Provision #323: Release Apathy

Laser Provision

To be healthy, wealthy, and wise we need to be concerned about more than just ourselves. Looking out for number one, without regard for others, actually undermines the success and fulfillment that most people seek. We stand a better chance of getting where we want to go by looking out for others. Caring makes us, and the world, go round.

LifeTrek Provision

If you are reading this Provision, then you and I share at least one thing in common: we both woke up this morning. The more interesting question is, “Why did we wake up this morning?” Here our paths may diverge.

For example, if your answer is, “I don’t know why I woke up this morning. I just woke up.” Then you and I live in very different worlds. I always wake up with something on my mind. There is, as David Whyte likes to say, an invitation that calls me back to life “from another and greater night than the one from which I have just emerged.” Take this morning as an example.

After a delightful two days visiting the Outer Banks in North Carolina, including a nighttime visit to a deserted beach on Cape Hattaras island with enough stars, a sliver of moon, and a luminous Mars to occupy the attention of every astronomer on earth, my wife and I woke up this morning in Virginia Beach.

I woke up at 4:00 AM, because I was running the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half Marathon at 7:00. My routine before a race includes eating breakfast three hours before the start of the race, taking a hot shower, getting dressed, and stretching. At 5:15, I met a friend in the hotel lobby in order to drive to the shuttle buses that took us to the start of the race.

Why did I wake up this morning? To run the half marathon! Why did I want to run the half marathon? Let me count the ways:

  • Because I can, and that means a lot to me.
  • Because it keeps me healthy, training for and participating in endurance events.
  • Because it’s fun. I mean what’s not to like about 15 live rock bands, an equal number of sensational cheerleading squads, Elvis impersonators, cross-dressing old-man rhythm-and-blues dance troupes, and thousands of encouraging fans • including all those little kids eagerly looking for their mom or dad to go by so they can scream, “Go Mom! Go Dad! You can do it! We love you!”
  • Because it’s a meaningful and moving experience to be part of that sea of personal ambition, where 15,000 runners and walkers face off to compete against no one but themselves.
  • Because it’s on my training schedule, as I approach running the New York City Marathon on November 2, 2003.
  • Because I knew my wife would be waiting for me with a high-five at mile 9 and again at the finish. She really is the best fan in the world. (That, by the way, was part of why she got up this morning • to support me and thousands of other runners.)
  • Because it’s a great way to clarify and organize my thoughts.

So I ran the race, finished in a respectable 1:50, and came home to write this Provision about the importance of finding something to care about in life. There is a huge difference in the quality of life when we live from a position of passion and purpose rather than going through the motions of getting up and going through the same-old, same-old routine.

Which is it for you? Do you have things that you care about in life? Do you have things that you look forward to in life? Do you have things that invite you back to life from the treasures of the night? Does your life have meaning and purpose? If not, then it may be time for a change.

Many people come to coaching because their life isn’t what they want it to be. There’s always an identified gap that people want to close. They may want to stop procrastinating, eliminate clutter, or lose weight. They may want to make more money, change careers, or start a business. They may want to be a better parent, deepen a relationship, or find a new life partner. The list of coaching projects is as long and as diverse as the list of coaching clients. Everyone has their own story to tell and their own inherent ambition.

But guess what? No one makes progress until they get passionate about their project. It’s not enough to say, “I want to quit smoking.” One has to really want to quit smoking, and one has to have a reason to quit smoking, before a person gets into the project and the project gets into the person. Playing in the field of passion is, in fact, what coaches do. We awaken the passion that lies within in order to get people moving toward good things in life.

Perhaps another distinction here will begin to clarify the situation. Consider the difference between “apathy” and “empathy,” The first term, “apathy,” gets no one moving. It literally means to be careless about life. One has no feeling, interest, passion or concern about much of anything. No wonder “apathy” is so often accompanied by lethargy, sluggishness, depression, and despair. Why bother! That’s the motto of the apathetic person.

When it comes to “empathy” we immediately encounter very different connotations. This word has the power to arouse, both for and against. What a difference a few letters make. “Empathy” literally means to be careful about life. Instead of being without feeling, “empathy” means that we are filled with feeling, interest, passion, and concern. We are connected to another’s pain, pleasure, or passion in ways that make us more fully alive. Through “empathy” we care enough to get moving and make a difference.

Do you care enough to make a difference? If not, it may be because you feel overwhelmed. That’s easy to feel in this day and age. Gone is the easy optimism of earlier generations, which took for granted the inevitability of progress. Today we recognize the complicated, difficult, and interconnected  nature of the world in which we live. In the age of instant information, we are bombarded with daily reminders that things don’t always work out.

These reminders can easily take us to the apathetic assumption that things will never work out, which of course becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whether you assume that things will never work out for yourself personally or for the world at large, this assumption will all but guarantee your apathetic demise.

There are many other reasons for not caring enough to make a difference. We may be so self-absorbed that we fail to notice what’s going on around us. We may have adopted a bootstrap philosophy that argues, on principle, against offering a hand up. We may also be so sick or poor as to have no energy for others.

Whatever lies behind our apathetic moments, it’s time to recognize that this is no way to live. It not only hurts others, but it hurts us as well. Apathy isolates us from the world like a caterpillar in a cocoon. There may be life on the inside, but not much. Only when the caterpillar comes out of the cocoon with butterfly wings does it discover so much more of what the world has to offer. Bright colors. Fragrant aromas. Luscious nectars.

These are the things that make life worth living, that make us healthy, wealthy, and wise, and that we too will discover when we give ourselves permission to feel “empathy,” “sympathy,” and “antipathy.” Develop a personal philosophy that allows for these and you too will discover a reason to get up in the morning. To even become aware of this possibility is to be on to something. And, as Walker Percy observes in The Moviegoer, “Not to be on to something is to be in despair.”

Coaching Inquiries: What is the meaning and purpose of your life? Have you picked up the scent of empathy or do you suffer from the curse of apathy? How could you make things better?

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

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

I’ve just come home from the first Million $$ Coach intensive with Chris Barrow. I thought of you a few times during the 2 days that we were all sitting in the room at the San Mateo Marriott … listening, learning and interacting with Chris and one another. You stand out as one of those rare coaches who is building a practice from your center of authenticity, with love and patience, and going big to reach many. Also, you have made the decision/choice to allow a very large piece of who you are and what you do so well (your running) to be an integral part of your practice. This is magnificent and so many people at the conference talked about their desire to infuse their passions in to their practice … as foundation. You are a model for us all and I appreciate your work, newsletters, and you.

Just received information today on LifeTrek Coaching. We are dealing with some “interesting” challenges related to a building project at our church. Our chairperson made reference to last week’s Provision, “Release Impatience.” I found it very enlightening and would like to subscribe. 

I have been unemployed during the last 6 months. It is true that I may not have searched for work in the most excellent manner. However I have replied to hundreds of advertisements and had very few interviews. But even the little interviews that I had were not successful. Now my unemployment insurance is coming to an end. My marriage is strained, I lost self confidence. However I still have faith and believe that God will provide.

When I was young I used to knock at a company door and after a brief interview I had a job, even though it was general labor. Today there are many interviews before one is hired. Companies want the best of the best. If one is a bit too nervous during an interview, or if one does not answer the human resources person’s questions precisely to his/her satisfaction, one will not be hired. Why are there such tough pre-screening interviews? Why does one have to have exact qualifications and skills to be hired? 

Why don’t organizations realize that work is the means that God has of providing each human being his/her daily bread. Are only the healthiest, fittest, most perfect of today entitled to their daily bread? Does one have to be excellent to be entitled to his/her daily bread? Is one entitled to work only during peak economic times? (Ed. Note: Thanks for sharing so well the pain of today’s economy. Excellence is certainly in demand, and I would encourage your pursuit of excellence, but the absence of excellence is no excuse for poverty. Let’s hope and work for ways to keep everyone employed.)

I was a little saddened when your fifth paragraph speaks of how “We seek health, wealth, wisdom” but fails to mention “faith” or “discipleship” in what we seek. Has your subscription list become so completely secular that you cannot include faith as an essential part of identity? Keep the faith. (Ed. Note: Although it is true that LifeTrek Provisions is a secular publication I, for one, believe that “wisdom” encompasses “faith” and “discipleship.” 

I want to make the transition from demanding to patiently determined. 

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

Bob Tschannen-Moran
LifeTrek Coaching International
121 Will Scarlet Lane
Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043

Telephone: 757-345-3452
Fax: 772-382-3258
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: (Click)
Correspondence: (Click)