Provision #500: S.M.A.R.T. TIES

Laser Provision

It’s not just goals, habits, stuff, and systems that need to be S.M.A.R.T. if we want to be successful in life and work. It’s also the people that we are bound to in life. It’s the quality of our relationships with others that makes the difference. Nothing makes life more wonderful than having people assist us to stay on track, be more creative, do a better job, maintain positive values, and have fun. If your ties aren’t doing all that for you, then I invite you read the rest of this Provision. It may be the spark you need.

LifeTrek Provision

Provision number 500 is actually our 400th edition. All the same, it represents something of a milestone that I want to acknowledge, celebrate, and express gratitude for. Since early 1999, more than eight years ago, I have been blessed with the gift and the opportunity to share my thoughts with a growing community of readers whose comments and feedback make everything worthwhileClick. There is no charge for Provisions; the idea that it gets read and makes a difference in someone’s life is payment enough. Thanks for the opportunity.

LifeTrek Coaching was started at the end of 1998, a few months before we launched our newsletter. Our mission then as now was to assist people to become the best they can possibly be. From the outset we have been concerned not only about individual success but also about our success as a species and, indeed, of our entire planet. This means we have always recognized at least two dimensions regarding our work. To quote Dewitt Jones, photographer and motivational speaker, we not only want people to become the best in the world, we also want them to become the best for the world.

The distinction is subtle but significant. The best in the world means that we play at the top of our game, whatever that game may be. If all LifeTrek was concerned about was assisting people to be the best in the world, we could find ourselves coaching people to be the best warlords or drug runners in the world (to mention only two examples). We have never done that, however, because it would conflict with our value system. We do not want to assist warlords, drug runners, or anyone else to learn how to better tear apart the fabric of human community. Most of us know how to do that without any assistance from professional coaches!

The best for the world means that we fully use our gifts and talents to contribute to the enrichment of human life. Simply put, LifeTrek Coaching wants to make life more wonderful for people. We not only assist people to develop Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely (S.M.A.R.T.) strategies for getting things done, we also assist people to develop their motivation and vision for getting things done that make a positive difference in the grand scheme of things. To paraphrase a famous line from the Christian scriptures, we assist people to think about their relationship to whatever is true, noble, just, authentic, compelling, gracious, and valuable.

When the connection is made between playing at the top of our game and contributing to the enrichment of human life, between being the best in the world and being the best for the world, amazing things happen. I have seen people totally change their approach to life and work. Sometimes they change their way of living and working without changing their circumstances, other times they do change their circumstances. Either way, they change their way in the world for the better.

That’s part of the reason that LifeTrek Coaching has developed its capacity to integrate both Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and Nonviolent Communication (NVC) into our coaching and consulting work with individuals and organizations. These bodies of knowledge and practice have made powerful, positive contributions both to my life personally and to our ability to work with others. By focusing on strengths (AI) and connecting with needs (NVC), people and organizations can change far more quickly, deeply, and sustainably than they ever imagined possible. Once these processes take root, it’s a wonder to behold the unfolding and growth.

I have written before about the philosophy and practice of Appreciative Inquiry Click. Through reading and training, several of us in LifeTrek Coaching have learned how to use AI to assist individuals and organizations to broaden and build on their strengths. Instead of problem-solving, which can devolve into endless arguments over causes and strategies, AI promotes possibility-searching, which can evolve into purposeful spirals of dreams and designs. Let us know if you would like to retain LifeTrek Coaching to facilitate your own AI process Click.

Even though Nonviolent Communication has been around for more than 45 years, as developed and taught by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. Click, LifeTrek Coaching has only recently added NVC to our repertoire. Like AI, NVC is more than just a method or a series of steps for communicating cleanly and compassionately. NVC is a philosophy, consciousness, intention, and approach to being with people in life-affirming and possibility-generating ways. By honestly and empathetically connecting with what’s alive in us, our feelings and needs, we awaken people’s natural interest to make life more wonderful for one and all.

Recently, LifeTrek Coaching has had the opportunity to work with two school systems, one in Virginia and the other in Ohio, using NVC. Because of our fledgling familiarity with the NVC process, we brought in a fellow coach and friend, Jay Perry, who has more extensive NVC training to collaborate in both the design and delivery of our work in Ohio. Doing so made the process much more enjoyable, reliable, and successful. It demonstrated exactly what I mean by S.M.A.R.T. ties.

S.M.A.R.T. ties are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely connections with other people that enable us to stay on track, to be more creative, to do a better job, to maintain positive values, and to have fun in the process. We all need people like that in our lives. It’s D.U.M.B. •Dysfunctional, Uninspiring, Misfit, and Burdensome • to go it alone or to surround ourselves with people who distract, control, detract, destroy, or compel. Let’s consider each in turn.

1. Stay on Track. What I liked about working with Jay is that he did not add noise to our project. It’s hard enough to stay focused in life; it’s D.U.M.B. to make it even harder by collaborating with people who fail to respond on a timely basis, who go off on tangents, or who use others to work their own agenda. S.M.A.R.T. ties clear out the noise in order to let the synergy of human connection shine through. That happened with Jay, both in our meetings and in our email communications.

It’s not just internal dynamics that lead to attention deficit problems. It’s also conversational dynamics that get in the way of coming from a strong sense of purpose and connection.  When our ties are germane to the Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely challenges set before us, they make life better for one and all.

2. Be More Creative. This is one area where Jay really added value to our collaboration. Since I was doing the heavy lifting on the PowerPoint slides, we needed someone who could step back and think creatively about how to use the slides and whether they would actually work. Out-of-the-box thinking is not a distraction when it seeks to make a contribution to the cause and when it does not insist on its own way. That’s a critical dimension to S.M.A.R.T. ties. Those who seek to dominate do not inspire creative expression.

As coaches we know the integral connection between freedom and creativity. S.M.A.R.T. ties may sound antithetical to freedom and creativity, but Specifics, Measurability, Achievability, Relevance, and Timeliness do not lead inevitably and inexorably to excess control. They do not doom us to micromanagement. On the contrary, S.M.A.R.T. ties facilitate creativity by creating a context for people to contribute.

3. Do a Better Job. When it comes to the ties in your life, you can ask yourself two critical questions: Do they make me better in the world? Do they make me better for the world? If you can say that about someone, then that’s a S.M.A.R.T. tie. If not, then it may be a D.U.M.B. tie that either needs to be smartened up or shaken loose. Both AI and NVC offer strategies for smartening up our D.U.M.B. ties. By searching for strengths and connecting with needs, many people are able to infuse their ties with life. Don’t let them bring you down. Work to make your ties S.M.A.R.T. and then move on when the energy isn’t right.

We certainly did a better job because of our collaboration with Jay. Each one of us brought our strengths to the table. Jay’s experience made us better in the world; his passion made us better forthe world. That really came through as he worked both in the design and in the delivery of our program. Each of us did a better job because all of us did a better job. It was S.M.A.R.T. ties that made the difference.

4. Maintain Positive Values. The people who call you to be your best self are the ones worth hanging around with. Spending time with D.U.M.B. ties will tie you up in knots when it comes to living from a place of positive values. Spending time with S.M.A.R.T. ties will enable you to clarify your thinking, engage your empathy, and muster your courage for life-enriching actions.

This can be hard for many people to hear, since we often don’t filter our friendships and partnerships through the lens of positive values. Friends tend to remain friends, even when they lead us in the wrong direction. Not so with S.M.A.R.T. ties. They lead us in the right direction. They increase our awareness of as well as our commitment to the best life has to offer. Jay’s positive values were a gift not only to us but also to many others. His values bolstered our values for life.

5. Have Fun. In the end, S.M.A.R.T. ties make everything a joy. I wish that all of us could come from that place with everything we do. It’s no fun to do things begrudgingly, because we “have to.” It’s no fun to be motivated by anger, guilt, shame, or anxiety. Yet these are the very things that fuel many people, many workplaces, and many homes. We “should” on ourselves until life becomes a chore that is not worth living or doing.

Jay had a way of keeping these light even when there was a lot of work to do or a lot stakes on the table. Work becomes a joy when we choose to do it. It’s not about the expenditure of effort that determines whether or not we’re having fun. Several times a year I like to run marathons, not to mention all the training in-between. That’s a lot of work, a lot of effort, but it’s also pure joy. Why? Because I want to do it. Because I choose to do it. Because I can.

That’s my wish for you in the continued search to find things that motivate and make life easier. It’s not just goals, habits, stuff, and systems that need to be S.M.A.R.T. It’s also the people that we are bound to in life. Nothing makes life more wonderful than when those people help us to stay on track, be more creative, do a better job, maintain positive values, and have fun. Anything less sells everyone short.

Coaching Inquiries: What is the quality of the ties in your life? Do they make life more wonderful or more stressful? How you could work to smarten up your ties? Are their relationships that need to be changed? How could AI and NVC assist you to do that? How could you be known, in your circle of influence, as one who contributes 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.

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 wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed reading LifeTrek Provisions, they have been so meaningful to me. I am really grateful that I am getting to read Provisions and I really respect the work that you do. I have been getting my coaching practice up more this year, networking, putting myself out there, doing it awkwardly, stumbling, falling, getting back up, doing it all over again, and having fun with it. That’s the key thing. Provisions is proving to be a source of great wisdom and encouragement on the journey. Thanks for that!


Having recently finished reading your material on Appreciative Inquiry, I wanted you to know that your comments made a lot of sense and were much appreciated! So too with your current series of LifeTrek Provisions. Tonight I am catching up on a lot of back reading and I am particularly taken by the S.M.A.R.T. stuff article. Just what I have been trying to do for the last few months! Now I have a theory to back it up. Here in Spain, I don’t live in the land of plenty to consume and store…but I certainly can relate to reducing or adding to make one’s work space essentially S.M.A.R.T.


A S.M.A.R.T. system that I’ve developed with my morning smoothie is to have two containers/pitchers for my blender. I originally had two blenders on my counter, but then realized all I really needed was too pitchers for the same base. This admits to my laziness in avoiding cleaning the pitchers after each use, but I know my reality and having a clean backup pitcher gives me the conditions conducive to making my smoothie! When they are both used I run them through the dishwasher and I’m ready for another two unobstructed smoothie days. 



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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