A Coaching Power Tool Created by Nick Bolton
(Executive Coach, UNITED KINGDOM)
The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before it always leads me here
Leads me to your door
The Long and Winding Road by Paul Mccartney & John Lennon
Almost every experience we encounter is woven into the fabric of our life history, our personal narrative, our story – call it what you will.
We build a sense of journey that makes sense of our own personal history of the world around us. And whether it’s the behaviour of others, our own responses, the results we get in life, the obstacles we face or something else we often find the
long and winding road…always leads me here.
Clients (in fact, people the world over!) often get caught up in describing an experience as though it were a fixed truth that any observer could say,
yes, she’s right, that’s exactly how it happened in every detail!
Yet, we’ve all experienced hearing something described by someone else that we too have witnessed and thought to ourselves,
What??? It was nothing like that? Were we watching the same thing?
In other words our stories are just that – stories that make sense of things but are not in themselves true.
I recall many years ago working with a client who was very well-known in the personal development world and she had just gone through a bitter divorce. She was fuming about her husband and said,
He’s a horrible man! He has no redeeming feature and I don’t know how I put up with him so long! He’s a truly terrible man!
I asked her gently,
If I described him like that to him would he recognize himself and say, yes, she’s got me dead right? Of course not!
So how do you know you’re right in this situation? How can you be so sure you see him right?
The stories we tell ourselves shape our experience of the past, they colour our present and they scatter their meanings across our expectation for the future.
But what about the Truth? Is this something we can reach? Is this the Holy Grail of knowing? Is it the opposite of the Story?
Well, I suspect that, if it exists at all, it does so outside of our reachable experience and no amount of coaching will reveal a final truth. Rather, like a Platonic Form, its proposed existence simply reminds us that what we’re experiencing isn’t it, isn’t the truth! In other words, our story is never true in and of itself.
So, to confess – my Power Tool is not a choice between two possibilities but rather a rather between an inevitability and an impossibility!
There is no choice between Story and Truth. There is simply the choice between one story and another with the Truth that’s unreachable reminding us that whatever we tell ourselves is only ever interpretation.
For me as a coach, I am less interested in the story itself and more in what it reveals about the mental paradigms the client is working from that lead to the existence of their particular unique story.
This, in essence, is what the emerging field of collaborative-narrative coaching is all about. It’s about recognizing that we are always constructing and co-constructing meaning in a certain context and that changes happen when we shift the meaning-making mechanism that sits behind a story.
I started with The Long and Winding Road because the road to where we are often feels so long and winding that we forget where it started and we lose track of the twists and turns that we undertook. It is so long and winding that it doesn’t occur to us that there were many points along the way that we could have got off the road! It’s interesting to note that the road
always leads me here, leads me to your door.
No wonder our clients are so frustrated with repeating patterns when their story keeps leading them to the same place!
For me coaching is not about options, action planning and accountability. It’s about supporting the client to see the stories they’re creating for what they are and open up new stories for them to create.
In doing so, we unpick the meaning, the assumptions, the value attribution, the beliefs, the cause and effect detection and so much more that underlie the existing story. Only then does change emerge organically as the client starts to surface from the existing narrative. Not to a truth but to a new, more useful narrative.