Along the Yellow Brick Road: Journeys with my coach
Throughout our lives we are all making journeys. Some big, some small. Some peaceful, some scary. Some to remember, some to forget. The Wizard of Oz may be a fairytale for children yet the adventures of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion along the Yellow Brick Road have much to teach us about journeys in growth and change.
And it resonates so closely with journey I have taken along the Yellow Brick Road with my coach. Like Dorothy, at times the journey was difficult and challenging. At times it was inspiring and fun. But it’s a journey I’m drawn to write about. So I may not be wearing a blue check dress, or have Toto in my basket, but I invite you for a short while to follow the Yellow Brick Road with me.
Somewhere over the rainbow
In Kansas, before I started coaching I was living a in world of constraints. I had a lists of “shoulds” I was living by, without really questioning their validity. I was in an extremely difficult work situation – caught up in a maelstrom of mixed messages and competing forces. I did not know what to do to solve the problem. I wanted out, but didn’t know how to get there. Somewhere over the rainbow sounded pretty good to me.
These opposing pressures became a tornado that relentlessly chipped away at my self-esteem, my self-confidence, and my belief in my own competency. And ultimately pushed me into a new paradigm of coaching.
I did not know what I was in for.
Toto I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore
It was a chance conversation with a colleague who mentioned she had done some coaching that sparked my interest. I had never really heard of coaching before – except to assume it was some sort of flaky, touchy-feely instant cure type of activity. The type of activity that I, with all my training in evidence, would automatically be skeptical about.
But I was desperate and didn’t know what else to do. So with a prayer I contacted the name of a coach I had got a strong recommendation for. I had little idea of what I wanted him to do. Other than fix everything. I just wanted it all to get better and I hoped coaching would be the panacea that would make everything all right once again.
But once the tornado had set me down in the land of coaching it was obvious I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. There were no short cuts and there was going to be a lot of learning to do.
Follow the yellow brick road
In the land of coaching the rules were different, everything was turned on its head. From the very first conversation it was obvious all my old ways of seeing and being would be challenged. Coaching was unlikely to be the panacea I was hoping for. But I was beyond the point of return – and the only way home was to follow the Yellow Brick Road.
So my coach set me on the path to the Emerald City to find my own Wizard of Oz. Like Dorothy I had to travel this road myself. I had to make mistakes, fall over and find my own way through challenges. Nobody was going to do this for me.
But what was it I wanted the Wizard to do? Where did I think the Yellow Brick Road was taking me?
We’re off to see the wizard
For Dorothy, it was pretty simple. She just wanted to go home. I had much more complex set of desires. I thought getting to Wizard in the Emerald City would help me answer two broad questions? How could I best manage my career? What personal development did I need to do to achieve my career goals? In particular I wanted to know things like:
-Was I best placed to either meet, or build skills for meeting my career mission?
-When is the pain worth it, when is it time to look elsewhere?
-Would I be better off setting up a consultancy?
-How can I get to the next level in my career?
-How could I enhance my self-confidence and assertiveness?
-How could I better manage difficult relationships
-How could I influence and persuade the people I needed to?
But starting to work on these things straight away was like starting a journey half way through. No, my coach wanted me to start at the beginning. There was no point working on how to develop my career until I had given due consideration to who I was as a person and what I wanted out of life in the first place. And so at the very beginning of the Yellow Brick Road I stated working on my identifying my core beliefs, goals and strengths.
If I only had a brain/heart/courage
This was interesting and challenging exercise. I thought I knew all about myself. But clearly I had not recognised the truth about myself on many levels. As life travels on we all build up bits and pieces of information from life events and other people – we extrapolate these to form “truths” about ourself. Sometimes we yearn for things we have already got.
So with a few well thought out questions from my coach, he tugged at a few loose threads and many of my constructs and shoulds started to break down. Interestingly others became stronger. During this process I went through feelings of great emptiness. I felt like a room that had all the furniture taken out of it. Yes there was the excitement of waiting to see what new furniture would arrive – but there was a sense of loss and grief for my old self-beliefs. They might have served me well until now – but they were no longer useful.
It was time for me to develop more authentic core beliefs and realise my true strengths and talents. I always knew I had a brain – but I hadn’t really defined what type of brain I had or worked out what type of learning and working energises me. I’d always wanted to be kind, yet hadn’t realised how kind I already was until I started looking honestly at my heart. And as for courage – well I’d doubted my courage – until I acknowledged that doing this type of personal development work and letting go of old beliefs was one of the hardest things I had voluntarily done. And that took mountains of courage.
The wizard will fix everything
As I travelled this journey my coach was with me – but I did every single piece of the work of growing myself. Slowly as we got closer to the Emerald City, I turned less and less to my coach for help finding solutions. Instead of feeling trapped by problems, ruminating endlessly about how they came about and how unjust life is, I have learned to look towards where I want to be and plan a course of action.
As I have travelled along managing the challenges of the past year or so – establishing a consultancy and moving cities and dealing with loss and change and establishing new professional and personal networks – it has become clearer and clearer that I am more than capable of fixing things all on my own. I’ve got better at recognising what resources I have and the right time to use them.
So in a weird kind of way as I got closer to the Wizard, he shrank further away. The illusion of needing a fixer in life has slowly been exposed as just that – an illusion.
She had to learn it for herself
A coach in many ways is a chameleon – a mirage. Fluidly bending and changing to the situation being everywhere and nowhere at once. Knowing everything and nothing. A coach is a paradox of a person hard to pin down to single role.
Like all worlds of the mind strange things happen. As I travelled along the Yellow Brick Road I was always alone doing the work, yet I was never alone. My coach took on different personas depending on the situation. At times like Glinda the Good Witch of the North he gave me the ruby slippers of faith in myself. Or turned up unexpectedly with almost magical words of guidance and encouragement. At other times he was like Toto providing complete and unconditional support and acceptance. And at times like the Wizard – beckoning, beckoning me forwards and onwards to the Emerald City.
But all the time, in every way, with a single goal of channeling me back to myself. Strengthening faith in myself, confidence in myself and developing my knowledge of myself.
There’s no place like home
Dorothy cries as she says goodbye forever to her new friends – Scarecrow, the Tinman and Lion. I too am crying as the end of coaching draws near. And more than cry, I’ve been travelling the stages of grief, particularly experiencing depression and anger – lots of anger. Anger because I need to return home to real life on my own and can’t take my friends, the Wizard or anyone from Oz with me. I find myself overwhelmed by the deep sense of impending loss for a relationship that has come to mean so much to me. For a relationship that is truly irreplaceable.
Yet like Dorothy I know that home is where I belong now and where I must go. I can’t stay in Oz any longer. I’ve learned and developed so much – more than I ever imagined possible when I tumbled into the world of coaching. So on the threshold of the end, I need to acknowledge the loss, but allow space for the wonder and awe that will come with a new beginning. So soon, soon, I’ll stand up tall, wipe my eyes and turn to the future.
I’ll always carry the experience of Oz, of coaching, with me forever. A small part of me has become Oz and will always serve as a connection between “the time out of time” that was coaching and the life I’m about to step into. I’m just about ready to click my heels together three times and go home, and like Dorothy I smile through my tears.
GD – what a journey it has been with ups and downs, highs and lows, fun and frustrations – but worth every transformative minute. Thankyou for everything and every step of the Yellow Brick Road.
And to my new friends who’ve already set off with me on my next journey (you know who you are) – I didn’t recognise you in Oz – but I’ve found you miraculously here in Kansas. I can’t wait to see how travelling looks with you by my side. How much fun, laughter and love we’ll share together.
And to my precious family and all the other fellow travellers in my life. You are all pretty wonderful. Thankyou and God bless.