Do you want to be more successful and fulfilled in life and work? It starts by showing up with nothing else on your mind. Pay attention to the here and now. Don’t contaminate the present moment with the past and future. Focus on what interests you, what you can learn from, and what you can, in fact, control. There may be obstacles. But no matter what they are, they can be overcome.
If there is a common thread to LifeTrek coaching, it has to do with paying attention. Clients retain our services to bring another voice into the dynamic of their personal and professional growth. They want to move forward on one or more fronts, and they trust that another voice • the voice of a LifeTrek coach • will enable them to innovate and accelerate the process.
How do we do that? Not by telling them what to do, as though we were expert know-it-alls. On the contrary, LifeTrek coaches often have minimal specific expertise in the subject matter at hand. But we nevertheless make a significant difference in the progress of our clients, by getting them to pay attention to critical variables in the present moment.
That proves to be important to both productivity and enjoyment in life and work. Unless we are fully attentive to the critical variables in the here and now, we often struggle with ourselves and fail to get where we want to go.
I like the connection between being in the here and now and paying attention. It does cost something — that’s why it’s called “paying” attention • to be in the present moment. We have to set aside the past and future in order to notice those things that are going on and make a difference in the here and now. That’s the cost, but it’s an investment worth making.
In his book, The Inner Game of Work, Tim Gallwey tells the story of his consultations with AT&T, soon after the breakup of their communication monopoly. Being in a competitive marketplace was a new experience, and the corporate culture was having a hard time adapting. “That’s not how we do things here,” was a spoken and unspoken rule. Fear of the future was rampant. They knew they had to do things differently, they just didn’t know what or how.
Gallwey was brought in to work with the customer service team, those operators who answer the phone when people call with a problem or complaint. AT&T wanted to improve the “courtesy ratings” of these operators without increasing the average time per call. It was a daunting task, to be sure. And Gallwey agreed to take the assignment on two conditions. First, participation had to be voluntary. No one would be forced to take the training or use the tools.
Second, “courtesy” would not have to be the subject of his training. In fact, he eschewed the notion of a traditional training program preferring, instead, to adopt a coach approach to improving the experience of work itself. The assumption, of course, was that one would follow the other • that satisfied operators would lead to satisfied customers. But this agenda was not put on the table as either the rationale for or the intended output of the program.
Gallwey was free to work with people his way, and he began by observing the operators at work, interviewing some of them, and identifying the major obstacles. “The picture,” Gallwey notes, “became clear quite quickly. (1) Most operators were bored and were doing their jobs very mechanically. (2) In spite of the boredom, there was a lot of stress on the job because operator productivity was monitored and measured closely and constantly. (3) Operators felt they were treated like kids in elementary school by the system and by their supervisors.”
These conditions produced a lot of discontent and hostility. No wonder courtesy was in such short supply! Gallwey’s solution? Deal with the root causes. Instead of insisting upon courtesy, the desired outcome, design a game that operators could play while they worked to reduce on-the-job boredom, stress, and unhappiness. It was a brilliant strategy, getting the operators to grapple in new ways with the here and now of a routine job.
At first the operators were skeptical. How could they reduce on-the-job boredom, stress, and unhappiness? That went with the territory, and there was nothing they could do about. But using the coach approach, Gallwey got 100% of the operators interested in giving it a try.
They decided to focus on what they could learn about each and every customer from the tone of their voice and any background noises. They actually rated the customers, on a scale of one to ten, as to how agitated they were. Then they tried to impact the customers’ attitudes by expressing different qualities in their own voices. It became a fun game, as the operators acted in different ways to see how different approaches would impact the customer.
These new listening and responding skills proved to be of so much value that many operators reported using them off the job as well, with family and friends. And, as Gallwey suspected, their on-the-job courtesy ratings improved dramatically, in spite of the fact that the operators were not trying to be more courteous. They were learning to listen, to express more of themselves, and to have fun. When those things were in place, things like courtesy came naturally.
Another way to put what Gallwey accomplished with these operators is that he got them to be in the here and now. Instead of focusing on the things they didn’t like about their job, or the things they didn’t like about their manager, or the problems they had at home, or the things that were outside their control, Gallwey got these operators to be in the present moment with the person on the other end of the phone. And that made all the difference.
So can it be for you. Do you feel like a victim of circumstance? Do you feel trapped in your current situation? Do you walk around with the “could-a, would-a, should-a” tape playing in your head? Then you are ripe for Gallwey’s Inner Game. Try finding things in the present moment that are interesting, that you can learn from, and that you can, in fact, control. By focusing on those things, in the here and now, life really can get better.
Of course, no one can maintain attention all the time. We need to take breaks along the way. That wisdom comes through loud and clear in The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz. They understand that human beings have rhythms, along with the rest of life. There’s a reason for day and night, summer and winter, high tide and low tide, waking and sleeping, working and resting. Rhythms are built into the structure of life itself.
If you find yourself unable to pay attention to the here and now, it may be that you are pushing yourself too hard or not hard enough. Recent research into Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder has suggested the intriguing possibility that this is more of a sleep disorder than an attention disorder. By failing to get enough sleep, people with ADHD are unable to pay attention during the day. And so, some have experienced dramatic day-time relief through practices and medication designed to improve their night-time rest.
Whether or not you have been diagnosed with ADHD, it behooves us all to respect the natural rhythms of life. Neglecting them impacts not only our ability to pay attention, it impacts our energy levels, health, performance, and growth as well as our enjoyment of life and work.
Winston Churchill was adamant about the importance of an afternoon nap. “And no halfway measures,” he quipped. “Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do.” By sleeping during the day, Churchill found that he got more done and that he was better able to handle the stress of his responsibilities, particularly during World War II.
If you want to be more successful and fulfilled in life and work, then perhaps it’s time to pay more attention to the here and now. You are not a victim. You can pay attention in ways that make you more productive, open, and grateful. This may require that you establish better rhythms in life and work. And although a coach may assist you to figure out how best to get this done, you can certainly do it yourself.
Coaching Inquiries: Are you paying attention to what’s going on in the here and now? Or is your mind somewhere else? Could your attention difficulties be related to a lack of sleep? How could you establish better rhythms and approaches to life?
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.
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’m a Chinese girl who is studying English and preparing to go to the USA. I was introduced to your web site by my classmate who always downloads the content in your web to his PDA. When I went to your web, I was surprised that there were so many useful articles from which I could learn something. I am twenty now, and am planning my life from this age. You give me a lot of suggestions. Thank you!!! I hope you write more articles about career and love.
As I explore what I want to do in my life, the idea of helping others avoid the mistakes I have made seems to give me a great sense of purpose. Does LifeTrek have any plans to set up coaching service in Australia? If so, I would love to be involved. What you do, and do so well, is a great inspiration to me. Keep up the great work.
Thank you so much for the effort you put into making a difference to people’s lives. Over the last 2 years, I have learned about the many things you talk about, unfortunately from harsh experience. I don’t tell you this for sympathy, but to validate your work. Although my discoveries have come a bit late, I now seek to help others find their core purpose and become, as you say, well rounded and holistic in their view of life. If I can help your cause please let me know.
With an only child, 6 years old, I am having a difficult time being both fun and authoritative. I know this can be confusing to her, one moment we are having fun and the next moment I need to be serious. I want the best of both worlds. Any suggestions? (Ed. Note: This week’s Provision, Be Here and Now, speaks to the importance of being in the present moment. It is hard to switch gears, but it’s not beyond a 6-year-old to understand. Be sure, when you’re having fun, that you’re really having fun. And vice-versa.)
Thanks for the refocus and view about what is really important. Your insight is remarkable and your reminder about boundaries is much appreciated!
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