Provision #386: Coaching as Healthy Relationship

Laser Provision

Coaching isn’t just for executives anymore. Today’s featured client, a suburban housewife and homemaker, has worked with a LifeTrek coach for more than four years to carve out a different way of being in the world. Through good times and bad, including the tragic murder of her father, this client has found coaching to be a relationship that assists her to get where she wants to go.

LifeTrek Provision

In 1963, Pete Seeger made a hit recording in Carnegie Hall of Malvina Reynolds’ popular song, “Little Boxes.” Legend has it that Reynolds was inspired to write the song in 1961, while driving to an engagement in Palo Alto. Looking up to a pastel-colored Daly City hillside, she reportedly said to her husband, “Bud, take the wheel. I feel a song coming on.” And this is what came forth:

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All go to the university,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
And there’s doctors and there’s lawyers
And business executives,
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf-course,
And drink their Martini dry,
And they all have pretty children,
And the children go to school.
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
And they all get put in boxes
And they all come out the same.

And the boys go into business,
And marry, and raise a family,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

Today’s featured client, a suburban housewife and homemaker, knows exactly what Reynolds was feeling back in 1961. More than 40 years later, it’s not much different in suburban America. The conformity pressures are still just as real, and, if anything, they start even earlier in life.

How does one find and follow a different way, marching to the beat of a “different drummer,” without completely leaving that environment? Is it possible to be “in that world without being of that world”? What does “the road less traveled” look like for someone with two kids, a husband, and all the trappings of everyday life?

These are the kinds of questions that I have entertained for the past four years with today’s featured client. What started out as a journey into health and wellness has covered many other bases, including parenting, home schooling, community leadership, money management, information technology, relationship building, grief relief, spiritual growth, and alternative living.

When you look at that long and yet partial list of coaching projects, it’s easy to see why this client has come to view coaching as a permanent lifestyle enhancement rather than as a temporary therapeutic intervention. She doesn’t use coaching to achieve just one particular goal or to deal with a few isolated challenges; rather, she uses coaching to engage with and bolster all of life.

The image that came to mind was coaching as an incredibly safe and healthy relationship. It is based upon unconditional love, with no strings attached. There’s no way to hurt your coach, no matter what you say or do. That’s because the present perfect is the tense of coaching. You can stay in the relationship or walk away, you can do your very best or not, with reckless abandon. Your coach will stay with you through it all.

Q. How and when did you first learn about LifeTrek Coaching?

A. In September of 2000, I was working part time as the administrative assistant for a massage therapist when you walked in the door. Visiting with you, before your appointment, was my first exposure to coaching. I knew immediately the coach approach was right for my own personal development.

So we arranged a three-way barter: you coached me in exchange for a free massage which I “paid for” through my bartered work as an administrative assistant. I might not have gotten started, at least not at that point, if I had to pay cash.

Q. Do you remember what you wanted to work on, at the outset?

A. The same stuff I’m working on right now: life! I remember being inspired by your love of marathon running and your healthy lifestyle. I thought that working with you would assist me to lose weight, get in shape, and even run a marathon. That entire package has not happened yet, but the dream is still alive. And I’m absolutely certain that I would not have made the progress I have made without our coaching relationship.

I was also in the process of changing from a traditional suburban mom into an alternative cosmic visionary. I no longer fit in with the “SUV soccer-mom” crowd. My values were changing and I was becoming different. But the transformation was not easy and it is certainly not over. To get out of those “little boxes,” that you mentioned in the song, is a challenging and ongoing process.

So I wanted support and assistance here as well. I knew that I didn’t want to drop out of society, leave my home, and go live in the woods. But I did want to leave behind the interests, attitudes, values, and people who were bringing me down and harming our world.

It was incredibly challenging, for example, to pull the kids out of school, in order to start home schooling, and to leave the church. I had been so active in both of those institutions. I remember meeting with my pastor and getting the clear the message that I was sliding down a slippery slope that could land me in the fires of hell.

All that happened about a year before we started our work together. By the time I met you, I had suffered plenty of indignities • like friends who no longer allowed their children to play with my children. So I was in need of a spiritual friend who could assist me to navigate the waters of my transition; with your background as a minister and your training as a coach, you were the perfect partner for the journey.

Q. In what ways did your goals evolve through the coaching process?

A. Once I crossed the line of questioning those “little boxes,” once I started thinking outside the box, there was no going back. But I also didn’t know how to go forward. I mean dishes still needed to be washed and bills still needed to be paid. So how do you deal with the real world without giving up on your ideals? That has been an ongoing part of our coaching conversations.

One way to describe the evolution is to say we followed the path, from one thing to the next. You have been so willing and able to work with whatever I brought to the call that I have never felt pressured and yet always felt challenged by our conversations. We have covered so many topics, over such a long a period of time, that I would say my goals have evolved to include all of life.

That was certainly evident when my father was brutally murdered at work less than a year ago. We, of course, could not have anticipated that when we started our work together. But as my coach, you became available as a resource for the grief work that followed in the wake of such a tragedy.

Q. How has the experience of coaching impacted you?

A. You have assisted me with everything from getting organized to balancing my checkbook to communicating with my husband to trying new recipes. The list just goes on and on.

Last year I attended one of your Trek for Life weekends. That’s where I met your wife, Megan, who connected me to an incredible home-schooling resource that has literally changed the life of my youngest son. He can read now thanks to Megan and her friend Peggy. That’s huge. There have even been times when I’ve talked with Megan on the phone, so it’s almost like I get two coaches for the price of one.

Q. What shifts have you experienced because of coaching?

A. I feel more confident and assured about living how I want to live. I know that my values are the right values for me, so I spend less time defending myself and more time expressing myself. That has, perhaps, been the biggest shift • becoming comfortable with who I am and how I want to be in the world. I know what I stand for and I am discovering how I want to share myself with others.

Take the death penalty, which I am definitely opposed to. So many people, including other family members and the police, want to seek the death penalty for my dad’s killer. The police have been quick to point out that that is out of my hands; the system will determine what happens. But you have assisted me to speak my truth, even when I don’t have control over the outcome.

Q. What are the behavioral changes you have experienced?

A. The entire process of coaching can be summarized in two steps: getting clear about my values and living my values. This side of the grave, it’s a never-ending journey. So now we don’t use a chemical grass company any more, even though the neighbors complain that we have too many dandelions. And we don’t shop at Wal*Mart, because of their employment practices. There are many such examples of how our work together has led to different choices and behaviors.

One thing that has changed is that I carry my body differently. I used to walk around with my shoulders hunched up to my ears. I think I was trying to hide. Coaching has helped me to find the freedom to be myself, not worrying about what others think. As a result, my entire body has relaxed into a new way of being. You can literally see the change.

I also walk more and shop differently at the grocery store. I’m still not where I want to be with my exercise and nutrition, but I am better than I was and I know I will get there. There’s a marathon in my future, of that I am certain.

Q. How were you stretched by the process of coaching?

A. One of the most interesting, and at times frustrating, things about the coaching process is that you often know stuff about me before I know it myself. But you don’t just come out and say it, rushing in before its time. You allow me to discover and figure things out for myself, then you introduce the clarification and validation that makes everything come together.

I know sometimes that is very frustrating. I want you to just tell me the answers. But deep down I know that unless I figure things out for myself, the learning won’t stick. So the process of coaching has stretched me by making me do the work of personal growth and development. You never let me off the hook.

You also challenge me to try things before I am ready to make a full commitment. “Life as experiment,” is your motto. Through our conversations, we come up with things for me to play with on the way to developing new attitudes and habits. This “taste and see” approach has been very liberating and helpful, even through difficult things like the whole ordeal with my dad.

Q. What recommendations do you have for others who are considering working with a coach?

A. Coaching is just an incredibly healthy relationship. It doesn’t have the baggage that other relationships have. There’s nothing that the coach needs you for, so it’s a relationship of total freedom.

Paradoxically, it’s in the context of such freedom that you end up being most challenged. There’s no “should-a, would-a, could-a” push; there’s only the pull to be the best you can possibly be. And coaching really does call that forth.

If you want to grow as a human being, if you are really intent upon doing something, then coaching can be an incredible tool. It is a gift to yourself, as well as to your family and friends. You owe it to yourself, and to those who know you, to give coaching a try in order to see the difference it makes.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you organize your life around your interests, attitudes, and values? Do you want to start thinking outside the box? Do you have healthy relationships which give you the freedom to be your best self? How could you make the world a better place to 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..


Each week I am now receiving your Online Notification in addition to my regular issue of Provisions. Why? (Ed. Note: Some people cannot receive the HTML-formatted version of our regular newsletter. So we are sending out the second, plain-text notice to catch as many people as possible. Thanks for asking and we ask for your patience and understanding with this second email.) 


Last week’s issue of Provision, Coaching as Guiding Light Click, was particularly good. Thanks for all the insight it provides into the process and outcomes of coaching.


I am a technical engineer working under a company and right now I am trying to be on my own. What do I do to be the best, to make life okay, and to be very rich in what ever I lay my hands on? This is my first problem. (Ed. Note: Through faith, networking, and service, all things are possible. Thanks for writing.)


Thanks for the effort you put into your Provisions each week. I look forward to receiving more challenging issues from you.



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

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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