Some people can seemingly be healthy no matter what. Their awareness of and attention to the things that create and sustain health rise above just about any fray. Most people, however, require supportive systems and relationships. This isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s just plain smart to make things as easy as possible.
Before I start in on the subject of this week’s Provision, and since we took off last week with a simple New Year’s greeting, I want to recap what we’ve been considering for the past several weeks. The overarching focus for what will become the first section of my new book, “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Coaching and Profound Provisions for the Trek of Life,” has been the question of creating and sustaining health.
Doing that is of great importance both to us as individuals and to the companies for which we work. The cost of illness and disease can be measured not only in terms of how it compromises our quality of life but also in terms of lost productivity. Cigarette smoking and obesity alone account for about $300 billion a year in health costs and lost productivity in the United States according to the U.S. Surgeon General and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, those costs are rising rather than falling.
In so many ways, the old adage, “if you have your health, you have everything,” is profoundly true. Health is much more fundamental and basic than wealth. Wealth without health is of little value, while health without wealth is of great value, when it comes to quality of life and productivity. With good health, you can pick up the pieces from just about any loss. With bad health, life becomes much more difficult and precarious.
On a certain level, we all know this intuitively. You’re probably not saying to yourself right now, “What a surprise! I didn’t know that health was so very important and yet so often compromised.” The difference between feeling good and feeling bad is understood, both from our own experience and from the experience of others. It therefore behooves us to figure out how to create and sustain health. In many respects, health is our most important life work.
Yet many people find their health deteriorating rather than improving as time goes on. We typically assume that this is a normal part of aging. “Who doesn’t get sick and die?” But that assumption deserves to be challenged. If Lance Armstrong can go from his deathbed with testicular cancer that had metastasized throughout his body to a four-time winner of the Tour de France, so too can we go from whatever we’re struggling with now to a more vibrant condition of health and wellness. Studies show that positive steps make a difference, regardless of our age. Our turnaround may not be as dramatic as Lance’s, but it can be just as significant.
So how do we find the motivation to get with the program? We start by making the shift described by Dave Buck as the shift from motivation to inspiration. As long as we’re trying to find motivation, we’re operating from the “could-a, would-a, should-a” economy. We’re looking for a reason to do the right thing. “I know that I should do such-and-such, but I don’t do it. Occasionally I may get started, but before too long I give up the effort. So now I don’t even try.”
Sound familiar? It’s not uncommon for people to hire a professional coach to assist them with such motivation problems. And, in fact, coaching does have something to do with motivation. But the problem is not solved until people shift from motivation to inspiration. It’s at that point, when people become profoundly curious and passionately consumed with the opportunities to change and grow into healthier people, that they no longer need a coach for motivation. Instead, they surround themselves with systems and relationships that inspire and develop health from the inside out.
That’s why I wrote, in the waning weeks of last year, that awareness and attention are important tools in the process of creating health. Instead of looking outside ourselves for the answer, we can use our awareness and attention to figure out the answer for ourselves. We can conduct experiments to learn what does and does not work for us. We can be inspired by the opportunities to make mistakes and improve.
Tim Gallwey describes this inspirational process as innate learning through trail and correction (rather than trial and error). It derives from the near-universal human learning project: learning to walk. Without any instruction or lessons on how it should be done, we get ourselves up and moving. When we fall down, we pick ourselves up and move again until eventually we have it mastered. Interestingly enough, when we fall down people do not criticize or condemn us. There is no talk of error. Instead, people cheer and applaud our efforts, knowing that in time we will figure out the secret of walking for ourselves.
How good and pleasant if would be if this was the experience in every human learning project! No error. No pressure. Just applause through the process of trial and correction until we get it figured out. And then more applause. From this supportive context, most people would attempt and master many more things, including their own health and well-being, than they do in the face of continual advice and pressure. “Do this and don’t do that” eventually becomes noisy interference that does more harm than good.
If you are surrounded by such noisy interference, if you are swimming with sharks, then it may be time to make some changes in the systems and relationships that support you. While there are those rare individuals who can work effectively with their awareness and attention regardless of what’s going on around them, most people require a supportive environment in order to be successful over time.
For example, if you want to stop smoking, then it probably doesn’t help to have cigarettes lying around the house. Getting rid of the cigarettes may be one of the experiments you conduct. If your experiment works, then keeping your house a cigarette-free zone may be a support system that enables you to be successful over time without your having to exercise great discipline and effort. If someone else brings cigarettes into your cigarette-free zone, then it may be time to set a boundary around this relationship. You inform the person of your boundary • no cigarettes in the house • and you request their cooperation. If they refuse to respect your boundary, then you may need to find alternative strategies, such as creating a cigarette-free zone within your home or even leaving the relationship, for the sake of your own health and well-being.
This example illustrates the power of both systems and relationships to support and interfere with our success and fulfillment. Unless you are someone who enjoys getting things done the hard way, through sheer willpower, you will want to pay close attention to the systems and relationships in your life. Are they moving you forward or setting you back? Are they encouraging or discouraging your innate learning process? Are they making it easier or harder for you to be the best you can possibly be?
Ask yourself those questions around every system and relationship in life and work. Here are several more examples:
* Are the food and drink in your house exactly what you want to promote health? If not, it may be time to pack up the offending items and donate them to a local food pantry. Then make sure they don’t come back in the house.
* Is your office or workspace exactly what you want to promote health? If not, it may be time to start reorganizing or redecorating. There’s nothing better than going to work when everything is picture perfect.
* Are your friends and family exactly what you want to promote health? If not, it may be time to hook up with people who share your interests. Staying is active is easier when you have people to stay active with.
I hope these examples will get you thinking. The point is not to focus on whether you like the ideas or how practical they may be for you. The point is to recognize that if you want to create and sustain health, you will probably need to design (or redesign) your environment in order to make it as supportive and as health-friendly as possible. Think about how you can do that. It may mean the difference between failure and success.
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 Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
Do you have more to say about filtered water? I am thinking about buying a whole house water filter. Thanks. (Ed. Note: You will want a particle and carbon-block filter for your house plus an extra filter, such as reverse osmosis, for drinking and cooking. Visit http://www.kinetico.com for a good selection of water filtration options.)
Hi there. Love your newsletter. You are awesome. Pleased to count you as a colleague. How is the book coming? As I said in the proposal review, “You’ve got a killer book here, with meaningful advice sure to make an impact.” Keep up the great work. (Ed. Note: Thanks for the encouragement.)
Happy New Year to you all. May it be safe, healthy, prosperous, and joyful!
Dear folks at LifeTrek: Happy New Year for a successful year filled with peace and love.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
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Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
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