

From that vantage point, one can embrace the beauty of Chautauqua not as an escape from reality but as a training ground for life. The more we know about beauty in any setting the more we will be able to find beauty in every setting. And, I for one, cannot think of a better way to become spiritually well.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you embrace beauty? Or does beauty pass you by, unawares? How could you become more cognizant of beauty? What choices would you have to make? Is there someone who could become your partner in the search for beauty? Are their tough situations where beauty is cracking its way through, like a weed in the sidewalk? Stop right now and look around to see what beauty you can find.

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..

In your Provision, Embrace Humility, you wrote that people “act as though everything depends upon us, revolves around us, and belongs to us. So we proceed with a sense of entitlement and consumption rather than of stewardship and service.” With that statement you have described why we have the conditions and problems on our planet. 

You also wrote regarding Quadrant 1, the “I Don’t Know That I Don’t Know” quadrant, that “This is our condition when we make our appearance into the world at birth.” I disagree and feel that this is a condition that we have most of our lives. That quibble notwithstanding, this was a very good read for the 4th of July. (Ed. Note: Your point is well taken. Thanks! And thanks too for seeing the connection between humility and the 4th of July. We can all use more of that!)

Thanks again for sharing another insightful Provision, Embrace Humility. Your analogies and personal experiences hit home for me too! 

Thinking about your Provision, Embrace Hope, I thought of a book you might want to include as a reference: The African-American Teenagers Guide to Personal Growth, Health, Safety, Sex and Survival by Debra Harris-Johnson Amazon. (Ed. Note: Thanks for the reference.) 

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
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
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #419: Embrace Humility

Laser Provision

Humility does not get the attention it deserves in many circles. Self-help literature is often wont to mention the word. Leadership books can speak of courage and charisma in ways that make humility sound weak. But nothing can be farther from the truth. We most help ourselves, as well as others, when ego falls out of the equation. Let this one go, forget about taking credit or assigning blame, and you’ll be surprised how well things can go.

LifeTrek Provision

If the last two Provisions in this series on spiritual wellness, Embrace Mystery Click and Embrace Hope Click, were not enough to bring you down to earth, then I don’t know what will. Our clamoring egos notwithstanding, we are simply not all that critical to the magnificent workings of the universe. With us or without us, life will go on. And the sooner we accept that fact, the sooner we can carry ourselves as a gift to others.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way of the world. We act as though everything depends upon us, revolves around us, and belongs to us. So we proceed with a sense of entitlement and consumption rather than of stewardship and service. We act as though we know best what needs to happen in life and work. So we get frustrated and demanding when things don’t go our way. And God forbid that we ever have to apologize or admit to ignorance, limitation, or confusion.

Although the competitive realms of politics and business can leave people feeling backed into a position where they are unwilling or unable to muster such forthright honesty (e.g., when George W. Bush was asked during the last campaign if he had made any mistakes during his first term in office, he was unable to recall even a single instance), we cannot afford to take such a posture in our pursuit of spiritual wellness. Something there is that does not sit well with such memory lapses.

In fact, the higher we go in life and leadership the more important it becomes to ground ourselves in humility. The word itself comes from the same Latin root as the word hummus • the stuff of the earth that comes in bags at your local lawn and garden center. To be humble is to be grounded, without false pride or arrogance. It is to know our place in the grand scheme of things.

On some levels, of course, our place in the grand scheme of things is as grand as the scheme itself. Part of the mystery exposed by quantum mechanics is how interconnected everything is on the microscopic level of energy, frequency, and possibility. Just as the DNA of any cell contains all information in every cell so too do the energies, frequencies, and possibilities of any atom contain all the energies, frequencies, and possibilities of every atom in the universe. And that’s not only amazing, it’s pretty darn grand.

But to extrapolate from the grandeur of the microscopic level to anything less than humility on the macroscopic level is to totally miss the point. We are, indeed, microcosms of the universe, but that serves only to remind us of the dust and ashes from which we come and to which we shall return. This is not something to take credit for let alone to lord over others (who are equally grand). It is rather something to marvel at and to share graciously with others.

Perhaps that is why great spiritual leaders have been noteworthy in terms of their humility. Their presence and their accomplishments are byproducts of their humble character rather than products of their triumphant striving. In fact, they have an aversion to taking credit for just about anything. Instead, they have a strong sense of being vessels for an energy, a presence, and a caring that is larger than themselves.

It is the sense of being a vessel that comes with embracing humility. We find ourselves able to live by the maxim, “It is amazing how much good can get done in the world when we don’t care who gets the credit.” We also find ourselves able to avoid the power games that follow from its opposite, “It is amazing how much harm can get done in the world when we do care who gets the blame.”

These are the dynamics that we need to pay attention to if we hope not only to be spiritually well but to exercise servant leadership. When we recognize our common ground with those we lead, serve, coach, and struggle with, when we connect with them on the quantum level, we are much more likely to become an unobtrusive catalyst for change rather than a lightning rod for controversy.

Thomas Leonard used to speak of this in terms of “the absence of you.” It is listening to another person, or to a situation, until you no longer exist. You become a transparent vessel of the energy that unites and gets things done. In the words of Lao-tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching and the founder of Taoism,

“True leaders
are hardly known to their followers.
Next after them are the leaders
the people know and admire;
after them, those they fear;
after them, those they despise.

To give trust
is to get trust.

When the work’s done right,
with no fuss or boasting,
ordinary people say,
“Oh, yes, we did that ourselves.”

From this perspective, we can develop a new appreciation of the four-quadrant model of knowledge and awareness. Perhaps you are familiar with the model. On one axis is knowledge • what we know • on the other access is awareness • what we know that we know. Placed at a right angle to each other they create four quadrants:

Quadrant 1: I Don’t Know That I Don’t Know. This is our condition when we make our appearance into the world at birth. Other than knowing when to exercise our basic, bodily functions, there’s not much that we know • and we don’t know that we don’t know. Of course, at that stage in life we also don’t care very much. Fast forward a decade or two and it becomes very important indeed.

I remember when my son, who is in Systems Engineering at the University of Virginia and who is an avid computer gamer, was first told as a young boy that one of his favorite games had hidden keys on the screen that could help him win the game. Before he was told that, we wasn’t even looking for them. He didn’t know that he didn’t know and he was content to struggle along with the game, doing the best he could, even though there was no way to win.

In this quadrant it’s possible for people to become arrogant without good reason. Since they don’t know that they don’t know, they may insist they are doing everything right and everything possible to effect a desired outcome. They can become self-proclaimed experts who are particularly averse to change. Arrogance in this quadrant may be the toughest pride to cure or even to recognize. Someone who has been there and done that usually has to come along to point out a better way.

Quadrant 2: I Know That I Don’t Know. In my son’s case, there was some show and tell required in order for him to catch on to the trick of the game. Once the light bulb went off, however, he resumed play with a vengeance. There was nothing stopping him in his hunt for those hidden keys. Not even those basic, bodily functions could get in the way. Eating? Sleeping? Bathing? Who needs those when there are hidden keys to find! Soon he had mastered that game and was on to looking for hidden keys and tricks in all future games.

Learning in one area often transfers to learning in other areas as well. More than one of my son’s academic courses has been mastered with the persistence and curiosity learned in the search for those hidden keys. So it is with Quadrant 2 knowledge. We become like thirsty sponges, absorbing all the knowledge we can in our chosen fields of interests.

Nothing can be more heady or exhilarating. When I learned, for example, about the science of evolutionary nutrition, I could hardly stop reading all the books, articles, and Web resources I could find. Once I knew that I didn’t know, it was time to get to work and, eventually, to change my eating patterns as well.

Humility is the essence of this quadrant. Discovering that we don’t know something, especially if it’s something we thought we did know, is a humbling and disturbing discovery indeed. Allowing ourselves to speak those unspeakable words, “I don’t know,” may seem to invite criticism, ridicule, or rejection. More often, however, it invites others to let down their masks and to share in the journey of discovery.

Quadrant 3: I Know That I Know. Depending upon the subject, we can shift from Quadrant 2 to Quadrant 3 in pretty short order. In medicine, of course, it takes an extended period of training and apprenticeship. For the past two months, my daughter was living with us to study for her Stage 1 medical board exam. As the final days approached, we had study sheets taped to the walls of our kitchen and flash cards in every room. There was so much she knew that she didn’t know!

But she had a plan and she followed it perfectly. Every day was designated as to subject matter, location, methodology, and term. Some days were very long, others were shorter, and still others were off days. But as the exam date approached she knew that she still didn’t know, or at least that she still didn’t know enough, to walk in the door with confidence and poise. So anxiety rose. Until all of a sudden, 48 hours before the exam, she was done. She knew that she knew. And that made all the difference.

I appreciated her attitude going into the exam. Many authors describe Quadrant 3 as the quadrant we want to be in. One designated it the “quadrant of enlightenment”. But, like Quadrant 1, it can also be a quadrant of arrogance. When we know that we know, it’s easy to drop into a demanding posture. After all, we know that we know that we know! But that was not the attitude my daughter took into the exam. She was both confident and humble. She knew that she knew, but she wasn’t taking anything for granted.

Quadrant 4: I Don’t Know That I Know. In my mind, this is the quadrant we want to be in. Rather than unconscious denial, I see this as the quadrant of unassuming humility. And it only comes with experience. No amount of studying and test taking will ever make my daughter a medical doctor or my son a systems engineer. Those will only come after years of apprenticeship and hands-on experience. At some point, they will both handle their crafts masterfully with only minimal thinking and effort. They won’t know that they know, and yet they will know, and it will be perfect.

One of my clients is a pediatric surgeon who is starting a hospital overseas. From time to time, however, he comes back to the United States to take temporary assignments when other surgeons go on vacation. Recently, he came back after a several month hiatus from having touched a scalpel or set foot in an operating room. “Are you nervous?” I asked him. “I am,” he said, “it’s been so long, that I wonder if my command of the operating room and the procedures will have slipped.”

Like riding a bicycle, however, it all came back to him as soon as he scrubbed up and put on his mask. He didn’t know that he knew, but he did. It was muscle memory, decades of experience, and a humble heart that enabled him to pick up where he left off.

This is the quadrant where healthy humility can emerge. Instead of being scared to admit that we do not know, as in Quadrant 2, Quadrant 4 persons are humble precisely because they know so much. They have released the need to know and, as a result, they have become wise, going about their business with a certain ease and grace that is at once disarming and magical.

“I have had the rare privilege to be in the presence” of such persons, writes Wayne Dyer in his book Wisdom of the Ages. “My most lasting impression of these highly evolved people is that they have subdued their egos and live as silent sages, unwilling to bask in the halo light of their own divinity. They have literally chosen to disappear as physical beings. They seek no credit for their great gifts, in fact they attribute them all to God.”

“All streams flow to the ocean,” writes Lao-tzu, “because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power.” So too when it comes to Quadrant 4 humility. It is in our unconscious competence that we become the servant leaders our world so desperately needs and wants.

Coaching Inquiries: Are you able to admit what you don’t know? Do people think of you as a humble person? How much attention do you pay to who gets the credit and who gets the blame? How could you become more of a servant leader? Who can you talk to without fear of judgment or reprisal? How can you grow into Quadrant 4 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 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..

It’s been a while since I sent you a comment. As a graduate in Physics, your last Provision resonated with me. I have wanted to embrace mystery but was not able to explain it so I robbed myself of many opportunities to see a lot of things around me. Your great contribution to peoples lives around the world without physical contact is in itself a mystery. Thank you for your contribution

Wow! As I read your wonderful provision, I could not decide which was more exciting: Reading your recount of my first marathon or actually running it!!!! This was an experience that I will, for as long as I live, remember with great fondness. You were terrific and did a wonderful job of coaching me through my very first marathon. Thank you very much!!!

I’ve just read your Provision, “Embrace Hope.” If you don’t already know it look at the The Institute of HeartMath• is an innovative nonprofit 501(c)(3) research and education organization. IHM, with founder Doc Childre, has developed the HeartMath System to enable people to decode and employ the intelligence of their heart • a process of unfolding the unused power within yourself. Sounds a lot like what you were describing. (Ed. Note: I was not familiar with this site, although Paul Pearsall speaks of HeartMath quite a bit in his book, The Heart’s Code. Thanks for the referral.)

I wish a great day and kind regards to Bob, family cooperators, and co-coachers by LifeTrek. 

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
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
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #418: Embrace Hope

Laser Provision

Regardless of the situation, there is always room for hope. Sometimes the basis for hope is obvious. We can easily see how things will work out. Other times the basis for hope is hidden. We have to rely on the mysterious and subtle energies of life to work things out, one way or another. But such reliance is not without foundation. Both quantum mechanics and cardio energetics embrace hope as a fundamental building block of life.

LifeTrek Provision

In last week’s Provision, where I encouraged you to Embrace Mystery in order to promote spiritual wellness Click, I mentioned the mysterious ways of the human heart as but one example of the quantum universe manifesting itself in the physical, macroscopic world. This goes so far beyond the conscious use of attention and intention that I find it both humbling and exhilarating. Consider a few more examples:

  • Heart transplant recipients have reported new feelings, behaviors, and memories following their transplants. Some of these memories have been so specific as to assist police in the arrest and conviction of their organ-donors’ killers.
  • Medical personnel involved with heart transplants report similar, if less intense, experiences of new feelings, behaviors, and memories that come just from handling and assisting human hearts.
  • The heart generates more energy, of all types, than any other organ in the body. It generates the electromagnetic, physical, vibrational, and subtle energy fields that form the basis for life. The electromagnetic field created by the heart is 5,000 times more powerful than that created by the brain.
  • Nonlocality and invisibility are both features of the heart’s subtle energy. It is not limited by space and time in the same way as other physical energy sources. When people put their heart into something, the effects can be instantaneous, dramatic, and mysterious.
  • Random number generators have been influenced, for example, by heart energy. On September 11, 2001, random number generators around the globe became less random before, during, and after the terrorist attacks. The breaking of our global hearts impacted not only humans but our machines as well.
  • Remote viewing is another aspect of heart energy. Remote viewing means that we “see” into other locations and times without being physically present and without using our eyes. Some call this a premonition, a hunch, a “sixth sense,” or an intuition. It is a documented but not a controllable phenomenon.

The more we learn about the heart’s subtle energy the more we see its connection to the weird universe of quantum mechanics explored by nuclear and particle physicists. There is much we do not understand about them both. This much is clear, however: heart energy and quantum mechanics deserve our utmost respect since they under gird and constitute the very fabric of existence.

I was reminded of this recently, when I paced one of my coaching clients to his first marathon finish in Duluth, Minnesota. Now I should point out that my client did not contact me for marathon coaching. Our focus has been and continues to be career transition. But, as often proves to be the case, getting into great physical shape worked its way into the equation.

So we set some weight loss and fitness goals, picked a date, and established a training program that my client has followed for the past five months. The benefits were legion. Not only did he reach his goals, but he gained energy, insight, and discipline in the process. He discovered what Jim Loehr and Tony Schartz call “the power of full engagement,” since physical training produces noticeable benefits in all areas of life and work.

One month ago, my client came to southeast Virginia in order to go on a long training run with me. This proved to be an invaluable warm up and learning experience for the real thing. We took off on our training run at a 4-hour marathon pace, and we kept up that pace for about 8 miles. Along the way, I asked my client, who was wearing a heart-rate monitor, to share with me both his heart rate and his heart energy. I wanted to keep an eye on both the mechanical and the vital dimensions of our run.

By the time we reached mile 8, it became clear that we had to slow down. His heart was beating at approximately 95% of his maximum heart rate, he was sweating profusely, and his •lan for the run was starting to slip. No amount of desire and good intentions can make up for going out too fast at the start of a long training run, let alone of a marathon. So we scaled back our pace for the rest of the day as well as our plan for the marathon in Duluth.

Race day arrived with perfect weather on a perfect course through the perfect beauty of the north woods. We were driven by bus, 26.2 miles up the Lake Superior coastline, to run back into town starting at 7:30 AM Central Daylight Time. Minutes before the start, two fighter jets flew over head in the direction of the finish line. At their speed, they finished the marathon in about 3 minutes. It took us nearly twice that long just to cross the starting line after the race began!

Crossing the line, our hearts became fully engaged. We paced ourselves for a 5-hour finish, running a half mile and then walking a minute for most of the course. The goal was to keep my client’s heart rate below 80% of his maximum heart rate for the first 20 miles in order to preserve his heart energy for the tough, final 10 kilometers of the race.

That’s how I view a marathon: it is two races, back to back. The first race • the 20-miler • is a relatively easy run for those who are in marathon shape. Ask me on any given day if I might we willing to run 20 miles the next morning, and the answer may well be, “Yes!” That’s because 20 miles is within the range of the human body to process without undue duress. So many marathon runners speak of mile 20 as the halfway point in the race, even though there are only 10 kilometers (or 6.2 miles) left to go.

The second race • the 10K • is where all the weird things usually happen. That’s when most people hit the wall, running out of available glycogen and needing to switch to the conversion of stored energy or fat for continued running. That’s when people also develop cramps or other muscle problems, if they are going to develop them at all, due to the build up of lactic acid. That’s also when the heart rate creeps inexorably higher, regardless of the pace, as heat, dehydration, and time begin to take an ever-increasing toll.

Fortunately, our plan worked perfectly. The slower pace kept my client’s heart rate down and spirits up for the entire first 20 miles. The walks breaks, including an ample amount of rest-and-recover nose breathing, were exactly what we needed at the half-mile intervals. The sights and sounds of the course, ranging from the views of Lake Superior to the spectators along the way to our fellow participants • one of whom was skipping rope all the way through to the finish • were animating to say the least.

By the time we started the second race, at mile 20, our hopes were high that we could finish strong. And those hopes were important in getting us through those tough final miles. I know what it’s like to see your goal-time slipping away. It is disheartening. Instead of getting stronger, it makes you weaker. “Why bother?” becomes the attitude. “I’ll just do what I have to do to finish and try again another day.”

Hope has the opposite effect. It is heartening. When a goal is within reach, that hope can overcome all manner of adversity. That’s what happened to me in April, when I ran the Boston Marathon with an injured right leg. My first goal was to make it to Wellesley, where I knew friends would be waiting if I needed to bail out. Reaching that goal, I pressed on to finish even though the leg was increasingly painful.

When I finished climbing Boston’s famous “Newton Hills,” at mile 21, I did a quick mental calculation to determine that it was not beyond me to break 4 hours. Then I did a deeper heart calculation to determine that I had the resolve, vigor, connection, and courage to pick up the pace in spite of my leg pain. In other words, I did the math and then I did the heart math in order to find the hope that enabled me to reach my goal.

So too in Duluth. With every half-mile interval, I reported to my client as to where he stood in relationship to his goal. There was no reason, I told him, if he kept up his pace, that he could not break 5 hours. That was the math. But I also told him that to keep up his pace he had to want it more than his muscles wanted to quit. I encouraged him to go deep, and to feed off the energy of the crowds, in order to see his way successfully through to the end. That was the heart math.

As we got closer to the finish I spent more time with the heart math than with the math. I championed my client for running strong. I also got the spectators to do the same. Every so often I would run ahead, point out my client to the spectators, give them his first name, and encourage them to cheer wildly. They were more than happy to oblige. Those rousing doses of spectator heart energy, occasionally amplified by a high-5 from a little child, combined with the knowledge that his family would be waiting for him at the finish line, were enough to bolster the hope of any runner.

It was fulfilling to see my client’s race come to such a perfect conclusion. We finished in 4 hours, 58 minutes, and 20 seconds. He was even able to run what runners call a “negative split,” meaning that he ran the second half of his race faster (in fact, almost 7 minutes faster) than he ran the first half. Even though his heart rate eventually climbed to almost 98% of maximum, he ran the final 10K at almost the exact same pace as the first 10K. Now that’s an awesome accomplishment!

And that’s what hope can do. It can give us the energy to not only keep going, but to pick up the pace, when the going gets tough. It can shift us from discouragement to encouragement, from aimlessness to purposefulness, and from cynicism to enthusiasm. It can do both the math and the heart math in order to mobilize energy in the service of life and work.

Too often we forget about the heart math. But if we only factor the physical possibilities into the equation • if we only do the math • we miss an enormous piece of the puzzle. No scientist today would seek to explain the universe strictly in terms of Newton’s mechanics (equations that govern how macroscopic objects interact and move under the influence of forces). On the microscopic level, quantum mechanics reveals a very different world indeed.

But the microscopic world, which underlies all of life, is a world to which the heart appears to be particularly sensitive and in tune. In this world, many things become possible that are impossible in terms of Newton’s mechanics. For those who do the heart math, hope stretches the imagination and infuses every situation. The power of hope can make a way out of no way and get us not only to the finish line of marathon races, but to wherever we want to go.

So embrace hope. Even when the odds are against you, embrace hope. Even when it seems as though you have run out of options, embrace hope. Even when the balance sheet is running a deficit, embrace hope. There is no other way to be spiritually well and there is no better way to live.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you embrace hope? Does your hope include both the math and the heart math of situations? Is your heart connected to the stream of courage and possibility that runs through life? How could you become more hopeful? What’s next on the horizon of your life?

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

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

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

I enjoyed your “mystery” Provision, thanks.

Your last Provision, “Embrace Mystery,” reminded me of something from my past. Many years ago there was a romantic duo named Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald who sang romantic duets. One of them was “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life”. The two of them would sing to each other “Ah, sweet mystery of life at last I found you. Ah, sweet mystery of life at last you’re mine.” Perhaps the mystery of life was then, and still is, love. Sounds simple but we know it isn’t!  

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
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
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #417: Embrace Mystery

Laser Provision

The more we learn about the universe, the more one thing becomes clear: there is a lot we do not understand about what happens and why. That is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived. The more we embrace that mystery and open ourselves to the multivariable calculus of life, the more possibilities will present themselves to our awareness. So if you’re ready for a wild ride, read on as we turn over some of the more unusual stones of life.

LifeTrek Provision

We continue with the second half of our series on spiritual wellness. You may remember that the first half of our series focused on 12 things to avoid in order to promote spiritual wellness; since the beginning of May, we have turned that around to look at the things we need to embrace.

Today’s Provision to embrace mystery stands in contrast to the recommendation we made to avoid magical thinking Click. The distinction between magic and mystery is an important one to grasp. Magic is defined as “the art that purports to control or forecast natural events, effects, or forces by invoking the supernatural.” Mystery, on the other hand, is defined as “something that baffles understanding and cannot be fully explained.”

To embrace magic, then, is to embrace a system of control over life that does not exist and does not work. There are no guarantees, when it comes to future events, whether we invoke natural or supernatural powers. Regardless of the claims people make, be they purportedly scientific or religious, a quid-pro-quo formula that guarantees success and fulfillment in life if you believe, sacrifice, and/or do certain things should be a tip off that you have entered the untenable realm of magic.

That doesn’t stop people from trying, of course. And, to borrow a famous line, “a sucker is born every minute.” We get so invested in desired outcomes that we will believe, sacrifice, and/or do just about anything if we think it will get us where we want to go. But that is not the way to spiritual wellness. Succumbing to magical thinking will lead us down the wrong path, wasting a lot of time, money, and effort in the process.

Giving up on magical thinking too often leads people to become either lackadaisical or anxious. If there is no sure-fire system of control over future events and desired outcomes, then some people conclude, “What’s the use!” They either stop caring or they start worrying.

But such extremes overreact to the vicissitudes of life. That’s why we also urged you to avoid aimless Click and anxious Click thinking. Just because there are no guarantees in life does not mean that there is nothing we can do to influence the probabilities of life. There are relationships of cause and effect that cannot be denied. If I decide to go out and mow the lawn, the chances that the lawn will be mowed increase exponentially over my deciding to go out and do something else.

Of course the mower may still not start, I may twist my ankle, I may tire out, or I may get distracted by some greater urgency. There are countless reasons why the lawn may still not get mowed even after I make the plan and start working the plan. But that does not mean I should abandon planning. In life, planning gets things done. Especially when we plan with an open architecture that takes into account just how mysterious life can be. Consider, if you will, the following phenomenon:

— In the late 1970s on the outer islands of Japan, the Japanese government maintained small colonies of monkeys in order to study their habits. One monkey learned to clean dirt from sweet potatoes by dunking and washing them in a stream. She taught this skill to several other monkeys who then taught it to others. After 100 monkeys learned how to do this, the entire colony • even those who had never been trained • was observed as being able to use this skill. What’s more, other colonies on other islands, in no contact with the first, all demonstrated the same proficiency. Biologist Lyall Watson wrote that the skill “seemed to have jumped natural barriers” of time and space.

— Heart cells also seem to have the ability to jump natural barriers. “Place one throbbing heart cell in a laboratory dish next to another heart cell,” writes Paul Pearsall in his book The Heart’s Code, “and they will beat in their solitary rhythms. Place several heart cells together in a dish without any physical contact between one another and with no synapse connecting them and they suddenly fall into a rhythmic unison, a rhythm that is distinct from the rhythm of each individual cell.”

— Water also seems to have the ability to jump natural barriers. In the past 10 years, Masaru Emoto has conducted and documented many experiments in which the crystalline structure of freezing water responds to its environment in mysterious ways. When exposed to beautiful music or life-affirming messages, the freezing water develops well-formed and beautiful crystals. Crystals fail to form, however, or become extremely deformed, when the music or messages are hostile and chaotic. Given that the human body is 70% water, this has relevance to us all.

— As described in the recent movie What The Bleep Do We KnowClick, quantum mechanics, or the study of very-small, sub-atomic energies, has uncovered a very weird world indeed. As Niels Bohr, one of the architects of quantum mechanics, observed: “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory, has not understood it.” That’s because on the sub-atomic level, things look and behave very differently from the ordinary world that you and I live in most of the time. In quantum physics, which underlies all of life, common sense becomes nonsense and vice-versa.

— Atoms, for example, act like waves and particles at the same time. They also have the ability to be in two places at once. Not to mention being able to communicate and influence each other without regard to space and time. Separate two atoms that are in relationship to each other by great distances and they will both change their spins, instantaneously, faster than the speed of light, and without any physical contact between them, when the spin of either one is changed by researchers. Scientists call this phenomenon “nonlocality” because the effects are independent of location.

— Even time is able to be bent on the subatomic level. Atoms that precede other atoms in time, and then go out of existence, influence other atoms in the past even though there is, again, no physical contact or thread that is tying them together. Simply put, when it comes to quantum mechanics the standard rules of cause and effect, of time and space, no longer apply.

— Perhaps that’s why there are so many accounts of energetic or vibrational healing. People are far more than just physical bodies. We are vast collections of atoms, each resonating on different but related frequencies, that respond to all levels of stimuli. Many double-blind experiments have been conducted, for example, where groups of people, plants, and even microorganisms, have been prayed by others for across vast distances and without their knowledge. Such experiments document a significant improvement in the health outcomes of the objects of prayer.

— And if that’s not enough mystery for you, many others have sought to research and document such phenomena as telepathy (mind to mind), clairvoyance (mind to object or event), precognition (knowledge of future events), and psychokinesis (mind over matter). From this vantage point, there are no coincidences or accidents. There are only synchronicities, as matter arranges itself in response to our intentions and attentions. Since on the quantum level everything is continuously connected to everything else, there is at least reason to recognize such phenomena as possible.

And if that is at all true, then embracing mystery is indeed part and parcel of what it means to be spiritually well. The more scientists learn about the inner workings of the universe, the more they know that they don’t know. If anything “baffles understanding and cannot be fully explained” it is the universe itself. And that is occasion for both hope and consternation.

It is an occasion for hope since no situation is ever beyond intervention. On so many levels • physical, mental, emotional, volitional, relational, social, financial, political, and spiritual (to mention only nine) • we can train ourselves to work with the stuff of life. If one level seems to be fruitless or exhausted, we can turn to other levels for both individual and collective repair.

It is an occasion for consternation in that there are no guarantees that anything will ever work. Mystery is not magic. Life is just too complicated for that. We may be able to reduce risk, but we cannot eliminate risk. We may be able to improve our chances, but we cannot hit the bull’s-eye every time. To embrace mystery is not to take a controlling interest in life, not even on the levels of energy and vibration. These too have their limits and will, forever, hold their secrets.

But embracing mystery opens us up to far more possibilities than a narrow or flat view of the universe would suggest. Who would even think to look under the stone of subtle energy without first embracing mystery? Who would waste their time in prayer and meditation if there was no suggestion that love and gratitude could make a difference in the world? Who would want to train themselves in what Jon Kabat-Zinn calls “inner technologies” unless there was some reason to think that such technologies can truly tap into untapped potentials?

I, for one, find these reports to be not only intriguing but persuasive. There is simply too much going on here to live in the flatland of cold rationality and Newtonian physics. Quantum physics has made bedfellows of science and spirituality. May we each continue to research that connection as responsible parties on the trek of life.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you embrace mystery? Or do you dismiss the reports of things that baffle your understanding and cannot be fully explained? How would your life change if you took these reports seriously? What “inner technologies” might you choose to develop? What new practices and habits might you develop? Who could be your coach in the mysterious embrace of 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..

Thanks for this week’s Provision. As a member of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority (, I have spent the last several years challenging myself and others to confront our biases instead of just smoothing them over. It is amazing what we can learn and how we can grow when we stop blanketly defining ourselves as people who embrace diversity and start defining ourselves as amazingly intricate individuals, each of whom has a history and scope through which they view and interpret the world. It took me a long time to be aware of (or willing to admit) my lens and the ways it biased me, but attempting to do so has been enlightening as I try to take my own steps to “second-tier thinking.” 

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
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
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #416: Embrace Diversity

Laser Provision

For many people, spiritual wellness sounds like a call to arms. They want to share their truth with the world in the hope that one day everyone might see things their way. For all its enthusiasm, such an approach fails to appreciate the richness of what’s happening in our world today. Only by embracing diversity will we be able to move ourselves forward with a compass of goodness, peace, and joy.

LifeTrek Provision

Perhaps you have heard the story of the City Mouse and the Country Mouse. Being cousins, the Country Mouse decided to pay the City Mouse a visit. The journey to the city was harrowing enough, while the comings and goings of the city proved to be quite overwhelming.

At one point, the two mice were chased down and cornered in a dark hole by a ferocious cat. The cat perched itself in front of the hole, occasionally reaching in and swiping around with its paw, in anticipation of the dinner soon to follow. Seeing no escape, the City Mouse took a deep breath and proceeded to bark loudly, like a dog.

The startled cat jumped back, allowing the City Mouse and the Country Mouse to get away with their lives. Proclaiming that the city was obviously no place for a mouse to live, the Country Mouse then inquired as to how the City Mouse learned that little trick. “In the city,” came the reply, “it helps to be bilingual.”

So it does! Whether we live in the city or the country, the more comfortable and fluent we become with diversity the better off we will be. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood and predicted this phenomenon in his last book, written in 1967, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community:

“Some years ago a famous novelist died,” he wrote to lead off the last chapter. “Among his papers was found a list of suggested plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: ‘A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together.’ This is the great new problem of humankind.”

“We have inherited a large house, a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together • black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu • a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”

“All inhabitants of the globe are now neighbors. This world-wide neighborhood has been brought into being largely as a result of the modern scientific and technological revolutions. The world today is vastly different from the world of just one hundred years ago. A century ago Thomas Edison had not yet invented the incandescent lamp … the Wright brothers had not yet invented that fascinating mechanical bird that would spread its gigantic wings across the skies … and Einstein had not yet posited the theory of relativity.”

“Human beings, searching a century ago as now for better understanding, had no television, no radios, no telephones, and no motion pictures through which to communicate. Medical science had not yet discovered the wonder drugs to end many dread plagues and diseases. Military men had not yet developed the terrifying weapons of warfare that we know today. Engineers were not yet building skyscrapers to kiss the stars and gargantuan bridges to span the waters. Science had not yet peered into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space, nor had it penetrated oceanic depths.”

As if he knew the Internet was coming, King concludes, “The years ahead will see a continuation of the same dramatic developments.” So, today, we find ourselves coaching people around the globe. In addition to clients in at least 18 states, we are currently working with clients in Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Australia, and Vietnam. All this happens in an instant, at no extra expense beyond that of a high-speed Internet connection. Email, instant messages, and voice-over-Internet-protocol enable us to communicate as though we were sitting together in the same room.

It is no exaggeration to say that the business of LifeTrek Coaching International would not have been possible even 10 years ago, let alone in the time of Martin Luther King, Jr. People would never have been able to find us, let alone to work with us as they do now. The predicted globalization of our economy, through advances in communication and transportation, has become a reality from which there is no turning back. The “world house” is here to stay.

I saw this up close and personal with the first corporate consulting and coaching contract we ever secured for LifeTrek Coaching International, back in 1999. This was the era of Y2K fever, and LifeTrek was retained by a large corporation to assist with team building and communication as they went through a massive Information Technology implementation.

Having spent the first 20-years of my career as the administrative and spiritual leader of diversity-friendly churches, I was struck by how much more diversity there was on the floors of this corporation. And they weren’t even striving for diversity! When it came to business, only one thing mattered: did you have skill to get the job done? If you had the skill, and the skill was needed, you could be in India one day and in Ohio the next.

Ken Wilber, in his book A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality, notes just how unique this is in the history of the world. “We live in an extraordinary time: all of the world’s cultures, past and present, are to some degree available to us, either in historical records or as living entities. In the history of the planet Earth, this has never happened before.”

“It seems hard to imagine, but for humanity’s entire stay on this planet • for some million years up to the present • a person was born into a culture that knew virtually nothing about any other. You were, for example, born a Chinese, raised a Chinese, married a Chinese, and followed a Chinese religion • often living in the same hut your entire life, on a spot of land your ancestors settled for centuries.”

Not so any more. We are being linked and thrown together, across every imaginable barrier, into a global village. But that doesn’t mean we know how to get along with each other. As evidenced by the ever-increasing spiral of violence, the evolution of our social, moral, spiritual, and intellectual systems have not kept pace with the evolution of our business, technology, economic, and information systems.

In fact, we still find people • many people • railing against diversity as though it were an evil thing to be feared, suppressed, and stuffed back into the box of pre-modern times. Alternative families, for example, be they interracial, intercultural, interreligious, or anything different than a traditional, monocultural expression of mom, dad, and the kids, continue to make many people uncomfortable and are frequent fodder for political squabbles.

Think you are free of bias when it comes to ethnic and racial groups, religious groups, sexual orientation, gender, stereotypes of race and crime, gender and science, ethnic-national links, political issues, entertainers, or even sports teams and pets? Then perhaps it’s time to think again. Psychologists at Harvard, the University of Virginia, and the University of Washington have created an online tool with over 90 different assessments to measure unconscious bias Click. Most people who take one or more of the assessments find that we still have a long way to go to embrace diversity.

But the cat is out of the bag and there’s no turning back. A revolution has taken place that has altered the course of human history, and we would do well to neither resist nor to sleep through it entirely. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words are as prescient today as they were almost 40 years ago:

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant, and to face the challenge of change.”

“The large house in which we live demands that we transform this world-wide neighborhood into a world-wide brotherhood (and sisterhood). Together we must learn to live as brothers (and sisters) or together we will be forced to perish as fools.”

King and Wilber both acknowledge that we live in two realms, the internal and the external. The challenge, now that the external world has changed so much, is for the internal world of our social, moral, spiritual, and intellectual systems to right itself with a compass of caring, respect, tolerance, justice, and love. These are the things that King lived and died for. And these are things that Wilber writes about in terms of “second-tier thinking.”

“First-tier thinking holds that its worldview is the correct or best perspective. It reacts negatively if challenged; it lashes out, using its own tools, whenever it is threatened. … All of that begins to change with second-tier thinking. Because second-tier consciousness is fully aware of the interior stages of development • even if it cannot articulate them in a technical fashion • it steps back and grasps the big picture, and thus second-tier thinking appreciates the necessary role that all the various stages of development play.”

From this point of view, we can embrace diversity even to the point of embracing those who reject diversity. They too have a part to play in the march of history, even if they are not where history is going. Wilber speaks of this in terms of the shift from pluralism to integralism, with the latter being a much more mature and universal expression of the former.

The sooner we make that shift to the integral vision of second-tier thinking, the sooner we embrace diversity for one and all, the sooner we will grow and evolve into not only higher levels of consciousness but also of social organization. The shift is that important. When it comes to spiritual wellness, there is no place for tribalism. There is rather the call for integral practices that exercise body, mind, soul, and spirit on every level (self, culture, and nature).

What are these integral practices? They involve physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual regimens, followed by periods of rest and recovery, such as those described in our weekly Wellness Pathways Click. They include individual as well as collective efforts. They pay attention to self, culture, and nature. Wilber calls them Integral Transformative Practices because they hold out the promise of transformation for us all.
Coaching Inquiries: Do you embrace diversity? How far do you take that? Where do you draw the line? Are there ways you could draw the circle wider? What would you lose if you did? What would you gain? How could your presence and practices make the world a better place to be? 

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 sharing your message from Evan’s and Michelle’s wedding. I enjoyed that!

I just finished reading your Provision, Relationship Wisdom. My wife and I have only been married for 8 yrs. But your piece was a great reminder of what will make a marriage work. Far too often we get caught up in career, kids, and paying the bills that we can loose sight of what should be central, our marriage relationship. In a world that champions individuality over unity it is great to be reminded that our relationships are the best source of joy and fulfillment. Thank you.

Thanks for sharing your Relationship Wisdom. I think you covered it all very well. My marriage did not work out and many of the points that you mentioned were lacking or not practiced and certainly could have led to the divorce. If I ever venture into a marriage relationship again I will be sure to have your article handy or at least a laminated pocket card with the 8 points. Wouldn’t it be great to have a needlepoint sampler with the 8 points in the kitchen right next to the one that says God bless our home. A constant reminder of this relationship.

PS • I really liked how you engaged all the wedding guests and the bride and groom in that memorable blowing of a kiss. You are right that it is something that will never be forgotten.

Beautiful Provision! I almost feel like I was at the wedding! You never cease to amaze me with your words of wisdom! I appreciate you sharing the advice you gave Evan and Michelle. I truly believe these are the components that create a successful marriage. The fact that Evan and Michelle have these words to help •build’ their foundation gives them a •running start’ in following the wonderful example you and your wife have set. What a perfect Provision to share with the rest of us • we should all be reminded daily of what marriage really is.

Thanks for the reminders about what makes a good marriage. And the blow a kiss opening was great! I always enjoy your newsletters even if I don’t often say so. They are thought provoking, informative, inspiring, and relevant. 

I have a task in my planner to look at the articles in the 1-19-03 LifeTrek Provisions. Unfortunately, your site has changed and I cannot find the article using that date. I don’t know what the subject was, but it was important enough for me to set a reminder to look at it when the time was right.

Well, the time is now right because I have finally retired from my former day job and can devote my time to getting a coaching practice off the ground. If you can’t make it easy for me, I’ll do it the hard way (look at everything in the archives). Who knows what I’ll find if I do it the hard way? 

By the way, kudos on the new look to your web site. It is not only improved in appearance (it has always been professionally attractive), it is even more functional, at least to this 61-year old semi-techie. (Ed. Note: The Provision you want, Get Happy, can be found on our website by going /provisions/YYYYMMDD.htm is our standard convention. Enjoy!)  

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
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
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #414: Embrace Silence

Laser Provision

To write or speak about silence is an oxymoron. Perhaps the best way to begin this Provision, then, is to just be silent. So before you scroll down and read any further, mute the volume of as many sounds as possible and sit in silence. Then, when you are ready, scroll past the white space to read what we and others have to say on the subject.

LifeTrek Provision

So, did you do the exercise or did you scroll right on down here to read the Provision? If you did the exercise, how long did your silence last? Chances are, not very long. That’s because silence makes us uncomfortable. In his book, Coming to Our Senses, Jon Kabat-Zinn reflects on this in terms of his experience at 8:46 AM Eastern Daylight Time on the first anniversary of September 11, 2001.

“Driving down the highway in Massachusetts,” he writes, “I participated in a moment of silence for those who died and those who survived via radio as no doubt millions of others did across the country and around the world. Everybody knew what to do. We were not given instructions. No one suggested how to feel, or what to feel, or how to deal with our thoughts and emotions.”

To do so “would have been absurd and disrespectful and wholly inappropriate. It would never have crossed the organizers’ minds to include any instructions for how to hold a moment like that. It just wasn’t and isn’t necessary in such circumstances. Everybody already knows what a moment of silence is. We were all one in that silence, even as we were each with our own unique thoughts, our own unique emotions, our own sense of purpose and loss, whatever our relationship to the event was.”

But what would it “have been like if instead of a moment of silence, we had been asked to observe five minutes of silence, or ten, or even an hour? Would we have still known how to be in the face of the enormity and barbarity and senselessness of it all? We might expect that of a Desmond Tutu or a Dalai Lama, a Mother Teresa or a Martin Luther King. But what about us regular folk? Would we be able to sustain an awareness of the rupture of our hearts? Could we be still?”

“What if we didn’t know how long it would last? Could we still inhabit that place in ourselves from which observing and bearing witness happen? Could we still inhabit that place in us which is speechless? Could we still inhabit that place of what in this moment just is, with no boundaries anymore between past, present, and future? And wouldn’t such a silence work on us, stretch us, challenge us, grow us, change us, and heal us? I think so,” Kabat-Zinn concludes.

I think so too. And I think that’s what lies behind David Whyte’s surprising, poetic discovery:

Imagine my surprise,
sitting a full hour
in silent and irremediable
fear of the world,

to find the body
its own fear the instant
it opened and placed
those unassuming hands
on life’s enduring pain,

and the world for one
closed its terrifying eyes
in gratitude.

“This is my body, I am found.”

There’s no way to be spiritually well if we do not embrace silence. Ironically, there’s also no other way to be socially successful. Until we learn to sit with ourselves in silence, there’s no way to experience the release of our fears and no way to approach others with gratitude. Instead, we bully, blow, and bluster our way through life as though, with enough noise, our fears won’t be discovered • either by ourselves or by others.

Unfortunately, modern society thrives on noise. Total silence is no longer possible. There are, in fact, so many sounds in the background that many people purchase “white noise” machines in order to drown out the other more noxious noises. Cell phones, pagers, and wireless devices ring at the most inopportune moments. Talk radio, reality television and music videos fill the air. We are inundated with sound.

But no amount of noise can cover up the truth about ourselves and it usually makes things worse. The more caught up we get in the chatter, both internal and external, the more restless and demanding we become. Only in silence can we find a better way.

I’ve learned more about this since moving to southeast Virginia three years ago. Silence is a larger part of my life now than ever before. For one thing, our move to Virginia coincided with our entering the empty-nest phase of our lives. Once the children have grown up and left the house, things get a lot more quiet. For another thing, we went from the inner-city of Chicago, Illinois (1979-1993), to a suburb of Columbus, Ohio (1993-2002), to a bird sanctuary on the shores of Queens Lake in York County, Virginia.

Talk about a journey into silence! Chicago was a high-decibel environment at all times of the day and night. Neighbors would laugh, children cry, gangs fight, cars race, trains rumble, deals finalize, receipts print, and phones ring. The sights and sounds, the energy and vibrancy, of city life were a 24 / 7 phenomenon. In Columbus things got a little more quiet. There was not as much street noise, but there was still plenty of hustle and bustle with shopping, public transportation, and schools all within walking distance.

Since moving to the shores of Queens Lake, things have gotten much more quiet. Driving to our home includes driving through a national park. The roads are lined and canopied with large, old trees. They stand in silent witness to a time gone bye. The topography and foliage surrounding our home connects us with that witness on a continual basis.

I recently heard a talk by Julia Butterfly Hill, in which she described her experience of climbing and then sitting in the top of a 200-foot-tall, northern-California redwood tree for more than two years in order to protect and save the tree from loggers. She found the silent witness of those ancient trees to be life transforming. Her feet may have never touched the ground in more than two years, but she was grounded all the same.

That’s what hanging out with plants and trees will do to you. You become much more familiar and comfortable with silence. I no longer wake up to chaos and commotion. Instead, I move quietly through the morning and tour the botanical garden that lies right outside my door. Only the birds interrupt the silence. And in that silence I often found myself, as David Wagoner writes in his poem “Lost”:

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must trust it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

That poem, written some 30 years ago, speaks powerfully to the things we can discover about ourselves through standing still, in silence. We grow in our sense of identity and in our connection to the frameworks that organize and guide our lives. By standing still, wherever we are, we have the opportunity to know those frameworks and to be known by them. In silence they become a more integral part of our destiny, cause, and calling.

Great coaching knows the power of silence. In any given coaching session, we may only ask our clients one profound, provocative question, but if we can hold our tongue while they think and feel their way through the answer, if we do not intrude upon the silence with further suggestions and ideas, if we are able to let go of the urge to talk, then the silence becomes what David Whyte calls, “Enough”:

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

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

Until now.

Reading the news, listening to the radio, and watching television are not going to do that for us. Even coaching conversations can, at times, get in the way. To unlock the door to goodness, peace, and joy both for ourselves and for others requires that we become both familiar and comfortable with silence. It is there that we learn the who, what, when, where, how, and why of life.

Coaching Inquiries: Are you ready to open yourself up to life? How familiar and comfortable are you with silence? How could you experience more silence? Where could you go to stand still with the trees and the bushes? Would developing your inner wisdom make you more successful in your dealings with people? How could you become more connected to that wisdom on a daily basis?

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

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

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

Your Provision, Embrace Responsibility, was a perfectly wonderful piece. I needed it right now, after going through some therapy which is so helpful. This piece stands out to me like a signpost. Thanks.

Were you at my church in Columbus, Ohio this past week? I am completely fascinated that the LifeTrek Provision on responsibility and the pastor’s teaching on how to respond to life’s problems had such a similar message, during a week when I so needed to hear it. Seeing Star Wars also added to the feeling that God was speaking directly to me (through Yoda). I have spent enough time on the dark side by not embracing responsibility appropriately. Thank you for a perfect message!

In your Provision, Embrace Responsibility, you missed the chance to quote Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, Book 6, Chapter 2(a), where Father Zosima’s brother says, famously: “Believe me, everyone is really responsible to all men for all men and for everything.”

Kate’s last two Career Pathways have resonated deeply with me. After working full time for 17 years, I’ve decided to request a reduction in my work schedule in order to achieve a better life balance. I look forward to talking with you more about how LifeTrek Coaching could facilitate my process.  

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
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
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #413: Embrace Responsibility

Laser Provision

Responsibility is a conundrum. How much is too much? How much is too little? We can never answer those questions once and for all. They are an ongoing part of the human drama. But we can engage with life as beings who are fully responsible in each and every moment. Such engagement is the key to being human, and spiritually well, as this Provision makes clear.

LifeTrek Provision

We start with good news and bad news. First, for the good news: you are fully responsible for everything in your life. Now, for the bad news: you are fully responsible for everything in your life. Responsibility, you see, cuts both ways.

  • If you maintain an optimal weight, exercise regularly, and avoid distress, then it’s all your responsibility.
  • If you weigh too much or too little, exercise sporadically, and stress out, then it’s all your responsibility.
  • If you enjoy healthy relationships with family and friends, then it’s all your responsibility.
  • If you endure toxic relationships with family and friends, then it’s all your responsibility.
  • If you work at a wonderful job that’s rewarding in every way, then it’s all your responsibility.
  • If your job is both unrewarding and unfulfilling, then it’s all your responsibility.
  • If you never get sick, then it’s all your responsibility.
  • If you battle illness or disease, then it’s all your responsibility.
  • If you have the resources and wherewithal to be successful, then it’s all your responsibility.
  • If you lack the resources and wherewithal to be successful, then it’s all your responsibility.
  • If you live a charmed life, where everything just seems to work out, then it’s all your responsibility.
  • If you hit one obstacle after another, no matter what you try to do, then it’s all your responsibility.

Do you begin to get the idea? We are fully responsible for everything in our lives, both good and bad. That’s a hard message for many people to hear. One of my colleagues reports that he would call himself a “Responsibility Coach,” or even a “Discipline Coach,” if he could, but then he would have no clients. So, instead, he calls himself a “Motivation Coach.” People don’t like to take responsibility as a rule, and they certainly don’t like to take responsibility for everything in their lives.

Of course, you may object, how can this be! Germs cause illness, not me. And what about the social structures of injustice? We certainly can’t take full responsibility for the ravages of racism, discrimination, and poverty. Let alone children who get victimized by abuse? They can hardly be held responsible for that. And what about those who seem to have it all • born with beauty and brains, not to mention a silver spoon in their mouths.

Questions such as these confuse responsibility with accountability. The two are related but radically different. “Accountability” means that we are “liable to being called to account” or “answerable” for something. It is all about blame, fault-finding, and culpability. In that sense, we are obviously not fully accountable when we suffer the ravages of illness, oppression, or abuse. Sometimes they get us, no matter what.

But that doesn’t mean we are not fully responsible for these ravages and everything else in our lives. “Responsibility” means that we are “able to respond” or commit to something. It is all about engagement, empowerment, and self-mastery. From that vantage point, we can obviously take responsibility for the ravages as well as the refinements of life. We can always find ways to respond.

In fact, we always do respond whether by design or default. The question is not “if” but “how” we will respond to the moment. Unfortunately, far too many people respond with the attitude of “poor me.” We whine and complain about the unfairness of life (“why is everybody always picking on me”) and the lack of good options (“why is it so impossible to get anything done”).

When responses such as these become habitual ways of relating to the world, people are diagnosed with character disorders. They assign blame, fault, and causality to everything outside themselves. They never ask the question, “What can I do to make things better?” And so nothing ever gets better. When it comes to health, money, and love, they point the finger at external agents, both visible and invisible. They refuse to accept what M. Scott Peck calls one of the greatest truths, namely, that life is difficult.

“This is a great truth,” he writes, “because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult • once we truly understand and accept it • then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Most people, he continues, “do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead, they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy.” But that’s not life. “Life is a series of problems. And discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems.”

“Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline we can solve only some problems. With total discipline we can solve all problems.” And we can also infuse life with meaning. “Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure,” Peck notes. They “call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom.”

“It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. When we desire to encourage the growth of the human spirit, we challenge and encourage the human capacity to solve problems. It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn. As Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Those things that hurt, instruct.’ It is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems and even to welcome the pain of problems.”

Unfortunately, as Peck observes, most of us are not so wise. “Fearing the pain involved, almost all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, attempt to avoid problems. We procrastinate, hoping they will go away. We ignore them, forget them, or pretend they do not exist. We even take drugs to assist us in ignoring them, so that by deadening ourselves to the pain we can forget the problems that cause the pain. We attempt to skirt around problems rather than meet them head on. We attempt to get out of them rather than to suffer through them.”

In other words, we fail to respond to life with full engagement. But that’s no way to be spiritually well. Good intentions, without responsibility, pave the way to spiritual illness. And so does the opposite problem, of feeling accountable for everything. When that happens we become neurotic. Discipline becomes a compulsion that drives us to distress. And the outcomes are no better than those who suffer from character disorders. In one case, nothing gets better because we under respond to the difficulties of life. In the other case, nothing gets better because we over respond.

That’s a key distinction when it comes to responsibility. There’s a difference between being overly responsible and being fully responsible. Being fully responsible means that we are fully able to respond, moment by moment, to whatever comes our way. Nothing immobilizes or paralyzes us. Instead, we are always able to respond appropriately, effectively, powerfully, redemptively, and fully.

Being overly responsible means that we are overly accountable and overly invested in the outcomes of life. We want things to go our way, so we drive and push our agenda at either our own expense or the expense of others. By feeling so liable for the end product we stop feeling so pliable in the present moment. And that often gets us in trouble.

Most of us know people who suffer from the problem of over responsibility. They are either slave drivers or martyrs. The slave drivers are going to get where they want to go, no matter what or who they have to trample in the process. The martyrs are going to do it all themselves, wondering and complaining the entire time as to why no one ever lends a hand.

Peck makes the astute observation that you can tell a responsibility problem from the language people use. Those who over respond speak in terms of “I ought to,” “I should,” and “I shouldn’t.” Those who under respond speak in terms of “I can’t,” “I couldn’t,” “I have to,” and “I had to.” He also notes that few of us can escape from these problems completely.

The reason for this is that figuring out how to respond to the problems of life is one of the greatest problems of human existence. It is never completely solved and it is something we need to assess and reassess continuously in the ever-changing course of events. It is also never easy, since it requires us to examine both ourselves and our environment in the process of striking the right balance.

Peck notes that such discernment is “not inherent in any of us.” We are not born with either the capacity or the inclination to figure this out. We must learn, “through a vast amount of experience and a lengthy and successful maturation” how to “see the world and our place in it realistically” in order to determine exactly how best to respond the exigencies of life.

But learn this we can, as Yoda would say, with commitment, practice, and courage. We can avoid the pitfalls of both over responsibility and under responsibility by embracing full responsibility. By fully acknowledging and accepting our ability to respond • creatively, constructively, and collaboratively • in every situation and every moment we can solve the problems of living, grow spiritually, and add ballast in a world that is sinking under the weight of its own despair.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you err on the side of over responsibility or of under responsibility? How can you embrace full responsibility? Are there situations that need your attention and care? How can you drop the agenda and take on full engagement? Who can assist you to make the change?

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 finished reading you Provision: Embrace Mindfulness. I think this is another winner!!! I don’t know if its just me that needs to read this or what, but I am really connecting with your thoughts lately and they seem to dovetail so perfectly with what I’ve been meditating on. Another great job! Thanks

Thanks for sharing your references to John Kabat-Zinn’s recent book, Coming To Our Senses. He also has two other excellent works, Full Catastrophe Living and Wherever You Go There You Are. Some of your faithful reader’s may want to refer to those books for the basics in practicing mindfulness meditation and how to get started with this practice. As always, I continue to enjoy your weekly teachings. Keep up your good work.

Great Provision Bob on Embracing Mindfulness. Another good example of attention deficiency would be all those people who use the “mute” button on their telephones to multi-task without the awareness of the caller on the other end of the line! (Editor’s Note: OK, you caught me. I’m occasionally guilty of this. But there are times, like when I have to sneeze, when that is exactly the right thing to do.)

This is a great Provision on mindfulness! You are amazing how you keep pulling them out! 

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
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
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services