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Wise up! How to grow wiser as you age

On "revisioning" and the PIERS whole-self model

[An earlier version of this Tips from Tom's inbox post appeared in our weekly newsletter.]

This post sprang from three email newsletters that I opened on the same day. They all contain ideas that approach growth and development from different angles and inspired me to put a new name to the process I use in my coaching work: revisioning.


Is "revisioning" even a word?

Well, neither of my Webster's (1st and 3rd) list it, though the online Oxford site offers it as a noun and an adjective. They treat it as a form of the root word "revision" without adding much to the meaning. Of course, you know by now that I prefer verb forms, even if I have to manufacture my own. 😎

My meaning for revisioning derives from breaking it down into two overlapping words, revision, or its verb form revise:

re•vise | verb
1. to look over again in order to correct or improve
2. to make a new, amended, improved, or up-to-date version of

And visioning, with its lesser used verb form of vision (here and here):

vi•sion | verb
to imagine; envision

Putting those admittedly cherry-picked meanings together, I can define my Revisioning Process as:

Looking again at one or more aspects of our lives or work, imagining how we can correct and improve them, and then doing the work to make a new, improved version.

I emphasize that word "again" in defining my revisioning process, because I see this as something we need to do over and over.

Because . . . change. We change, age, learn, connect. The world around us changes, and at an ever-increasing pace, it seems. So what we've been, or what we've been doing, no longer works.

Scroll back up to the image above and spend a few moments marveling with me at the range of verbs we have for implementing change (noun), even as we can include the verb form of change among them.

(For why we're more likely then ever to change the work we find meaningful over time — I labeled the notion of a single, lifelong work role "Buddha's Blunder" — see How to apply Buddha's Wisdom in the 21st century.)


Mind your PIERS and Qs

While it may be common to think of, or seek, coaching when a person is considering a career change or a team is stuck on a major project, I find it essential to invest some time early in the relationship exploring my PIERS Whole-Self Model. It's quite common for the problem we think we need help with to have one or more other, related, or even root causes that should be addressed.

In medicine, for example, you might feel pain in your arm or leg that your doctor diagnoses as "reflected" from a pinched nerve root along your spine. Similarly, the root cause of being dissatisfied or stuck at work may be lurking at home or in your physical health.

The "PIERS" acronym refers to the idea that our overall well-being is supported by several aspects, like the piers (pillars or columns) supporting a bridge.

The letters themselves stand for five wellness aspects of our whole selves:

  • P - physical
  • I - intellectual
  • E - emotional
  • R - relational
  • S - spiritual

These aspects are recognized in varied terminology across a variety of teachings I've studied, from Michael Hyatt's "Best Year Ever" planning program, to books like Mark Devine's The Way of the SEAL, Halley Bock's Life, incorporated, Timothy Butler's Getting Unstuck, and William Bridges' The Way of Transition.

And one of the beauties of this set of initials is how flexible they become for reordering the focus of your revisioning. One of the key teachings is that we often get ourselves in trouble by focusing too much energy and attention for too long on one aspect. For example, spending most of our waking hours on our job for months or years (which may satisfy our intellectual aspect) can cause our physical health and our relationships with family to suffer.

In my case, during a year-end planning retreat with Yvonne, we used the Hyatt program and in that particular year the order of aspects I decided I needed to "revision" happened to fall into the PIERS acronym. By October, I had changed my fitness habits enough to run my first half-marathon!

But your ordering might be entirely different. As I continued developing my own coaching method around these wholeness concepts, I quickly realized that these initials can form usable acronyms in almost any order: SPIRE, ESPRI, RESIP, IPRES, RIPES, and so on.

How do we find the right order for you? That's where minding the Qs comes in.

As I mentioned above, this TfTi was inspired by those three newsletters that I opened on Monday and the reason for grouping them together comes down to the useful questions they raised. For example, Jeff Bullas reprised a blog post on the 10 Daily Life Habits of Happy and Successful People and started out with a series of questions about the definition of success (yes, I've written a bunch about that, too).

His answer might sound repetitive:

"... true happiness and success lies within. More stuff doesn’t mean more happiness it just means more anxiety and more insurance.

"The internal measures of success that include happiness, good relationships, feeling fit and healthy and being in control of your life are what we strive for every day."

He then asks the "ultimate" question that his post is meant to answer:

"So what habits produce that sometimes elusive sense of success?"

I'll leave you to go read all ten, but can't help noting his #4, the habit of continuous learning, in which he quotes Stephen King:

"You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself."

Hence my preference for calling myself a "guide dog" rather than a coach. You can't entirely avoid using the term coach for marketing purposes, but I always go back to that old saw about the best speakers being "a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage." 

Then I read through Matt Homan's Monday Morning Meeting that's chock-full of great questions and ideas. His first entry talks about the challenges of mentoring remotely (which includes most coaching these days) and advises:

"Ask questions that go progressively deeper into the experiences, feelings, and life or career dreams of both the mentee and mentor, so you can feel a level of closeness and similarity."

How else will we uncover those often hidden connections between the problem that brought you to a coach and those other aspects of life that may need tending in order to fully address the problem?

Some more great questions and nuggets from this edition of Matt's newsletter:

"Does working in sweatpants unleash employee superpowers?

"To become a better learner, be an explorer, not a tourist ... The explorer walks out into the streets, roams broadly, and talks to new people to establish their own maps of the city. The explorer learns and retains much more from the experience.

"One way to make a company [or a person] future-ready: try new stuff faster.

"Don’t be the smartest person in the room; be the most curious ... Leaders who are learn-it-all’s ... seek out differing perspectives and surround themselves with people who are smarter than them; all because they know they don’t know everything.

"I love this question to ask teams [and individuals]: 'What is holding you back from doing the best work of your lives?' "

And finally, I came to another of Chip Conley's Wisdom Well pieces, this one his homage to Peter Drucker, opening with the question, "Why do I admire this man, who passed away at age 95 back in 2005?"

His answer echoes Homan's advice to be the most curious person in the room:

"Peter Drucker epitomized the ultimate “modern elder,” someone as curious as he was wise.

"In fact, Peter Drucker believed that curiosity was the elixir of life."

Once again, Conley shares with us a sampling of questions derived from Drucker's curiosity-driven repertoire:

"If you were not already engaged in a particular activity, knowing what you know presently, would you start doing it now, based on your experience/results?"

"What business are we in?"

"What mastery can I offer?"

And then, touching on my core belief that it's never too late to start something new, or start over altogether, Conley closes with:

"Finally, Drucker showed us that later life could be a time of great generativity, which he proved by writing two-thirds of his 40 books after 65."

Raising the question for all of us, "What will my next ______ be?"

And here's a profound bonus Q that came in James Clear's 3-2-1 newsletter a few days after I had scheduled this missive to send:

"If someone took control of your life tomorrow, what's the first thing they would change?"

That's a question we could profit by asking it of ourselves on a regular basis. And focusing it on each of the five PIERS aspects. 

I'd add, imagine the person taking control is someone whose wisdom and concern for your well-being you can trust completely. Then, follow through by asking why they would change that one thing?

And why haven't you?


Were you curious about "Ps and Qs"?

As I wrote that "PIERS and Qs" subheading above, playing off the expression "mind your Ps and Qs", I was already wondering where the heck it came from. In case you're nerdy enough to share that need to know, what I found on Wikipedia was a paradoxical mix of disappointment (nobody really knows) and delight (the speculative answers are fun).

Here are my two favorite possibilities:

"One explanation favoured in a letter to the editors of Notes and Queries dated 1851, is a literal interpretation of the saying, regarding possible confusion between the lowercase letters p and q in schoolwork or typesetting."

I love the notion that it could have something to do with book layout and production!

But then again, it could also have something to do with — drumroll — beer:

"Another proposal from the English pubs and taverns of the 17th century: bartenders would keep watch over the pints and quarts consumed by the patrons, telling them to "mind their Ps and Qs" ... This may also have been a reminder to bartenders not to confuse the two units, written as "p" and "q" on the tally slate."