Research Paper By Nesrin Everett
(Executive Coach, SWITZERLAND)
I see life as a journey and an adventure. Being able to view our lives as an exciting adventure allows us to live them more fully and creatively. It allows us to spread our wings and embrace our own uniqueness. In the words of Rumi “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” By allowing my clients to identify with being on 1 their own “Hero’s Journey”, 2 they are able to embark on the coaching journey from a place of empowerment. The greatest part of that journey is connecting and reconnecting with their authentic selves, thus allowing their inner compass to point “Due North” and align them with their true direction.
Nature in all its diversity can play an essential part in our connection and alignment, and in the entire coaching process in a variety of ways. By connecting us with all that is around us in the natural world, through metaphor, mindfulness, visualisation and physical immersion it helps to bring us back to the essence of who we are and the truth of our authentic selves.
When a client comes to me, if we are to work successfully together, it is very important for us to identify ultimately a goal to work towards. Vision-building is a huge part of what I do in coaching, as without a clear vision or dream, it is more difficult for clients to move forward. Vision allows their dream to be “seen and felt” and makes it appear more tangible and thus easier to strive for.
Some clients are already clear about their vision before they come to me, some others may have a blurred vision of where they are going and feel that they have wandered off their “path”. The latter may come to me looking for more direction and greater clarity in order to help propel them forward faster. Some clients may even have no idea of what their dreams are and may feel “lost,” in which case vision-building can help them build a picture of what they really want and reconnect them with their aspirations, thus giving them greater focus and direction. By helping them build a clear vision and bring their “dream/goal” into focus and colour, we can then work on the “map” that allows them to get there.
As we will see below, both adventure and nature can help build a vision that allows my clients to set goals and achieve personal transformation.
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. Henry David Thoreau
The power of adventure in the coaching process
As a coach, my role is to help motivate and support my clients to achieve their goals, also to prepare them for challenges that they may face and help them find solutions for overcoming those challenges, whether they be self-doubt, exhaustion or external influences. One way of motivating someone to take on a challenge can be to make it exciting. By seeing the journey to achieving his goal as an adventure, full of discovery and opportunity the client is shifting into a mode of excitement and positivity! An adventure is a challenge, it is a step into the unknown in pursuit of a vision. By placing the client in the role of the explorer or adventurer creating his own myth, he is able to assume a position of power. (He becomes the creator and not the victim.) He is placed in a position of curiosity and exploration. Adventure is all about possibility. It is about the “I wonder, and what if ?”. The whole concept of adventure is one of expansion, of going beyond the limits. Adventurers, may meet all kinds of obstacles on their path (in the form of the underwater icebergs of underlying beliefs; the seemingly unscaleable mountains that they need to climb in order to reach their goals; the dragons of fears; the vast oceans of uncertainty). Knowing that all adventures come with risks that can lead to rewards, clients with an adventurer’s mindset are better placed to be able to go forward boldly.
Imagine you want to go on a trek. If you don’t pack your rucksack and do the necessary preparation to make sure that you have what you need, then you cannot go on the trek (in fact you could, but you would be turning back pretty fast as you would be short of food, water and equipment).
This metaphor can be a great tool to help a client with preparation and also to work with procrastination. This leads us to look at what you need in order to go on your journey. How far are you travelling, how much do you need to take with you? What are the essentials, what can you leave behind? Then we can look into what your support systems are – e.g., travelling companions – who do you want to take with you? Who do you trust? What do they offer you as companions, what do you offer them? What are you strengths (e.g., you are fast, enthusiastic, curious, ready to go anywhere)? Where do you need support (perhaps you need a companion with good technical skills, able to do some heavy lifting, good strategic planning, contact numbers in case of emergency)? How do you intend to travel? What pace will you set? When do you plan to get to your destination? When will you plan your rest stops)? How long will they 4 be, where will they be? What will you do during your rest stops (eat, sleep, socialise)? When will you stop to look at the view? (Is it only about reaching the destination or enjoying the journey, smelling the flowers and admiring the views? (What is important to the client?). When will you take time to think about what you learned from the journey, and based on your learning what will your next steps be?
So many clients are debilitated by the fear of uncertainty and limiting beliefs, which keeps them stuck in their progress. The typical questions that come up are “What if doesn’t work out?” “What if it’s not good enough?” “What if I can’t find what I need?”, etc. As uncertainty is often fearbased, one way to shift this fear it to take on an adventurer’s mindset of infinite possibility. An adventurer has the willingness and curiosity to go and find out. Christopher Columbus did not know he would reach the New World, he just wanted to get there and that motivated him to take the leap. Yuri Gagarin was brave enough to venture out into space, not knowing what he would find and whether he would make it back – thanks to his initial leap into uncertainty, the space age began. The individuals who discovered that the world was round were curious enough to go and have a look, to get to the edge of the earth and look over it (which as we know now was an unfounded fear – there was no edge!). A client who has a dream of achieving a goal, needs the adventurer’s spirit to take that leap of faith to go forward to “the edge”. If those adventurers had not followed their passion, had not followed their curiosity we would all still be believing that the world is flat.
Hope, faith and self-belief play a great part in working with uncertainty. With the adventurer’s mindset all these play a part. If you can dream it – you can create it. The Wright brothers were convinced that they could design a plane that would fly. They were determined to make it happen, and no doubt many people around them were convinced that they were insane and that it could never happen. But they continued to follow their dream in spite of uncertainty. They had the mindset of adventurers and as a result we now have aeroplanes. The first moon landing, something seemingly impossible once started as somebody’s dream. Adventure takes you to a place of wonder, far away from limiting beliefs.
Load the ship and set out. No-one knows for certain whether the vessel will sink or reach the harbor. Cautious people say “I’ll do nothing until I can be sure”. Merchants know better, if you do nothing you lose. Don’t be one of those merchants who won’t risk the ocean! Rumi
Helping clients achieve self-empowerment is a large part of my work as a coach. From a place of empowerment my clients have the courage, confidence and self belief that allows them to move forward boldly. One method of helping clients achieve self-empowerment is to ask them to think of adventurers who inspire them, people who were willing to take a risk and step into the unknown in order to achieve their dreams and follow their hearts. Whom my clients identify with can be very interesting as this can also help them to link up with their values and beliefs. They may identify with action heroes like Indiana Jones or James Bond laughing in the face of fear, they may choose Noah with his adventure of building the Ark in spite of all the people doubting him, or Amelia Earhart circumnavigating the earth solo in a plane. It is interesting to ask the client what it is about this person that they admire or identify with – be it actions, behaviours, qualities or values. While creating their own myth, how can these explorers whom they admire help the client? Perhaps just keeping them in mind would work, or they may choose to watch films or read books about them. The person could be from mythology, fairy tales or could be a real life individual from the past or present. My clients may choose to identify with different adventurers for different purposes.
The sense of an adventurer’s spirit can also help with managing emotions. One of my clients was aware that she was often being overwhelmed by emotional upheaval caused by triggers that could throw her off balance and set her back. These were keeping her from moving forwards towards her goal. Together we envisaged her as the captain of the ship, a “Christopher Columbus” sailing on her life voyage. Using this metaphor of being the captain we were able to discuss what was happening. The overwhelming emotions she was experiencing felt like giant waves sweeping her over the side of the ship. The notion of her being the captain (and thus in charge of her situation) allowed her to think about how she would like to be and feel. Ideally it would be smooth sailing, and her ship would be moving forward at a good speed, but emotional upheavals could be seen as storms that blew up. We discussed what would she would like to happen next time the inevitable storms came in – she decided that rather than losing control of the ship, she would feel the ship’s wheel moving in her hands and rather than letting it go and potentially falling out of the boat, she would keep a grip on the wheel and, ride the storm out, knowing that it would indeed pass. This metaphor allowed her to feel empowered and to be able to deal with upheaval in a constructive manner.