Many people take nutritional supplements to support their physical health, as well they should. But the concept of supplements is bigger than pills in a bottle. We can also take environmental supplements to support our ontological health, our way of being in the world. Environmental supplements may be the most important of all.
I remember hearing my favorite poet, David Whyte, tell the story (which he later included in his book, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity) of a time when he was completely exhausted by his work as the executive director of a nonprofit corporation. They were doing good work, which he fully supported, but there was just too much to do with too little help. Perhaps you can identify. David was in danger of burning out.
The press was so great that David was actually in danger of losing himself. I remember laughing when David told the story of walking into a meeting, late, and asking, “Has anyone seen David?” Although he got a laugh with the line, it was a very real question. Because the David he once knew, the David filled with energy and zest for life, “had disappeared under a swampy morass of stress and speed.”
Fortunately, David received assistance from a Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast, who observed, “that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest.” “What is it, then?” David asked. “The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness. You are so tired through and through because a good half of what you do here in this organization has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life. You are only half here, and half here will kill you after a while.”
Do you feel exhausted? Are you in danger of burning out from too much stress? Are you in danger of rusting out from too little stress? Then perhaps it’s time to consider your energy, where it comes from, and how to optimize it. Perhaps it’s time to take environmental supplements that can improve your way of being in the world.
That was David Whyte’s conclusion after considering Brother Steindl-Rast’s advice and counsel. He couldn’t recover his wholeheartedness and, in turn, his energy without supplementing his environment to call for and welcome his full powers of creativity, inspiration, and love. Like a fish out of water, David knew that he would die if he stayed out of his natural environment much longer.
That’s why many people retain coaches: to supplement their environment so they can be more freely, fully, and easily themselves. I just returned from a two-day CoachVille Coaching Intensive where the presenter, Dave Buck, talked about “perfecting environments” as the future of coaching. Instead of assisting people to find the motivation, will power, or focus to be great, Dave talked about power of finding and structuring environments that enable us to be great just by showing up. When we’re in the right element, our natural intelligence and true genius come to the fore. And that’s when things really take off.
This goes way beyond Feng Shui, the Chinese art of selecting and positioning buildings, furniture, and objects to have positive energetic effects. This looks at structuring all our external systems and environments to have positive energetic effects. If they aren’t just right, we’ll never be our very best • no matter how hard we try.
We can learn much about environmental supplements by comparing them to nutritional supplements. Nutritional supplements, especially vitamins and minerals, optimize our health by making up for nutritional deficiencies without adding excessive calories. The modern commercial process of growing, harvesting, shipping, storing, stocking, and selling food depletes food of its inherent nutritional profile.
Few of us eat fresh, organically grown food on a daily basis. Supplementation makes up for this fact without our having to work very hard. Once we know what supplements to take, supplements which are safe and which target our own unique symptoms, conditions, and ambitions, we just swallow the pills and go on about our business. From there, our physical health improves steadily.
Good environmental supplements work the same way. If they properly target our own unique symptoms, conditions, and ambitions, then our ontological health • our way of being in the world • improves steadily. In David Whyte’s case, he had to leave the nonprofit organization and stake his claim as a poet in order to recover his wholeheartedness. Others can supplement their environments without leaving them. They can add or take things away until everything works better. And it often isn’t hard to do.
Ironically, nutritional supplements can illustrate this truth. Some people have pill bottles all over the place, requiring them to remember what and how much to take when. Others use those 7-day pill minders, placed in convenient locations around the house, to make things easier. It no longer requires motivation, will power, memory, or focus to take our supplements. They’re right there, in measured doses, when and where we need them.
If you already use those 7-day pill minders, then you already know the power of environmental supplementation. You can use the same technique in other areas of life. Is clutter getting you down? Are you failing to get enough sleep? Do you have a hard time controlling expenses? Is your work a bore or a chore? Just about any struggle can benefit from environmental supplementation. As with the pill minders, good environmental supplements enable us to do what we want without having to work hard. We just set them and forget them. The best ones even assist us to get back on track when we veer off course.
Here are a few other things we can learn about environmental supplements from nutritional supplements. First, each person has unique nutritional requirements, suggesting unique nutritional supplements, and it’s possible to learn what those are through self-observation and assessments. Blood tests, for example, can produce a nutritional profile and suggest an appropriate regimen. Doctors can help here, and so can coaches • especially when it comes to environmental supplements.
Second, if you don’t know your own unique nutritional requirements, it’s still possible to make good decisions about nutritional supplements by staying up with the knowledge of the day. For example, we know that it’s dangerous to take ephedra to lose weight, to take more than 4,000 IU of Vitamin A from retinol daily or even, for most people, to take supplemental iron. So too when it comes to environmental requirements. We can access and learn from a growing body of knowledge as we develop our own customized solutions.
Third, there’s no way to get everything we need in one pill a day. It would be possible to make such a pill, but it would be impossible to swallow! Besides, it’s better to take some supplements right after we eat while others are better to take on an empty stomach or right before bed. So too with environmental supplements. It takes a combination of many factors throughout the day to optimize our way of being in the world. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions.
Finally, it’s important to take a top quality brand of nutritional supplements with independent testing of its production facilities and batch quality. Otherwise, you may end up consuming a lot of inert powder. While the placebo effect can make this work at times, it’s better to go for the right stuff even if it costs a little more. Better to invest more money in high quality supplements than to waste less money on what amounts to little more than junk. Once again, the analogy holds up to life in general.
In my upcoming book, “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Coaching & Profound Provisions for the Trek of Life,” I will explore in some detail the body of knowledge for both nutritional and environmental supplements. They can assist us to be the best we can possibly 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 the good advice and encouragement in your Provision #293, Stop Weighting (Click). I’ve lost 20 of the 45 pounds I hope to be down before mountain climbing again this fall. It is such hard work. (Ed. Note: Losing weight is counter-intuitive in an environment of nutritional abundance. Having both a goal and a reward can provide the inspiration. Think about perfecting your environment to generate even more success.)
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
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services