Do you live in a world of possibility? Or have you come to expect the same old thing, day after day? Either way, as the saying goes, you are right. Both possibilities and certainties stem more from internal expectations than from external constraints. How we show up for life determines how we experience life. So why not show up with bright stories, amazing openness, uplifting expectations, and generous contributions? Especially since doing so is good for the soul.
This, the second Provision in our series on things to embrace for spiritual wellness, begins with a short reader reply from a Muslim in war-torn Iraq. “Dear sirs,” he wrote in response to last week’s issue, “will you please list my country (Iraq) on your Country List and let me know your LifeTrek about war. Thank you.”
That simple reader reply has resonated with and touched me very much over the course of the past week, while I was in New Orleans, Louisiana to receive additional coach training, certification, and input from the Fourth Annual CoachVille Conference Click. The events of the conference were themselves pregnant with possibilities, as they reminded me in so many powerful ways that coaching is the possibility profession.
But for all the dynamic speakers and experiences regarding the forward motion of coaching, it was the email from Iraq that touched me the most. For one thing, it was war that gave birth to our Readers’ Forum in the first place. After September 11, 2001, we devoted a series of Provisions to the events of that day, the realities of war and peace, as well as the consideration of alternatives to old-fashioned, eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth responses to aggression.
That series was so controversial that reader replies started to come in fast and furious. Although many were very supportive of our considerations, many others were very hostile, including rude put downs, threats, and demands to be removed from our mailing list. The conversation was so robust that I could not imagine keeping it all to myself. Even though I did not agree with many of the replies, the Readers’ Forum was born as a moderated place for you to share in our weekly journey together.
Since that time, the Forum has become a favorite part of LifeTrek Provisions. There are readers who tell me that that’s where they start every week. If the replies are great, then they go back to read the Provision from the week before — or not • because sometimes the replies are more than enough to make us laugh, cry, or wonder.
That was my experience with the reply from Iraq. To inquire about our “LifeTrek about war” touches a very deep place for me. My own spiritual awakening goes back to the Vietnam War, when issues of war and peace were again in the forefront of the American mind. It was then that I took stock of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s poignant reaction to the scenes and smells of death and desecration through two wars of the 19th century:
“Suppress the hope and desire that someday you can use the skill you have acquired here,” he said to a graduating class of military cadets in 1880. “You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is hell!”
I decided not to go to hell. I decided not to break my sense of connection with those who dream different dreams, have different interests, look different ways, speak different languages, or use different tactics in their pursuit of life. That did not mean, of course, that I decided to ignore or overlook those who would pursue death. Only the naive, privileged, or cowardly can afford to take such an approach to life.
But I decided to never give up on the possibility of resolving conflicts and advancing justice through non-violent means. I decided to never give up on the possibility of restoring connection to one and all, whether friend or foe. I decided to never give up on possibility.
That is not only our “LifeTrek about war,” it is the very essence of our company and of that reader reply from Iraq. Just a few months ago, another reader asked whether we had any readers in Iraq. Well, now we know we do. Out of the ashes of yet another war, in which humans tear asunder the fabric of community and the ecosystem of life itself, and through the magic of global e-communication, there surfaces a new possibility.
The image that comes to mind is that of a flower pushing its way through a crack in the concrete. I saw that on the tarmac at the Atlanta airport. The earth had been paved over with broad swatches of concrete, but as we taxied to the gate I looked out the airplane window to see a solitary green blade. It wasn’t much, but it was there. Like a solitary email from Iraq, it was enough to remind me that life will not be denied. It has a way of bouncing back from the depths.
So let’s start there in our consideration of spiritual wellness. If there is one dimension to embrace, it is the dimension of possibility. No situation, no stage of development, no tragedy, no system of death, no diagnosis, no load of work, no fear, and no lack of beauty are enough to eradicate possibility. On its deepest level, that is the message of quantum physics. The energies that resonate in the unseen reaches of space, both inner and outer, can never be silenced.
In their inspiring book, The Art of Possibility, Rosamund and Benjamin Zander explore this realm as it relates to ordinary life. Consider just a few of their extraordinary applications:
1. It’s All Invented. We make up the stories we tell and remember about life. We decide if something is good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, difficult or easy, challenging or boring, beautiful or ugly, true or false, acceptable or unacceptable, comfortable or uncomfortable, outstanding or embarrassing, possible or impossible. So, to quote the Zanders, “since it’s all invented, we might as well invent a story or a framework of meaning that brightens and enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us.”
Does this mean there’s no such thing as a real world out there? Of course not. But it is to recognize that our experience of the real world is always a matter of interpretation. We have no access to life other than through our experience. So two people can go through the same experience with very different interpretations. Case in point:
“A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a remote region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying, ‘Situation Hopeless. Stop. No one wears shoes.’ The other writes back triumphantly, ‘Glorious business opportunity. Stop. They have no shoes.'” Since it’s all invented, we may as well experience life through the lens of possibility.
2. You Never Know. The principle of synchronicity suggests that the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts. That’s because there are always meaningful coincidences of two or more events that cannot be anticipated, predicted, orchestrated, or frustrated. But they can be overlooked, undervalued, and unappreciated. If we are not open to possibility, if we are possibility averse, then these coincidences may pass by unnoticed.
That’s why the Zanders write, “In the realm of possibility, we gain our knowledge by invention. We decide that the essence of a child is joy, and joy she is. Our small business attracts the label, ‘The Can-Do Company,’ and that is exactly who we are. We speak with the awareness that language creates categories of meaning that open up new worlds to explore. Life appears as variety, pattern, and shimmering movement, inviting us in every moment to engage. The pie is enormous, and if you take a slice, the pie is whole again.”
In other words, since we can never know for sure exactly what will happen, we may as well be open to the possibility that something wonderful will happen. The Zanders call this the “generative character of action in a universe of possibility.” We can always produce new life, new ideas, new meaning, new environments, new relationships, and new possibilities.
3. Lighten Up! I have written before about “Rule Number 6” Click, which is “to not take ourselves so damn seriously.” To live in a universe of possibility, point out the Zanders, there are no other rules. When we need things to go our way, when we need to control people, situations, and outcomes, when we cannot laugh at our selves, predicaments, and challenges, when we fail to have fun with our families, co-workers, and friends, then we have indeed closed the door on many possibilities.
To explain this dynamic, the Zanders make the distinction between the “Calculating Self” and the “Central Self.” The Calculating Self is very concerned about survival in a world of scarcity, and therefore tries to do everything right. The Central Self is remarkably generous, prolific, creative, and fun-loving. The Calculating Self is concerned about looking out for Number One, the Central Self never forgets about Rule Number 6.
Ironically enough, the Central Self often generates better results than the Calculating Self. Why? Because it makes better use of intuition or of what Malcolm Gladwell calls “rapid cognition and instinctive intelligence.” In so doing, we find ourselves “instantly transported into a remarkable universe. This new universe is cooperative in nature, and pulls for the realization of all our cooperative desires.” Lightening up also gets rid of the negative energy that comes from “shoulding on ourselves.” It’s simply a better way to be.
4. Be a Contribution. Once we start having more fun, we can approach each day and each situation in terms of being a contribution. What a different and refreshing approach this represents from the more common posture of winning and losing, of competing and measuring up (or not, as the case may be).
“Unlike success and failure,” notes Benjamin Zander, “being a contribution has no other side. It is not arrived at by comparison.” It eliminates fearful questions such as “Is it enough?” and “Am I loved for who I am or for what I have accomplished?” and it replaces them with the joyful question, “How will I be a contribution today?”
This is the right posture for those who would seek to embrace possibility and to be spiritually well. President John F. Kennedy was right. It’s not about what life can do for us, but about what we can do for life, that makes all the difference. Untold possibilities await those who would tell bright stories, notice amazing coincidences, lift stressful expectations, and contribute to the quality of life.
Coaching Inquiries: Are you on the look out for possibilities? What stories do you tell? How could you make yourself more open and receptive? Do people think of you as someone who lightens the load or piles it on? Who could you turn to for assistance in giving your Central Self freedom of expression?
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..
While Provisions are always appreciated, your last one, “Embrace Freedom,” was up and over the top for me. Sincere thanks!!
Your last Provision, Embrace Freedom, was one of your best. Although I struggled with drug addiction for many years, I realize now that that was the easy one to deal with. My real addiction is fear.
I am addicted to being afraid. Afraid of the outcome of things • afraid of losing my job which causes me much stress • afraid of being fifty and having no material security • afraid of working on my dream and making up excuses for not moving ahead.
Why? Because then I would have to give up my fear. I am on what is probably the real spiritual journey of my life. Fortunately, the realization has happened. And I guess that’s the first step and I am praying for a way out. It is much deeper than drug addiction. But I will never give up until I see this through. Thanks. (Ed. Note: Today’s Provision, in its own way, speaks to this addiction as well. Blessings on your journey.)
I just read your Provision, “Embrace Freedom.” Excellent! The fact that a church leader wrote about addiction, in those terms, 130 years ago is amazing. I envisioned a much different church at that time. Was Washington Gladden considered very left of center in theological thinking at that time? It seems that if he met with all the “important figures” of his day, he must have resonated with them. I would love to learn more about the man and the book. (Ed. Note: Yes, he was considered left of center in his day. Although it is out of print, you can order a used copy of his biography on Amazon.com Click).
Thanks a million for that last Provision. I loved the thoughts about freedom! I have a question about the Wellness Pathway on sleep. You mentioned exercise after noon but before 3 hours before bed. I usually get up at the crack of dawn to exercise 5:30 • 6:30 before my family needs me. Is there something not so good about early exercise? (Ed. Note: There is nothing wrong with early exercise, but for those who experience sleep problems, afternoon exercise may assist them to fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep more soundly in the evening.)
Thank you for sharing your poem, “Deep.” It was right on the pulse of my thoughts. It is very well written and it is inspiring to read. I look forward to more opportunities to read your work. (Ed. Note: You can view an archive of my poetry at www.lifetrekcoaching.com/poems).
Dear sirs, will you please list my country (Iraq) on your Country List and let me know your LifeTrek about war. Thank you. (Ed. Note: See today’s Provision Click).
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