Last week my partner and I spent several days up in Northumbria staying in a small bed and breakfast right on Hadrian’s Wall. On the second day we decided to walk the five miles to the nearby Housesteads Fort following the route of the wall. Predictably perhaps, the weather decided to make things just a little more challenging for us that day and as a result we ended up battling through driving winds and temperatures very nearly at freezing point. The rain had done its preliminary job of saturating the ground through the previous night so it was no time at all before we were getting bogged down in glutinous mud that came over our ankles as we negotiated the harsh rocky terrain.
As we struggled over, through and around that terrain and my partner described the environment around us as well as the breathtaking views all along the route I got to thinking about how we as human beings not only have to overcome obstacles and barriers throughout our lives, but also how we create them.
More specifically I was thinking about those that we create for ourselves that prevent us from achieving what we want to. Naturally there are those that we consciously put in place marking our boundaries and setting the extreme borders of our personalities; but what about those that we subconsciously put in place?
When thinking about self created obstacles I was considering examples like:
– The individual who wants to work their way up the ladder of seniority in their work but makes or finds excuses as to why they cannot go for that promotion they have always wanted.
– The individual who doesn’t have confidence in themselves or their abilities and has anxiety around making themselves heard, therefore creating an obstacle from their own shyness or fear.
On the surface these examples do of course appear to be more conscious obstacles, but those conscious obstacles more often than not have deeper root causes.
It can often be very difficult to get to the bottom of these root causes with a client, but ultimately that extra discussion and exploration can uncover multiple reasons for the given issue to have manifested.
I then thought about what obstacles and barriers can mean to different people. To most they will mean physical or mental things that slow a person down, something that is difficult to get through, around or over or something that can be intimidating as well as seeming impossible to face. Does this mean these obstacles are insurmountable?
I come across examples much like the ones I have used above regularly in my Coaching and I invariably ask my clients almost the same couple of questions each time. “How do you think you could find the courage to face these obstacles?” and “What do you think could help you overcome these obstacles?”
Almost always the response is the same or similar. “I don’t know” or “I was hoping you could tell me.”
Now, as my partner and I slipped and tripped and scrambled over that terrain along the route of the wall I thought how much I’m like my clients and my clients are like me. Not as silly as at first you might think.
I am blind and so to navigate successfully over that terrain I needed the help and support of someone I trust. Not to walk the route for me you understand, but to help me discover the best path for me and my particular needs. After all, my partner wasn’t carrying me, I trod the path myself.
In the same way (although metaphorically of course) my clients have the same handicap as I do in the way there is fear of the unknown; perhaps they don’t have the confidence or do not have the bravery to embark upon such a path alone, and ultimately are as blind as I am because they cannot see what is over the crest of the next hill.
So it is since making that slightly odd (but in my opinion, very relevant) metaphorical observation that I intend to use that walking experience in my Coaching to encourage clients to explore their fears and anxieties and to help them find the root issues that cause them to create their subconscious obstacles.
I would like to leave you with something to think about before I go.
Imagine yourself if you will, in the situation I was in on that long cold windy walk over incredibly wet, steep and rocky ground and see if you can apply that metaphorically to a part of your life that you are struggling with right now. It can be your home life, your work life or your student life.
Now consider how you feel at the beginning of the “walk”, how you could improve that feeling or indeed who might be able to help you feel better about it. Also think about what you are likely to find particularly difficult over the route of the “walk” and consider what or who might lessen that difficulty or help get you over that particularly high and nasty looking hill strewn with rocks. Now think about how you will feel when you get to your destination knowing what you have just gone through.
Feels good, doesn’t it?
AoEC Accredited Associate Executive Coach.
Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching.