Provision #502: S.T.R.E.T.C.H. YOURSELF

Laser Provision

In this series, I have encouraged you to make Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, andTimely choices as to your goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties. When you do that, you dramatically increase your chances for success and satisfaction in life and work. But it’s not enough for your goals to be S.M.A.R.T. They also need to be Stimulating, Transformational,Reinforcing, Exciting, Targeted, Chosen, and Hopeful. Those are the energy dynamics that will make S.M.A.R.T. goals work for you. Read on to learn how.

LifeTrek Provision

One of the seminars that I have developed and enjoy facilitating is called “Stress Proof Your Life.” The title and, to some extent, the content was developed in reference to something called “rust proofing” which is done to cars (or at least used to be done to cars) in colder climates that are likely to suffer high rates of corrosion due to the salt and chemicals used on the roads during the winter months.

“Rust proofing” involves four protections: (1) Research & Development (R&D), where scientists and engineers conduct experiments both in the lab and on the road to discover and develop materials that are corrosion resistant. The process of R&D is ongoing, as ever more corrosion-resistant materials are discovered and developed. The protection of R&D is universal, as corrosion-resistant materials get incorporated into the manufacturing specifications before vehicles are shipped and sold.

After-market protections, available to consumers but not universally utilized, include (2) coating the external parts, (3) coating the internal parts, and (4) moving to a warmer climate where there are less salt and chemicals used on the roads during the winter months. Options (2), (3), and (4) are progressively more expensive. Coating the external parts takes no more work than spraying what can be easily seen and reached. Coating the internal parts requires the drilling and plugging of holes in order to get to those hard-to-reach places; it also requires the use of significantly more sealant.

The ultimate protection, of course, is to move to a less-toxic environment, where many people have never even heard of nor considered using “rust proofing.” It would be a waste of money, because under such conditions the cars are factory-ready to wear out before they rust out.

The point of “rust proofing” is not to prevent rust • that happens universally, even in warmer climates; the point of “rust proofing” is to slow down the process of rusting in order to extend the life of the car. In addition to extending the life of the car, “rust proofing” also improves the appearance, safety, and functionality of cars. Long ago I can remember owning and driving a car with a rusted-out hole in the floor of the driver’s seat. Thanks to my floor mat and careful foot placement, my foot never went through the floor while driving down the highway! If the car had been more rust-resistant, however, that problem would never have developed in the first place.

My seminar on “Stress Proofing Your Life” works with all four protections to slow down the process of stressing out in life and work. We consider how to adopt an R&D mindset, how to develop healthy routines, how to get emotional support, and how to design healthy environments. By the end of the seminar, most participants have had some fun (always a good thing when it comes to stress reduction) and have learned a few new techniques for preventing and managing stress. Let me know if you would like to learn more about bringing this seminar to your organization or workplace Click.

This past week, I had the opportunity to share this seminar with a group of high school teachers who, like many others in American public education, are pretty stressed out when it comes to juggling not only the demands in their personal and professional lives but also the dynamics of working with students who are themselves pretty stressed out. No one is at their best under these conditions, which made our topic both timely and engaging. Are there ways to “stress proof your life,” other than to move to a warmer climate (that is, to leave public education altogether)? By the end of our time together, people had some glimmers as to how that might be possible.

One of the keys was the honest and empathic sharing that we did with each other throughout the workshop. There is precious little time for people to connect with each other in this way (in any workplace let alone in the pressure cooker of public education); the mere fact that we set aside and took that time was a supportive act that made people feel better. Even the person who was operating on two hours of sleep managed to stay awake! That’s because we were speaking from and to the heart about things that matter.

We actually ran out of time before we were able to talk about designing healthy environments. We spent most of our time giving each other empathy and discussing ways to change both our mindsets and our routines so that life and work would be less stressful. Progress was made and a good time was had by one and all. I ended the workshop by challenging them to make these mindsets and routines a regular part of their daily lives. It doesn’t help to go on a diet for a day; it’s the consistent application of lessons learned that makes the difference between success and failure, between satisfaction and disappointment.

In setting forth this challenge, I was, in effect, asking these teachers to implement all of the suggestions around Changing for Good that we have considered in the past few weeks. I wanted them to make Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely choices as to their goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties. The more they can break things down into achievable steps, “baby steps” as many coaches like to call them, the closer they will come to their vision of less-stressful and more-satisfying lives.

To make S.M.A.R.T. choices, these teachers began in the right place. By giving each other empathy and then by getting educated as to how stress works, what it does to health, and how we can stress-proof our lives, these teachers had both their consciousness and their capacity raised for change. Until we know what we don’t know, there’s no way to design the learning experiments that go on in the R&D lab of life. Once we know what we don’t know, we can move ourselves forward more quickly and easily than most people suspect.

That is my hope for these teachers. I hope they will continue to give each other empathy and to develop the mindsets, routines, and environments that will make them more successful. For that to happen, however, their choices, goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties need to be more than just S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely). They also need to S.T.R.E.T.C.H. themselves in order to master both the motivation and mechanisms for change.

That may sound like a contradiction in terms when it comes to stress-proofing your life. When you’re already maxed out in terms of all the balls you’re trying to juggle and all the people you have to consider, how could it be good to S.T.R.E.T.C.H. yourself any further? The key lies in the acronym itself. S.M.A.R.T. goals work only when they are Stimulating, Transformational,Reinforcing, Exciting, Targeted, Chosen, and Hopeful. I know that’s how we left things at the end of our workshop, so let’s consider each in kind:

— Stimulating. Let’s face it: if the thought of doing something doesn’t stimulate you, you’re probably not going to do it. That’s as true for stress-proofing as it is for anything else. Ironically, “stimulation” is my definition of stress. The key is to find the sweet spot of stimulation where the load is balanced to your capacity. Neither too much nor too little will get the job done. Both overload and underload just add stress to the mix. Trying new strategies that are just within reach, however, will give us the quick wins needed to keep moving forward.

— Transformational. Goals can be S.M.A.R.T. without moving us into new territory. When that happens they’re not much good. We don’t need goals to keep doing what we are already doing. We need goals to go where we have never or at least seldom gone before. S.M.A.R.T. goals kick that up a notch, assisting us to boldly go where we have never or at least seldom gone before. They change both our self-concept and our capacity by introducing us to new ideas, patterns, and possibilities.

— Reinforcing. This is the one that I look and yearn for with all my coaching clients. I want S.M.A.R.T. goals that build upon themselves in a spiral dynamic of improved performance, learning, and satisfaction. S.M.A.R.T. goals that work become easier rather than harder to maintain over time. If they move in the opposite direction, or if we abandon them altogether, then they probably weren’t very S.M.A.R.T. in the first place. Time to come up with new goals! When we catch one that works, the wind will fill our sails and move us forward.

— Exciting. Can you remember being with someone who just figured out a S.M.A.R.T. routine that is really working for them? Perhaps they have figured out how to eat differently in order to lose weight, how to exercise differently in order to improve their fitness, or how to quit smoking. What do these people have in common? They usually can’t stop talking about their newfound commitments and practices. There’s nothing worse, they say, than a reformed smoker.  That’s because they are so excited, a common trait among those who have adopted S.M.A.R.T. goals.

— Targeted. Targeted is what we get when we combine Specific and Relevant. It’s already implied by the acronym for S.M.A.R.T. goals, but Targeted makes clear the intent: we target the possibilities with the most likelihood of moving us forward in the direction we want to go. Such is the Holy Grail of all great solutions. They work on exactly what they need to work on, without negative side effects. It doesn’t help to decrease stress in one area of life only to increase stress in another area. We need targeted solutions that work.

— Chosen. We spoke to this last week in terms of S.M.A.R.T. choices Click. It bears repeating. S.M.A.R.T. goals are only S.M.A.R.T. if they are intrinsically motivated. It doesn’t matter how many other people have made something work, if you are being forced, told, coerced, or manipulated into doing something your life will be miserable in the pursuit of S.M.A.R.T. goals. That, in fact, lies behind the art of great coaching. A relationship gets built and conversations happen that warm up people to the possibility of change. Eventually, when the time is right, people make the choice to try something new.

— Hopeful. When that choice is right, it fills people with hope. That is one of things I listen for in my work with individuals and organizations. Where is the hope? What is stirring inside people? What wants to be said that can interrupt old patterns of thinking, being, and doing and instigate new patterns of thinking, being, and doing? S.M.A.R.T. goals fill people with hope. If you despair of your ability to realize your goals, then they are not S.M.A.R.T. and they will not stretch you in helpful ways.

So that’s what I mean when I write that we need to S.T.R.E.T.C.H. ourselves with S.M.A.R.T. goals. Yes, they need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. But they also need to be Stimulating, Transformational, Reinforcing, Exciting, Targeted, Chosen, and Hopeful. With that mix of attributes, just about anyone can change for good.

Coaching Inquiries: What is the energy in your life right now? Is it on the upswing or on the downswing? What is happening in terms of your own stress? How could you move into the zone of perfect stress, where you suffer from neither overload nor underload? Who do you know who seems to do a good job managing their stress? When could you talk with them to learn about their mindsets, routines, supports, and environments?

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 think you will enjoy this quote by Steven Woodhull: “You’ve got a lot of choices. If getting out of bed in the morning is a chore and you’re not smiling on a regular basis, try another choice.” (Ed. Note: That’s a perfect summary of the R&D mindset, discussed in today’s Provision. Thanks!)


Are there any classes in Ohio to be a life coach? I would love to have any info you may on this. Thank you. (Ed. Note: Most coach-training programs are not geographically based; for starters, I would review the listings available at the ICF Website Click.) 



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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