Provision #341: Reframing Work

Laser Provision

Work is not a punishment. It is not a chore, a burden, or a grind. It is an expression of who we are and of how we want to share ourselves in the world. It is what gives life meaning, beauty, and order. If your work leaves something to be desired, then this Provision is for you. It will assist you to be happy at work.

LifeTrek Provision

The past two weeks have been a fun time of travel and special occasions, with many dear family and friends. It’s been refreshing to vary the routine of life and work. No matter how much we love our jobs, there’s still a time and place for sabbaticals to renew the spirit, rejuvenate the mind, and restore the body. My hope and prayer is that you had some “sabbatical time” of your own.

In addition to all the enjoyable reunions and get-togethers, my sabbatical included plenty of time for leisure reading and running. I devoured the best-selling thriller, “The Da Vinci Code,” and I took in one of my favorite runs along the Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This is a beautiful path through the nation’s first urban national park. If you are ever in the area between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, I recommend it highly.

It was on one of these runs that my vision for our next series of Provisions took shape. To love the work we do is an underlying theme of LifeTrek Coaching. Whether through career development or transition, most people have a stated desire to achieve both success and fulfillment. One without the other is empty.

This was reflected in the many responses we received to last-week’s poem, titled “Passion.” “I want to live!” was not only the first line of the poem, it was the refrain echoed by many readers (some of which are included in this week’s reader replies). Who doesn’t want to live on purpose, in connection, and with joy? Who doesn’t want to be filled with courage, guided by intuition, and centered in passion? Who doesn’t want to love the work they do?

That is certainly my experience of work through LifeTrek Coaching. It is much more than work for me. It is a calling, a passion, and a way to express my spirit in the world.

Before leaving for the holidays, one reader wrote to ask, “When do you get a break from always having to prepare a new column / concept? I know columnists who take a month off from their column writing, for rest and relaxation, each and every year. As one of your students or players (vis-•-vis coaching), I don’t want you to burnout!”

Now anyone can burnout, of course, and it’s been good to take off the past two weeks. But burnout is not a problem when it comes to the writing and sending of Provisions. Although obviously very public, Provisions is, for me, an important discipline of personal journal writing. It is my attempt to sort out and make sense of life. It is an integral part of my process of becoming that I can hardly imagine being without.

In other words, I love the work I do, and that makes all the difference. It’s not a chore, a burden, or a grind. It is who I am and how I seek to share myself with the world. What amazes me is how that sharing, freely offered and freely given, generates a continual stream of coaching clients and sufficient revenue to help pay the bills. It is an incredible blessing to be successful by just being yourself.

In his book, “The Inner Game of Work,” Tim Gallwey argues that we experience this blessing through “redefining work.” Instead of viewing work as a necessary evil, Gallwey provides a framework for redefining work as a chosen good. But this requires us to leave behind many traditional concepts, often inherited from our families of origin.

What a conflicted set of messages children often receive about work. In some homes, children are not expected to work • as though work would spoil their childhood. In other homes, children are expected to do chores • as though work is the stuff we have to do but don’t want to do. Either way, we make the association between drudgery and work. Too few children participate in work as a joyful expression of their interests and abilities.

Such negative associations go even further back than our families of origin. One of the primordial stories, common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, is the story of Adam and Eve. Because of their disobedience, God kicks them out of the Garden and sentences the man to hard work and the woman to painful childbirth. Thanks to them, we’ve become slaves to our own existence. Or at least that’s what we’ve been told.

But this interpretation of an ancient story misses one important fact: before there was any disobedience and any punishment, there was work to be done. God put Adam in the garden “to till it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Work was there from the beginning in order to give life meaning by creating beauty and keeping things in order. It was an opportunity to get things done, to learn things, and to have a good time.

In its original context, work was meant to be a joy. And for that to happen today, many of us need to come from a different place when we come to work. Instead of coming from the place of obligation, we need to come from the place of choice. Instead of coming from the place of misery, we need to come from the place of mystery. And instead of coming from the place of outcome, we need to come from the place of experience.

Obligation vs. Choice. It is hard to enjoy your work when it comes from a place of obligation. When we feel trapped, stuck in a job we do not like, and wedded to a paycheck, we frame work as an unhappy chore. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Freely chosen, we can experience work in all its glory. It can become an opportunity for self-expression and lifelong learning. It can be our way of creating beauty and keeping things in order.

Misery vs. Mystery. It is hard to enjoy your work when you suffer from half-empty thinking. What kind of host would limit our refreshment to half a glass? I dare say, not one we would go back to very often. But this is exactly how we approach work, day after day. We see the problems rather than the opportunities for innovation and growth, and we keep going back for more. Let’s stop the whining and start the winning. In every situation, there is mystery to behold.

Outcome vs. Experience. It is hard to enjoy your work when you focus solely on performance outcomes. Performance outcomes are fleeting mile markers on the trek of life. By focusing on the experience of producing these outcomes, on the process of getting results more than on the results themselves, we stay in what some traditions call “the present moment.” This is especially challenging when it comes to work, since performance outcomes typically come with a lot of pressure. But it’s also especially important if we hope to be both successful and fulfilled at work.

To encourage the development of choice, mystery, and experience, Gallwey identifies what he calls “the work triangle” of performance, learning, and enjoyment. Too often we set performance goals without setting learning and enjoyment goals for our time at work. But this contributes to the experience of work as drudgery and ultimately undermines the very performance we seek to achieve.

This may seem counterintuitive, since we are so often encouraged to “keep our eyes on the prize.” But Gallwey argues that learning and enjoyment don’t just happen, as if by accident along the way, in the pursuit of a performance goal. Rather, they require their own goal-setting and debriefing opportunities.

Several weeks ago, we challenged you to set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for 2004. Gallwey would have you divide that BHAG into three parts: What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to learn? What do you want to feel? As an example, you may want to accomplish a 100% increase in sales. You may want to learn how to overcome the fear of rejection. And you may want to enjoy your interactions with prospective customers.

The three obviously go together, but they are nevertheless three different projects deserving of their own planning and implementation. Developing intentionality around performance, learning, and enjoyment in the workplace is a common coaching project and a great way to get ourselves off the treadmill and on to the quest of life.

In the weeks ahead, we will explore more concepts around the inner game of work • using Tim Gallwey as our guide • in order to learn better how we too can love the work we do. And, of course, we invite you to contact us for coaching, Email Us, to make this all more personal and effective.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you love the work you do? What would have to change in order for things to be better? What choices do you have there? What’s stopping you from making those choices?

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.

Greetings to you and the entire staff of your organization. You’ve added passion and purpose to my endeavors in the year ending; may the Good Lord enrich you folks as much as you have done me. Here’s wishing you all joy, greater accomplishments, and success in the coming year! God bless you.

I really enjoyed your Passion poem! I want to live, too! I appreciate all that I am able to enjoy today. LifeTrek coaching has been a very important part of me accepting who I am today and finding my purpose in my life’s journey! I am humbly thankful for all my blessings. Thank you.

You took the words right out of my heart!!! I just want to live! I wish all of you an abundance of great health, fulfilling days and nights, and overwhelming joie de vivre • great love and Peace, Safety, and Prosperity.

Thank you for the beautiful poem. The end of an old year and the beginning of a new one is always a good time to sit back, reflect, and figure out how to move forward with purpose.

Such a wonderful poem for the New Year! Thanks and do have Happy New Year.

Your live web is cool, however, the time and picture are not changing. The tail of the bird stays in the same place … are you sure that you have a real bird on there? I love to watch birds and cannot wait until we put up our bird feeder soon. Have a great Holiday! (Ed. Note: The image was not updating while we were out of the office. Things are back on line now! Thanks for noticing.)  

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

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