Provision #160: Am I Me?

LifeTrek Provision

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this 10-part series of LifeTrek Provisions as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them out and receiving your replies. Next week I unveil a new series in a new format with a new name. Thanks to all who contributed thoughts, reflections, and ideas in the “Name that Newsletter” contest. You’ll have to wait one more week to get the scoop.

This series was designed to get us thinking. It’s been estimated that people average about 50,000 thoughts per day, and that 95% of those thoughts are repeats from the day before. This series was designed to stimulate a few new thoughts. Here’s a quick recap of each question, with a one-sentence summary of the accompanying LifeTrek Provision.

  1. “Am I Here?”• Am I fully present in the here and now, appreciating all it has to offer, or is my mind a million miles away?
  2. “Am I Hungry?” Am I physically hungry, or am I eating for some other reason • to meet or mask some other need?
  3. “Am I Happy?” Am I doing what I want to be doing with energy rising, or am I stuck in a rut of unsatisfying activity with energy falling?
  4. “Am I Healthy?” Am I in a state of physical, mental, or social well being, or am I compromising the delicate balance of body, mind, and spirit?
  5. “Am I Helpful?” Am I extending myself for the well being of others, or am I thinking of and serving only myself?
  6. “Am I Honest?” Am I willing to suffer the consequences of admitting and speaking the truth, or would I rather play fast and loose with the truth?
  7. “Am I Holy?” Am I aware of the ever-present witnessing awareness or am I oblivious to its steady, benevolent tug?
  8. “Am I Humorous?” Do I laugh, and cause others to laugh, many times a day or am I too serious and responsible?
  9. “Am I Humble?” Do I gracefully flow through and with life or do I demand that life treat me especially well, as though I were up on a pedestal?

These questions can make for a lifetime of meaningful pursuits, and they can all be contemplated through the final question, “Am I Me?” This question, like “Am I Here?” seems obvious enough. Who else would I be? How can I not be me?

For one thing, you can live someone else’s dream. That alien dream may have been planted a long time ago, or it may have been recently given to you as an assignment at work. Whatever the circumstances, if you are not aware and in pursuit of your own special dream, then you may not really be you.

For another thing, you can reject your own gifts. Each of us has a variety of aptitudes, interests, intelligences, talents, and abilities. I like to think of those as having been given to us by God. Too many people fail to acknowledge, develop, and use their gifts • their true genius • on a regular basis. They do other things and then wonder why they don’t feel quite right. I would argue they’re not really being themselves.

Finally, you can stifle your creativity. I like the view of the human mind that sees it more as a receiver than as a repository of knowledge. The eternal spirit speaks to and through each of us; we need but the wisdom and the courage to tune in and listen. When we do, amazing things happen. We become incredibly clear about who we are and how we want to be. We become remarkably fulfilled and successful. I become the “me” I was always meant to be.

Ask yourself the question, “Am I Me?” If you’re living your dreams, using your gifts, and expressing your creativity then you can answer that question in the affirmative. If not, then go back to the first nine “H” questions with their power to heal. Together they will get you moving in the right direction.

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #159: Am I Humble?

LifeTrek Provision

We’re coming to the end of our series of ten questions that have the power to transform our life and work if we have the courage to stay with and open ourselves to them. This week’s question goes to the heart of the matter when it asks, “Am I Humble?”

Although many would argue that the problem originates in human nature itself, few would argue that the demand for instant gratification has grown exponentially along with the technological and economic changes of the past century. Modern society has made consumption both a positive good and a quick fix. Shopping has become a therapeutic lingua franca for people around the world. We want what we want, right now.

Larry Crabb in his book Inside Out calls this attitude the problem of “demandingness” and he notes that it is the opposite of humbleness. Think of all the ways that “demandingness” expresses itself in the course of a day:

  • We demand that our partners satisfy our needs and comfort our fears.
  • We demand that our children look, act, and sound right.
  • We demand that our colleagues work hard and do their part.
  • We demand that we not be delayed or inconvenienced.
  • We demand that traffic hurry up and accommodate our busy schedules.
  • We demand that our efforts pay off and bear fruit.
  • We demand that our communities provide services and safety.
  • We demand that no one hurt us the way we’ve been hurt before.
  • We demand that people listen to what we have to say.
  • We demand that certain pleasures, especially those long denied, be ours to enjoy.
  • We demand that our leaders conform to our expectations.

The list of our demands is limited only by our imagination, ego, pride, and greed. It is literally a bottomless pit. We can never be totally satisfied with what we have because a new idea, opportunity, want, or desire will always present itself, at least this side of the grave.

Note that none of the above needs, wants, hopes, and dreams are illegitimate. Some are clearly virtuous while others are, at worst, self-serving. Problems arise, however, when legitimate desires become insistent demands. Instead of guiding our steps through the trek of life, demands create a stressful and destructive tension between the present moment and the intended future. They are disruptive to flow, health, mindfulness, and grace. They make us rude and inconsiderate. In short, they take all the fun out of life both for us and for others.

“Am I Humble?” challenges us to look at what might be called our D.Q., our “Demandingness Quotient,” and to set aside the remnants of our self-centered, infantile worldview. If your D.Q. is high, that may take some doing • it may even be wise and effective to retain a coach • but it’s not impossible for anyone to make the shift.

The fact is, the universe was not created solely for me and for my agenda. It was created for love. It was created for God to know the mysteries of time and space, including exuberant highs and devastating lows. When we finally get that it’s not about me and what I want, but it’s all about the One that Deepak Chopra calls “the Ever-Present Witnessing Awareness,” then and only then can we begin letting go of the demand and holding on to the rest. Then and only then can we begin to find the goodness, peace, and joy that I wish for you this day and forever more.

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #158: Am I Humorous?

LifeTrek Provision

Garfield is having a typical cartoon conversation with his nerdy owner Jon.• Jon is pondering whether or not he has lived any former lives.• Garfield expresses serious doubts about the prospect of Jon’s reincarnation because, he points out, “You’re not even living this life.”

Are you alive? One way to test that is to look at your humor quotient. How often do you laugh each day? How often do you make others laugh? Young children laugh hundreds of times a day. The older we get, the less we laugh • at least that’s the trend. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Asking ourselves “Am I Humorous?” can expose countless opportunities for laughter in our personal and professional lives.

Taking advantage of these opportunities has proven therapeutic value. Humor improves health • not only physical health but the health of social systems as well. There’s simply no situation that cannot be improved by a good sense of humor.

Loretta LaRoche, one of America’s leading humorists, suggests that the following attitudes are humor killers: living in the past or in the future, being critical, demanding, or overextended, having rigid rules, standards, or beliefs, and lacking connection to loving family, friends, and inner wisdom. Does any of that sound like you? Then you’re not as happy as you can be.

Most of us experience that condition, at least from time to time, since humor killers abound in our society. People work too hard, too fast, too long, and too much. What’s a person to do? It may surprise you to learn that LaRoche does not recommend waiting for the elimination of humor killers before you start laughing. This is not a, “Which came first, chicken or egg?” conundrum. Humor is both the first step and the final destination. There’s no other way to get there from here. One simply has to lighten up and take things less seriously.

Unfortunately, many people fall flat on their face while trying to be funny. It is never appropriate to demean individuals or groups of people in order to get a laugh, particularly in the workplace or other professional contexts. Religion, politics, and morality pose the greatest risk, along with racial, gender, and cultural stereotypes. The old advice still applies: if you can’t say something nice about someone (or to someone), don’t say anything at all. Avoid sarcasm and negativity.

You can improve your humor quotient by following these simple guidelines. First, be willing to poke fun at yourself. This will free you and others up to be less intense and uptight. Second, avoid what LaRoche calls “catastrophizing.” In other words, saying, “Oh, no! We’re in real trouble here!” in response to every mistake or crisis. Third, share what Kathleen Conroy, a free-lance writer based in Victoria, British Columbia, calls “the funny stuff.” Don’t keep the humorous stories and cartoons that come your way to yourself. Pass them along. Fourth, use humor intentionally to keep situations from overheating. Humor is a social lubricant that can assist with project management, problem solving, and human resources. Arrange for special humor events and contests, whether at work or home.

I am always struck when people, especially children, smile and laugh under the most dire of circumstances. Whatever your circumstances may be, humor has the ability to improve them exponentially. If you’re not laughing, or if you’re not laughing enough, it’s time to start. “Am I Humorous?” differs from “Am I Happy?” (LifeTrek Provision #152) in that humor sweetens both the best and the worst of times. Without humor you’ll end up living in a harsh world, too serious to bear.

That said, I thought you might enjoy the postcard that a college sophomore, who had spent most of the school year in one kind of trouble or another, received from his parents who were vacationing in Greece:• “Dear Son, we are now standing high on a cliff from which the ancient Spartan women once hurled their defective children to the rocks below.• Wish you were here. Love. Mom & Dad.” 🙂

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #155: Am I Honest?

LifeTrek Provision

Of all the questions in thisseries, questions designed to provoke dramatic transformational shifts of beingand doing, the question, “Am I Honest?” may be the most challenging of themall.

Ironically enough, no one canclaim to be honest all the time • at least not if they’re being honest withthemselves. Most of us have spoken outright falsehoods. All of us have spokenless than the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, in order to protect ourown interests or the interests of others and the organizations for which wework.

The question, “Am I Honest?”therefore has two dimensions. One dimension is simply, “Am I being totallyhonest, right now?” The other dimension is more complicated, “If I’m not beingtotally honest right now, then am I doing the right thing by lying orwithholding the truth?”

More than twenty years ago, thepsychiatrist M. Scott Peck wrote his now classic seminal work, The Road LessTraveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth(Simon & Schuster • New York, 1978). Peck defines four disciplines thatenable our lives to be healthy and our spirits to grow: delaying gratification,accepting responsibility, appropriating truth, and balancing demands.

The four disciplines are verymuch interrelated. One can practice all four in a single instant. Nevertheless,Peck analyzes each individually in order to understand their uniquecontribution to human evolution.

Appropriating truth begins withdedication to reality. It does not help to pretend that life is not what it is.Yet most of us are content to live with outdated maps, ignoring or denouncingthose who would seek to update our maps on the basis of new information ortechnology. We get set in our ways and resist any suggestion of change.

Once we open ourselves toreality, even if reality challenges our accustomed ways of being and doing,appropriating truth continues with the honest communication of that reality toothers. At the very least, Peck suggests that we adopt the practice of nevermaking a statement that we know is false. This applies not only to the words wespeak but also to how we speak them. “Do I know Michael Jordan?” can mean, “Iknow Michael Jordan very well!” depending upon the tone and body language ofhow we say the words.

“Lying,” Peck observes, “is anattempt to circumvent legitimate suffering and hence is productive of mentalillness.”

Once we develop the will andthe discipline to never utter a known falsehood, Peck challenges us to becomejust as scrupulous in those gray areas where we speak some but not all of thetruth. Withholding a portion of the truth can be just as misleading, andsometimes even more misleading, as speaking an outright lie. Nevertheless, weall find ourselves in circumstances where “confidentiality” demands that we notreveal all that we know. This most often arises in situations where there is ahierarchy of power and responsibility.

Peck challenges us to recognizethe withholding of truth as a form of lying that takes a toll on our soul. Assuch, he urges us to be sure we have good moral reasons for withholding thetruth and to minimize the frequency with which it happens. Peck offers thefollowing guidelines:

“The decision to withhold thetruth should never be based on personal needs, such as a need for power, a needto be liked, or a need to protect one’s map from challenge. Conversely, thedecision to withhold the truth must always be based entirely upon the needs ofthe person or people from whom the truth is being withheld. The assessment ofanother’s needs is an act of responsibility which is so complex that it canonly be executed wisely when one operates with genuine love for the other.”

So the question, “Am I Honest?”ultimately comes down to the question, “Am I Loving?” It goes far beyondcheating on your income taxes or keeping incorrect change. Whether it inbusiness or in the home, with your subordinates or with your children, “Am IHonest?” can keep you focused on whether or not you will strengthen or destroythe fabric of life and the growth of spirit. Never underestimate the capacityof others to handle the truth. It’s the lie that proves much more dangerous,and much more intolerable, in the end.

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #155: Am I Honest?

LifeTrek Provision

Of all the questions in thisseries, questions designed to provoke dramatic transformational shifts of beingand doing, the question, “Am I Honest?” may be the most challenging of themall.

Ironically enough, no one canclaim to be honest all the time • at least not if they’re being honest withthemselves. Most of us have spoken outright falsehoods. All of us have spokenless than the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, in order to protect ourown interests or the interests of others and the organizations for which wework.

The question, “Am I Honest?”therefore has two dimensions. One dimension is simply, “Am I being totallyhonest, right now?” The other dimension is more complicated, “If I’m not beingtotally honest right now, then am I doing the right thing by lying orwithholding the truth?”

More than twenty years ago, thepsychiatrist M. Scott Peck wrote his now classic seminal work, The Road LessTraveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth(Simon & Schuster • New York, 1978). Peck defines four disciplines thatenable our lives to be healthy and our spirits to grow: delaying gratification,accepting responsibility, appropriating truth, and balancing demands.

The four disciplines are verymuch interrelated. One can practice all four in a single instant. Nevertheless,Peck analyzes each individually in order to understand their uniquecontribution to human evolution.

Appropriating truth begins withdedication to reality. It does not help to pretend that life is not what it is.Yet most of us are content to live with outdated maps, ignoring or denouncingthose who would seek to update our maps on the basis of new information ortechnology. We get set in our ways and resist any suggestion of change.

Once we open ourselves toreality, even if reality challenges our accustomed ways of being and doing,appropriating truth continues with the honest communication of that reality toothers. At the very least, Peck suggests that we adopt the practice of nevermaking a statement that we know is false. This applies not only to the words wespeak but also to how we speak them. “Do I know Michael Jordan?” can mean, “Iknow Michael Jordan very well!” depending upon the tone and body language ofhow we say the words.

“Lying,” Peck observes, “is anattempt to circumvent legitimate suffering and hence is productive of mentalillness.”

Once we develop the will andthe discipline to never utter a known falsehood, Peck challenges us to becomejust as scrupulous in those gray areas where we speak some but not all of thetruth. Withholding a portion of the truth can be just as misleading, andsometimes even more misleading, as speaking an outright lie. Nevertheless, weall find ourselves in circumstances where “confidentiality” demands that we notreveal all that we know. This most often arises in situations where there is ahierarchy of power and responsibility.

Peck challenges us to recognizethe withholding of truth as a form of lying that takes a toll on our soul. Assuch, he urges us to be sure we have good moral reasons for withholding thetruth and to minimize the frequency with which it happens. Peck offers thefollowing guidelines:

“The decision to withhold thetruth should never be based on personal needs, such as a need for power, a needto be liked, or a need to protect one’s map from challenge. Conversely, thedecision to withhold the truth must always be based entirely upon the needs ofthe person or people from whom the truth is being withheld. The assessment ofanother’s needs is an act of responsibility which is so complex that it canonly be executed wisely when one operates with genuine love for the other.”

So the question, “Am I Honest?”ultimately comes down to the question, “Am I Loving?” It goes far beyondcheating on your income taxes or keeping incorrect change. Whether it inbusiness or in the home, with your subordinates or with your children, “Am IHonest?” can keep you focused on whether or not you will strengthen or destroythe fabric of life and the growth of spirit. Never underestimate the capacityof others to handle the truth. It’s the lie that proves much more dangerous,and much more intolerable, in the end.

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #154: Am I Helpful?

LifeTrek Provision

Let’s describe two extremes:being totally self-centered and being totally other-centered. Neither is a goodplace to be.

We all have it in us to beself-centered. That is, after all, how life begins. Just attend to the care andfeeding of an infant if you have any doubts. Infants know their needs and willmake a ruckus until those needs are met. Some have described this as “theproblem of human existence.” Others have described our innate self-centerednessas “the original sin.” We think more of ourselves than anyone else.

Unfortunately, some peoplenever move far beyond this birth position. They go through life always thinkingof themselves. Their needs, desires, feelings, ideas, projects, security,income, and commitments take center stage. In conversation, they have preciouslittle time for other people’s stories or feelings. They work for themselvesrather than for the good of others or for the organizational vision. Groupsboth large and small tend to revolve around them. When solving problems,they’re quick to point the finger at others. They often play the role ofpersecutor.

Some people swing to theopposite pole. Instead of remaining self-centered, they become totallyother-centered. They insist on always doing things for others. In the extreme,they become co-dependent personalities. They feel responsible for everythingand everyone around them. They lack healthy boundaries between themselves,others, and the world. This often results in their becoming enmeshed inunhealthy relationships, both personal and professional, oscillating back andforth between the roles of victim and rescuer.

Between these two extremes liesa healthy balance that can be struck by asking yourself the simple yet profoundquestion, “Am I Helpful?” Whether you tend more toward self-centeredness orother-centeredness, this question has the power to bring you to a better place.

This may seem obvious for theself-centered personality. “Am I Helpful?” can make them think outside the egobox. Try this the next time you connect with a loved-one or a co-worker. “Am IHelpful?” Do my words and actions contribute to your well-being? Raise this tothe level of conscious intentionality and you may be surprised to learn howmuch time, energy, and resources you really have to give. Volunteer is not afour-letter word.

The same question can assistthe other-centered personality as well. This may seem surprising, since thesepeople spend their lives trying to help others. They are, in a sense, theconsummate volunteers. But are they really being helpful? “Am I Helpful?” canmake them think more deeply about the ways they seek to give of themselves toothers. It can, in fact, be the break-through question since helpfulness issuch an all-important virtue. It can bring them to a tougher, more-helpful kindof love. It can lead them to a better place to be.

I believe in taking care ofyourself. I also believe in being helpful. Some of the other questions in thisseries are designed to provoke a good, hard look at the question of self-care.The series would not be complete, however, if we failed to include this one.”Am I Helpful?” calls us to move beyond self-concern to a more transcendent andintegrated position based on the faithful conviction that in giving we receive,in losing we gain, and in helping we grow.

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #153: Am I Healthy?

LifeTrek Provision

Before you eat, ask yourself,”Am I Hungry?” Before you act, ask yourself, “Am I Happy?” Those were the lasttwo tips in this series of transformational questions. Want to take that onestep further? Ask yourself, “Am I Healthy?”

Healthy introduces anotherlevel of consideration. One may think of oneself as happy and yet be living orworking in a hazardous environment, practicing an injurious habit, sufferingfrom an undiagnosed condition, treating others with disrespect, experiencingstress, stagnating mentally, or lacking a wholesome sense of meaning andpurpose. In other words, one can become content with one’s predicament –regardless of how damaging and detrimental that predicament may be.

I ought to know. There was atime, not too many years ago, when I was obese and consumed with my work. Myblood pressure was high along with all the other indicators for cardiovascularproblems. My fingernails were bit down to the quick. Managing conflict was aregular, rather than an exceptional, part of life. Eating was a tremendouscomfort, especially high-fat, high-calorie foods. In short, my health was atime bomb with a very short fuse • and the fuse was lit. But was I happy? Youbet. Or so I thought.

People would talk to me aboutmy predicament and I would laugh it off with the invulnerability of anadolescent. Maybe other people couldn’t handle a thousand calories of saturatedfat a day, but I could eat all the doughnuts, Buffalo wings, and butter Iwanted. Maybe other people couldn’t handle a steady stream of criticism anddissension, but I thrived on holding people and things together even if thatmeant working and worrying 24-hours a day. You get the idea. Perhaps you orsomeone you know lives with similar illusions.

Finally my body and my friendsspoke in ways that forced me to listen. I had to move beyond “Am I Happy?” tothe deeper question “Am I Healthy?” The answer, in a word, was “No.”

The World Health Organizationdefines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-beingand not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” On that basis, we all havea ways to go.

I like the holistic andpositive nature of this definition. Michael O’Donnell has written that optimalhealth represents a balance of five health areas: physical (fitness, nutrition,medical self-care, control of substance abuse), emotional (stress management,care for emotional crises), social (friends, families, communities),intellectual (education, career development, achievement), and spiritual (love,hope, charity, purpose). (“Definition of Health Promotion,” American Journalof Health Promotion, Summer 1996)

Ayurvedic medicine works withthe same holistic understanding that no single agent by itself causes diseaseor brings health. One must nurture the whole person if one hopes to capture thevitality of being healthy.

“Am I Healthy?” That is alife-sustaining, life-enhancing question. When I first started to lose weight,I asked myself a different question. “How many calories does this have?” Youcan only count calories for so long. That’s why so many people can lose weightbut cannot keep it off. Now I ask myself the question, “Is this healthy?” “Isthis good for me?” “Do I really want to eat this?” Becoming health conscioushas made all the difference in the world.

“Am I Healthy?” You would beamazed at the many little and big things this question will provoke. Askyourself that question throughout the day and night. Am I healthy at work? Athome? At play? On the inside? On the outside? Am I healthy in my body, mind,and Self? If you’re happy but not healthy, you may be fooling yourself. You maybe in a rut. And it may be time to make a change for life.

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #152: Am I Happy?

LifeTrek Provision

Two weeks ago I suggested thesecond question in a 10-part series of transformational questions. These arequestions that have the power to interrupt the mindless pursuit of business asusual by making us more mindful of what Tim Gallwey calls the Inner Game oflife (The Inner Game of Work, Random House • New York, 2000).

I started my series with thequestion “Am I Here?” and moved on to “Am I Hungry?” Every time you reach forfood, I suggested that you pause and ask yourself that question. I also made adistinction between stomach-hunger and heart-hunger. Too often we try to fillthe latter with food. Asking ourselves “Am I Hungry?” before we eat a meal or asnack can disrupt this tendency and get us back on track.

Today I would suggest a relatedquestion that can be used whenever you reach for anything. “Am I Happy?” Toooften we reach for things without much thought. We take on more and more. Weget busier and busier. We exchange what we’re doing for something new, somethingdifferent, or something “greener” on the other side of the fence. But am Ihappy? Not necessarily.

You may remember mystraightforward advice about the question, “Am I Hungry?” If the answer is yes,eat. If the answer is no, don’t eat. Sooner or later true hunger will come. Thesame advice can be given about the question “Am I Happy?” If the answer is yes,stay in the game. If the answer is no, get out of the game. Sooner or latertrue happiness will come.

There’s two ways to get out ofthe game: you can either change the rules or quit. Too often people quit beforethey try changing the rules. This applies to all areas of life, including work,marriage, relationships, school, and sports. Unfortunately, quitting andstarting to play a new game fails more often than not. We change the names, butthe people and the problems remain the same.

Changing the rules meanschanging our focus, motivation, and vision. It means coming up with a differentanswer to one of Gallwey’s favorite questions, “What game am I really playing?”As an example, he talks about his work with the telephone operators atAT&T. It would be hard to find a more boring job. “After six weeks,” one ofthe operators told Gallwey, “there’s nothing more to learn on this job. We’veheard all the problems and know how to handle them. I could do the job in mysleep, and sometimes that’s just how it feels.”

In addition to being boring thejob was also stressful, with its close and constant performance monitoring andexpectations. In such an unhappy environment, most of the operators werediscourteous and sooner or later they ended up quitting. Gallwey suggested thatthey change the rules. Instead of focusing on courtesy, accuracy, andproductivity, the AT&T standard, Gallwey suggested that they focus on thecustomer.

The object of the new game wasto discern the customer’s state of mind through the sound of their voice andany audible background noises. By listening for these cues, the operators wouldrate the customers on a scale of one to ten (from friendly to hostile). At theend of the day they could look back and see whether they’d had more of a warm,fuzzy day or more of a cold, prickly day.

Guess what happened? Bychanging the rules, by changing the focus, motivation, and vision of what itmeant to be a telephone operator, the job suddenly became 30% more enjoyableand 40% less boring and stressful. People saw immediate use for their improvedlistening skills in other areas of life. And, yes, courtesy, accuracy, andproductivity went up as well.

This technique can be appliedto all aspects of life. By changing our focus, motivation, and vision • bychanging the game we’re playing • we can greatly enhance our happiness. Thenext time you reach for something in life, the next time you decide to quit thegame and start something new, ask yourself the question, “Am I Happy?” If youare, then maybe you should decline the opportunity and stay in the game, rightwhere you are. If you’re not happy, then maybe you should try changing therules before jumping ship. It can pay big dividends in the end.

May you be filled withgoodness, peace, and joy.

Provision #151: Am I Hungry?

LifeTrek Provision

My son,now age 16, has been skinny all his life. He’s one of those people who can eatanything he wants and never get fat. He’s one of those people that the rest ofus love to hate. But should we? Having lived with this guy for more than 16years, I’ve come to notice a thing or two about his eating habits. And guesswhat? He eats “anything he wants,” but only when he is hungry. In otherwords, he’s skinny as a rail for more reasons than his metabolism.

Thistendency to eat only when hungry is generally shared by most “naturally thin”people. It can be an extremely disconcerting and disorienting trait. One canwork for an hour on a gourmet meal. If my son is not hungry, he’ll come to thetable, take a few bites, and then think nothing about throwing the food away(unless we move quick to either eat it ourselves or store it).

Imaginethat. Throwing away perfectly good food just because you don’t feel hungry.What about all the starving people in the world? They would give anything tohave food like that. Shouldn’t we eat the food whether we’re hungry or not? Theanswer, in a word, is “No.”

By thetime the food gets to our plate, whether or not we eat it has absolutely noimpact on the starving people of the world. But it does have a tremendousimpact on our weight, health, and overall well-being. (Now if everyone in NorthAmerica would start buying less food that would eventually have atremendous impact on world hunger.)

Thenext time you reach for a snack or sit down at a meal, I want you to askyourself a simple question: “Am I hungry?” That is a simple yet powerfulquestion. If the answer is no, then don’t eat. Wait till you feel hungry. If theanswer is yes, then eat • slowly, moderately, and healthy.

Manypeople don’t know true hunger when they feel it. Many, in fact, will say theyare always hungry. They have lost the ability to distinguish between physicalhunger and heart hunger. So they eat, thinking they’re hungry, because it makesthem feel good. But, like a drug, this kind of eating • to fill the heartrather than the stomach • is but a quick and temporary fix. The heart hungercomes back in no time and we find ourselves eating again. In the end, thetendency to fill our heart hunger with food leads to disease and prematuredeath.

So howdo we figure out if we’re truly hungry? By asking ourselves the simplequestion, “Am I hungry?” Ask it every time, before we put food in our mouths.Become a mindful, rather than mindless, eater.

JudyWardell in her book Thin Within: How To Eat and Live Like a Thin Person(Simon & Schuster • New York, 1985) suggests that we learn to rank ourhunger on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being empty, 5 being comfortable, and 10being stuffed. Wardell teaches people to eat only when they’re empty and tostop before they’re comfortable. That’s partly because it takes a while aftereating for the feeling of satiety to set in. Regular small meals, or whatWardell calls “0-to-5 eating,” is the way to go.

Tobecome mindful of our hunger may take real effort. It certainly takes slowingdown. If it proves difficult, Wardell advises that we literally touch ourabdomen with our hands and ask ourselves the question, “Am I hungry? Am Iempty?” You’ll be amazed what a difference it makes. Her bottom line is goodadvice, “When in doubt, don’t eat.” If you’re not sure whether you’re truly,physically hungry then don’t eat (even if you’re sitting down at the dinnertable). Don’t worry, if you wait long enough the feeling of true hunger willcome • of that you can be sure.

Keep inmind that simple carbohydrates (sugar, white flour, white potatoes, etc.)stimulate hunger pangs and may fool your body into thinking its truly hungrywhen its not. A high-fiber, low-sugar, healthy diet will assist you greatly tostay and live with that simple yet powerful question, “Am I hungry?”

May yoube filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

BobTschannen-Moran

Provision #150: Am I Here?

LifeTrek Provision

With this LifeTrek Provision I begina 10-question series. These questions are designed as reflection questions,suitable for meditation or for any time they may come to mind. As a runner, Ifind these questions appropriate for the long run. This morning I did 22 milesalong with a couple of friends in the Hocking Hills. Once again, like mymarathon in Las Vegas, the experience was sensational • made all the moreattractive by our “summer in February,” with temperatures in the mid-70sFahrenheit.

Several times I found myselfrunning and pondering the simple question, which leads off this series, “Am Ihere?” The answer seems obvious. “Of course I’m here, where else could I be?”But the most obvious can often be the most profound.

“Am I here?” At one of ourwater stops, one of my running buddies looked up and said, “Look at thosehawks. No, wait; there are two different kinds of birds soaring on the winds.There are two turkey vultures and three hawks.” We all looked up and enjoyed thesight of perfect freedom, perfect harmony, perfect collaboration between natureand animal. “There’s another hawk, way up high,” I pointed out. “I’ve alwayshad a thing for hawks,” my friend said.

My friend’s “thing” was to bethere, in the present moment, noticing and appreciating the situation for whatit was: perfect. Clearly it’s the only situation that I am in; how I choose torelate to that situation will make it more or less perfect for me and for theothers who are in it with me. Runners know exactly what I am talking about. Youcan run with tunnel vision, keeping your eyes focused on a point about 20 feetin front of you, or you can run with 360-degree vision, seeing the point aswell all the other sights, sounds, smells, and sensations.

What kind of “runner” are you?I’m no longer talking about a footrace, but about the race of life. As you wakeup in the morning, as you get ready to go out, as you eat your meals, as youare with family and friends, as you go about your business, as you relax andplay, as you sleep through the night • what kind of person are you? Do you havetunnel vision or 360-degree vision? Are you really in the moment, taking in allthat it has to offer, both positive and negative? Or are you just going throughthe motions of another day?

Jon Kabat-Zinn has written awonderful book on this subject entitled, Wherever You Go, There You Are (Hyperion • New York, 1994). Allow me to quote a few paragraphs. “Guess what?When it comes right down to it, wherever you go, there you are. Whatever youwind up doing, that’s what you’ve wound up doing. Whatever you’re thinkingright now, that’s what’s on your mind. Whatever has happened to you, ithas already happened. The important question is, how are you going to handleit? In other words, •Now what?'”

“Like it or not, this moment isall we really have to work with. Yet we all too easily conduct our lives as ifforgetting momentarily that we are here, where we already are, and thatwe are in what we are already in. In every moment, we find ourselves atthe crossroads of here and now.”

“To allow ourselves to be trulyin touch with where we already are, no matter where that is, we have got topause in our experience long enough to let the present moment sink in; longenough to actually feel the present moment, to see it in its fullness,to hold it in awareness and thereby come to know and understand it better. Onlythen can we accept the truth of this moment of our life, learn from it, andmove on” (pages xiii-xiv).

“Am I here?” That’s a questionworth asking. “Am I here?” Ask yourself that question when you’re in a meeting.Look at the people with sacred eyes. Love them. See them for who and what theyare. Ask yourself that question when you arrive home or at a social gathering.What’s happening? How can I fit in and lend my voice (rather than barge orshrink in)? Ask yourself that question when you coach your child or caress yourpartner. Am I here? Am I really here? Or is my mind a million milesaway? As a focal point, this question can totally transform your relationshipto the present moment, to yourself, and to everyone and everything else. Icommend it to your consideration.

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC