Provision #614: Vital Rhythms

Laser Provision

Today we conclude our series on life-giving needs. I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned a lot over the past 10  weeks. When we started, I was not exactly sure how to understand or describe needs. I certainly didn’t appreciate the dynamic and, at times, dichotomous ways in which needs are related to each other. Seeing them now, laid out as they are on the Wheel of Needs, I’ve come to grasp that meeting needs is more a matter of rhythm than balance. Fortunately, that’s a whole lot easier and fun. Read on to see if you agree.

LifeTrek Provision


There’s a standing joke that my business and coaching clients always end up buying multiple domain names on their way to establishing a successful brand identity and business model. That’s because I, myself, am an URL junkie. I currently own 45 URLs, although some are scheduled to expire this year. Many of those URLs are active, either as separate websites or as pointing to our main website, www.lifetrekcoaching.com. Others are being held in reserve, with plans to roll them out as we develop new initiatives and program areas.

Of the 12 URLs that are active, pointing to our main website, two have relevance to today’s Provision: www.vitalbalances.com and www.vitalrhythms.com. No matter which one you click on they go to the same place, but the implications of the two concepts are quite different. Think seesaw or teeter-totter. Have you ever stood on top of a seesaw, right in the middle at the pivot point, and tried to maintain your balance? Most of us probably have, so most of us probably know the difficulty. At first it may go alright, but then one side dips down, so we compensate to the other, and then back again until we tire out and give up.

That’s what makes tightrope walkers so spellbinding. Everyone knows how challenging it is to maintain one’s balance under such conditions. Doing that on a high wire without a net is truly death-defying. Such acts are a staple of circuses and acrobats precisely because no ordinary person has the skill or temerity to attempt them. They strike a vital balance because the risk is great.

Falling off a high wire can easily lead to injury or even death. It is vital that acrobats maintain their balance. At least three factors contribute to that ability: strength, equipment, and practice. Acrobats are some of the strongest athletes around precisely because so much is at stake in their performances. The right equipment is equally essential, especially since it can sometimes make the balancing act easier than it looks.

But no quantity of strength and no quality of gear will mean much of anything without practice. So they start on a low wire and work the routine, over and over again, until they become confident enough to raise the wire. More practice leads to an even higher wire. Eventually, with enough practice, they’re ready for the big show. It’s thrilling, albeit exceptional, to see such balancing acts up close and personal. That’s certainly part of what draws people, for example, to the Cirque du Soleil: there’s just enough danger to astonish and amaze.

There is, fortunately, an easier and less dangerous way to achieve vitality. Stand on top of that seesaw again, right in the middle at the pivot point, and imagine producing the following rhythm: touch down on one side, clap your hands two times, then touch down on the other side, and clap your hands two times again. How difficult does that sound? Most us will probably admit that rhythms are easier to maintain, and a lot more fun, than balance. They still take strength and the right equipment, but the human body is much better suited for repetitive movements than stationary balance.

Especially when we involve other people. Put two people on the ends of that seesaw and the rhythms become a whole lot more effortless, varied, and fun. We can keep them going a lot longer, do more with them, and laugh out loud as we go up and down together. Just writing about it makes me want to seesaw again soon.

I bring all this up because we are at the end of our series on life-giving needs. Over the past 10 weeks we have explored 10 universal needs that form the basis of human vitality. I arranged those needs on a circular diagram called the Wheel of Needs, paying attention to the relationship of both adjacent and opposite needs on the wheel. When all those needs are being met, we feel vitalized, happy, invigorated, animated, spirited, and good. When one or more of those needs are not being met, we feel disquieted, angry, lethargic, dull, apathetic, and bad.

That’s why vitality lies at the center of the wheel. These needs are all important, all the time. So how do we get them met? To read the self-help literature, one would think it’s a matter of balance. How often have you heard or read about:

  • achieving work / life balance
  • eating a balanced diet
  • living a well-balanced life
  • feeling out of balance
  • bringing things back into balance
  • balancing family, work, and service
  • balancing life’s priorities
  • striking the right balance at work

I’m sure we could add many more aspirations to the list when it comes to balance. I know, because the quest for balance is one of the things that keeps the coaching profession alive, even during a recession. People are being told that they should be thankful just because they have a job, regardless of how difficult, impossible, or abusive that job may be. That rationale may work for a while, perhaps because the job is meeting our needs for security, but then, inevitably, the needs that are not being met command our attention. Perhaps we need more assistance, more connection, more honesty, more skill, or more challenge. Whatever may be the dynamics, we cannot go for long without an adjustment.

That’s when people call for coaching, and they often frame their goal as one of getting into balance. When that happens, LifeTrek coaches assist people to reframe their goal as one of getting into a rhythm. Although all needs are important all the time, that does mean we can evenly balance the meeting of all needs all the time. Like standing still on the pivot point of a seesaw, that approach is tiring and unsustainable. It fails to recognize the divergent energy of needs. We need both safety and challenge, for example, but we don’t get to have both of them in equal balance at the same time. Instead, we take turns, like going up and down on a seesaw, generating a rhythm that is ultimately satisfying, productive, and fun.

Clients often experience a huge relief and a surge of energy when they let go of the notion of balance. Developing rhythms that generate vitality is so much easier and more sustainable. There are times, for example, when we work so hard that we fail to fully meet our needs for rest or community. If our goal was balance, such times might occasion a lot of guilt and shame. We are, after all, sacrificing some of our needs.

But if our goal is rhythm we can have a very different conversation with ourselves, with our coaches, and with those we love. If we are over delivering on our need for work, then when will the pendulum swing back in the other direction, so that we over deliver on our needs for rest and community? Vitality lies in getting all our needs fully met often enough to qualify as a rhythm. And that can be a very stimulating conversation indeed.

All sorts of people over work, promising themselves and their loved ones that they’ll soon be able take some time off, to recover, and to connect emotionally. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” is an all-too-familiar refrain. “Just wait until I get this project off my plate! Then I’ll get to your football game. Then we’ll take some vacation. Then I’ll go see the doctor.” But the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be just another bend, and the end never comes, and the needs never get met.

That is not a vital rhythm! A vital rhythm goes up and down, around and around, with sufficient regularity and pacing as to be life-sustaining and life-giving. When asked, we can describe these rhythms. We can say what we do, and when we do it, to meet our needs for subsistence and transcendence, for safety and challenge, for work and rest, for honesty and empathy, for autonomy and community on a regular basis. We know when to say “Yes” and when to say “No.” We don’t promise to get around to it and then fail to keep our promise. We maintain our rhythms without fail, not as obligations but as opportunities to live and to live fully.

Such is my hope for each of us in these challenging times. Let us not be deterred or derailed from our vital rhythms. Let us rather push off and drop down like we were on a seesaw with friends, laughing, having fun, and taking care of the things that give us life.

Coaching Inquiries: What things give you life? When you look at the 10 needs on the Wheel of Needs, which ones are you meeting more regularly? Which ones are you meeting less regularly? How you could you develop new, life-giving rhythms? Who could you talk with about what this might look like? Where are the life-giving coaches in your 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 to arrange a complimentary conversation. To learn more about LifeTrek Coaching programs, Click Here.

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..


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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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