Provision #548: The Five Factors

Laser Provision

For the past five months we have considered five factors of benevolence: empathy, giving, reciprocity, honesty, and the environment. Each represents a critical piece of the puzzle if we hope to experience Optimal Wellness. That may seem strange, since we usually think of wellness in terms of nutrition and fitness. But it’s so much more than those two arenas and even those two arenas take benevolence in order to come to fruition. If you haven’t understood the connection before, then this Provision will make it clear. Enjoy!

LifeTrek Provision


Although I received Bill Clinton’s book titled Giving as a Christmas gift from my daughter-in-law, this Provision and this Provision series started long before Bill Clinton profiled some great givers in his book and issued his call for everyone to join their ranks. It is, indeed, an ancient truth that no one makes it through life alone and that only through generosity will we experience the best life has to offer.

That goes for every dimension of human experience: our own well being hinges on the well being of others. In so far as our generosity • of time, talent, and treasure • anchors us in a community of generosity, our life and the lives of others will be the better for it. What goes around comes around, as they say, so why not pass around the things that make life better for one and all?

Almost 60 years ago, Malvina Reynolds (best known, perhaps, for her song “Little Boxes,” made famous by Pete Seeger), wrote the children’s song “Magic Penny” while her daughter was at a junior high school dance in 1949. The lyrics speak to the power of giving as well today as they did then:

Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

It’s just like a magic penny,
Hold it tight and you won’t have any.
Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many
They’ll roll all over the floor.

For love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

Money’s dandy and we like to use it,
But love is better if you don’t refuse it.
It’s a treasure and you’ll never lose it
Unless you lock up your door.

For love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

So let’s go dancing till the break of day,
And if there’s a piper, we can pay.
For love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

For love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

That’s one of those songs that I used to play and sing on the guitar that I will soon replace, as a way to relax, have some fun, and be reminded of what makes life more wonderful (see last week’s Provision on The Environment Factor). As a kid, I thought of this song as appertaining only to relationships. What is love, after all, if it’s not “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person”? Give that away, and you will certainly end up having more.

But that is only the first definition of love in the dictionary. A quick check reveals at least 64 more overlapping entries! For our purposes, entry 9 at Dictionary.com is most intriguing: “affectionate concern for the well-being of others.” Put that into the Magic Penny song and here’s what you get:

Well-being is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Well-being is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

It’s just like a magic penny,
Hold it tight and you won’t have any.
Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many
They’ll roll all over the floor.

Money’s dandy and we like to use it,
But well-being is better if you don’t refuse it.
It’s a treasure and you’ll never lose it
Unless you lock up your door.

For well-being is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Well-being is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

That’s the connection we’ve been seeking to make for the past five months between benevolence and Optimal Wellness. Until we all become well no one will be well, because the pressures against lone individuals are just too great. Bill Clinton gets it right when he writes:

“The modern world, for all its blessings, is unequal, unstable, and unsustainable. And so the great mission of the early twenty-first century is to move our neighborhoods, our nation, and the world toward integrated communities of shared opportunities, shared responsibilities, and a shared sense of genuine belonging, based on the essence of every successful community: that our common humanity is more important than our interesting differences.”

In other words, the essence of every successful community is benevolence. What works for the community works for the individual and vice-versa. If we hope to be healthy and well, then we need communities that are healthy and well. And that, to quote yet another song lyric, begins with me. The more benevolent we become in our dealings with others, the more benevolent others and even our communities become in their dealings with us. Well-being is all a great circle of love.

So over the past five months I’ve suggested that we pay attention to five factors, each of which have their part to play in the benevolent field of Optimal Wellness. In case you missed them, here’s a quick review:

  1. The Empathy Factor. We spent a lot of time here, because empathy is where it starts and ends when it comes to benevolence. Apart from the willingness and ability to respectfully understand the feelings and needs of others, there will be no connection, caring, or community. Empathy is not only a prelude to action, it is an action in its own right and it carries its own weight when it comes to Optimal Wellness. There is no way to be well without empathy.That’s why my wife and I have gotten so excited about learning the process for expressing empathy known as Nonviolent Communication. Empathy is not just an aptitude that each of us, along with many other animals, are born with. It is also a framework that we can adopt and a skill that we can learn in order to enhance our connection, caring, and community with others. When that happens, we become better beings than we were before.
  2. The Generosity Factor. The more connection we feel the more contribution we make. The two go hand in hand. Connection itself, as we have already noted, is a form of contribution. And it leads to other contributions as well. That’s why I included the story of our friend, Jennifer, who at the age of 50 recently adopted three children, all siblings, from a Russian orphanage, as well as excerpts from my wife’s diary during the week she went to Russia, to assist Jennifer to bring those children to her home in Chicago. Both the adoption and my wife’s trip were examples of empathy in action.First, I interviewed Jennifer to get a sense of where this was coming from for her. Then, I let my wife speak for herself as to her motivation (Jennifer needed help!) and experience. With a few hiccups along the way, they made it there and back in fine fashion and the kids • who I met for the first time over the holidays • seem to be truly happy and well in the wake of all that generous giving. I don’t fully know what their lives were like before, but I do know that the empathy they now receive is having many positive effects on their well being.
  3. The Reciprocity Factor. Humans are not the only animals who notice, remember, and reciprocate those caring acts of empathy and giving. Although we hesitate to make that our motivation, because it seems self-serving and manipulative, there’s no denying that we tend to reach out to those who reach out to us. It’s called friendship, and it’s another important factor when it comes to benevolence. If we fail to reciprocate, then the penny loses its magic and the circle stops going round.Fortunately, that’s not the way life works. We are born with the tendency to smile at those who smile at us. Keeping that in mind, then, it becomes easy to make benevolence our way in the world. The more we give, the more we receive; the more we reciprocate, the more we have to appreciate. Be sure to come from that framework and to practice that skill as well.
  4. The Honesty Factor. I’m not sure I would have framed the fourth benevolence factor in terms of honesty had it not been for the panic attack I experienced in early December. The attack sent me to the ER while I was visiting friends in Waco, Texas, with all the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Fortunately, my heart was just fine, thank you, but the experience left me confused, concerned, and self-conscious. If I didn’t have a physical problem, then where did this come from? It seemed to strange to start having psychological problems in my 50s. My needs for understanding, integrity, and wholeness were not being met.I was at first tempted to keep the whole thing to myself, as though it was an embarrassment for a whole life coach to have anything less than a whole life. But true to form, as a man with no unpublished thoughts, I decided to share my experience, feelings, and needs with not only my friends and family but also with you • the 50,000 readers of LifeTrek Provisions. How’s that for coming out of the closet! I’m sure glad I did, because the empathy and information you provided has been invaluable.

    That’s the way honesty works when it’s about feelings and needs rather than opinions and strategies. Tell someone your opinion as to what you think of them and / or what they should do, and you’re likely to end up in a tug-of-war or worse. Tell someone your feelings and needs, without judgment or hidden agendas, and you’re likely to experience benevolence in their response. That’s the way it worked for me and that’s the way it can work for you.

  5. The Community Factor. Finally, we made clear the connection • like Bill Clinton in his book • between individual action and environmental conditions. If we hope to experience the fullness of well being, then both have to work together in synergistic ways. By paying attention not only to how we carry ourselves in the world, as individuals, but also to how we can design better communities, in every sense of the word, we dramatically improve the odds when it comes to Optimal Wellness. Will-power and self-discipline are necessary but not sufficient to carry us through to victory. We also need communities that support our best intentions, every step of the way.Designing environments is one of the great works of coaching. I wrote about that in our series on Changing for Good. We are not therapists trying to figure out what’s going on with the psyches of our clients. We are coaches trying to brainstorm ideas with our clients that will assist them to move forward. Often, those ideas focus as much on the environment as they do on the individual. It is only when individuals and their communities are in concert that all things become possible.

I hope that gives you a sense of both why we have spent so long on benevolence in a series on health and wellness as well as what benevolence looks like when it comes to both self-care and the care of others. Paying attention to the five factors will make all of life easier and better • including such seemingly mundane things as our nutrition and fitness programs. These programs are not ends in themselves; they are, rather, the means to a more wonderful life. I urge you to make it so.

Coaching Inquiries: How do the five factors of benevolence play into your life and work? Can you recall any stories as to how empathy, giving, reciprocity, honesty, and/or environments have assisted you to be the person you want to be? What commitments could you make that would take these factors forward into the week ahead? What actions could you take that someone else would notice?

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 Form or Email Bob.


I find that very often the things that are most helpful in the lives of others and therefore bring me the most satisfaction in life are not the things that come naturally for me. My body wearies of certain tasks I am called upon to do – for instance, delivering sermons. I am by nature introverted. Very often I am so physically drained after delivering three sermons that I feel like sleeping all day Monday. Yet it is this very function that seems to be the work that the majority of people I serve benefit the most from. I am aware of the pressure these Provisions bring to your life, but you are gifted in writing week after week something refreshing. God bless you in it!


I have enjoyed your newsletter for some time now. I realize that you have a lot on your plate right now, but for some reason, I feel compelled to introduce you to the following Humanitarian Organization. It may or may not resonate with you at this moment, but I’m sure you will hear more and more about it as it unfolds. You may learn more at www.hubhub.org. Another wonderful site that just came to mind is www.whatsuponplanetearth.com. Karen is wonderful at providing insight into what vibrational frequencies may lie behind many of the experiences that are manifesting in our lives. Enjoy!


Greetings • hope your new year is off to a glorious start! I am brand new to the coaching profession. One of my classmates and colleagues at Coach U introduced me to your poem •Passion.• For me it beautifully captures the essence of the spirit of life, as well as what I hope to bring to coaching and to my clients. Therefore, I would like to ask if I may use the poem in my marketing materials; namely, in a bookmark and a brochure? (Ed. Note: Permission granted! Just be sure to reference it back to me and www.LifeTrekCoaching.com. Thanks and best wishes on the adventure of coaching.) 



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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