We all probably remember this toy from childhood. There were different shaped blocks and the idea was to find the right shaped hole for each block so that it could find its way into the centre of the box.
My two girls played with their version of this toy for hours and once it came to tidying up at the end of the day I could have opened the lid and put all the wooden shapes in all at once but it was kind of fun to sit and complete the challenge of fitting each shape through it’s right hole!!
The goal of the toy is to help your child problem solve and learn their shapes. The shape of the wooden block is paramount and the challenge is to find the corresponding hole so that the shape can fit through. Trying to get a square shaped block through a triangular shaped hole is never going to work however much you try!
We all know this toy and how it works and yet I think as we grow up our perspective changes and we start to make the holes paramount and try to change our shapes to be accepted.
Do you know what I mean?
You might be too loud, too quiet, too clever, too ____ . We can probably all fill in the blank from our own circumstances. Slowly, we’ve started to try and change our shapes to fit through the holes into the box of acceptance.
If we change our shape enough then we stop being able to recognise ourselves. Who we are on the inside feels very different to who we have become on the outside and this can lead to lots of struggles and frustrations.
The thing is, your shape was already beautiful just as it was! I really believe we all have something wonderfully unique and precious to bring to the world and if we conform to how we ‘should’ be or what we ‘should’ look like then we rob ourselves and the world of the gift that we are.
It takes time and courage to stop and look at ourselves and reflect on where we’re out of shape on the outside. It’s a brave journey to the place where our inside and outside shapes match up again.
I think that's the place though where we live most at peace and its worth the cost of getting there.
Last week we stayed in a hotel for a night as we were visiting friends. The website for the hotel mentioned that there was a maze in the grounds so we thought we’d give it a go before we left.
Last year we stayed in another hotel with my family and there was a maze in that hotel’s grounds too.
That maze was made from hedges that were head height and there was only one way through it. It took lots of calling out to find each other and navigate our way to the centre (and just as long to navigate our way out!!)
We were expecting the same this time round too, but when we went out into the grounds the maze was actually just shin height and easily navigated as we could see the paths that led to the centre.
It made me stop and think that we’re often confronted with challenges and we bring to those challenges all our preconceptions about what they’ll be like and how hard they’ll be. We can often set ourselves up for a really hard time before we’ve even begun.
Coaching allows you the space and freedom to explore the challenges before you as they actually are and not how you might be expecting them to be.
Often they can be just shin height and with a bit of perspective you can overcome them and have fun along the way!
Sport wasn’t one of my strong points when I was at school. It’s fair to say I was the kid left until last when it came to picking teams! I remember when it was athletics season and every P.E. lesson was spent out on the track learning all the various disciplines.
I had just got the hang of running in the same lane around the track for the whole race when one day the teacher added a complete plot twist in the shape of hurdles!
It was still a running race apparently, except that now there were these barriers that you had to jump over to reach the finish line.
At first I thought they looked light enough to just run through, knock over and keep going. That didn’t really end well.
My next approach was to set off with great enthusiasm and then slow down before each hurdle, launch into a big, clumsy jump, stop at the other side and then start running again. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t win any of the races!
I started to watch the girls who were winning the races and listening to the instruction of my teacher and I noticed that they had a technique. They set off from the same foot before each hurdle and took a long gliding stride over the hurdle rather than my stilted jump. They were in the air at little as possible and when their feet hit the ground again they kept on running.
It took practice but once I understood there was a way to navigate the hurdles and they were actually part of the race and not just something that was getting in the way then it all fell into place. I don’t think I ever won a race but I stopped coming last, and had way fewer bruises!
We’d all like life to be a smooth running race with nothing getting in our way. We all know its not like that though. There are constant hurdles. The great thing is, there is a technique to getting over them. A way to lengthen our stride and believe in our abilities to overcome whatever is in our path.
Once we accept that the hurdles are part and parcel of the race we can adapt our stride to overcome them, to learn each time how to place ourselves better, how to glide over more smoothly and how to keep our pace when we're at the other side. We also build strength and endurance for the race.
Once we've learnt the right techniques, the hurdles that started out as an inconvenience have now become an opportunity to learn and become stronger.
A lot of life coaching is about discovering the techniques to overcome and navigate the hurdles that we face. Learning and practising these techniques means that you can run your race with a steady pace without being discouraged and you can clear those hurdles every time!
Just before Christmas I worked with a brilliant client. She had an awesome dream for 2018 but was feeling a bit overwhelmed about how to make it happen. We chatted about how to turn dreams into goals that were specific, measurable and that came with a time limit and how to break the big picture into a series of manageable (and fun!) steps. The lights went on and she got it! Now there’s no holding her back and I can’t wait to see where her dream takes her.
This was the feed back she gave me at our latest check in. It made me so happy and is what this coaching adventure is all about -seeing people live their lives full of purpose and joy!
Yesterday was the first day we’d had the warmth and the opportunity to get back to into the garden. It was a day of clearing up from the winter weather and getting ready for Spring. Wayward tools were gathered together again, planters moved around so that we can see the new bulbs growing through, paths swept and jet washed and duck runs cleaned up and sorted out.
I spent some time neatening up my flower beds and the pots that fill various corners of our land. Now that the birds have had their fill from the seed heads I cut back the dead stalks from last years growth and looked for signs of this year’s new life.
Some plants right now, without the echo of last year’s glory, are just root balls and so there is nothing above the surface. I’ve learnt not to give up on them because in time, growth will come and they’ll flourish once again.
It can be tempting to leave last year’s remnants in place so there’s at least something to be seen but the goodness from last year is now stored in those roots ready for the right time and it will grow. This way the plant doesn’t invest in something that hasn’t got life in it anymore.
As I was working I was thinking about what we can learn from nature.
We may have seen great growth last year and it can be tempting to hold on to the memory longer than we should. There comes a point where we need to trust that what we learnt in that growing season is now part of us. This way we can move on to healthy new growth for the season we find ourselves in.
Pruning can feel uncomfortable and seem counter-intuitive but it creates a space for new things and new fruit to flourish.
Some plants already have the beginnings of this year’s growth peeping through. That fresh green colour of newly unfurling leaves never gets old for me! We’re still just in February though so these little signs of new life found themselves covered in a healthy layer of leaf mulch.
Why when we’re so desperate for signs of life after a cold winter cover it up again? Because there are still frosts forecast and these new shoots are vulnerable and need protected so they can grow healthy and strong all year.
Sometimes when we see new growth we want to run before we’ve learnt to walk with it. New growth can be fragile and takes time to get established. Protecting and nurturing those early signs of life is a way of playing the long game and making sure that they’ll grow strong enough for the whole season ahead.
So yesterday was a time of pruning and protecting in the garden and perhaps also in my hopes for this year too.
Puddle and Angelina were delighted to 'help' us as we worked!
And we were great entertainment for these little ladies!
I was at IKEA this afternoon and I saw this poster in the car park. It struck me that its a great description of life coaching - giving you a helping hand to achieve your dreams.
It made me smile and feel very very grateful for what I get to do and for the amazing people that I get to work with who share their big dreams with me and trust me as their coach.