The obstacle is not the objective


In my acting class last night an interesting parallel to my learning to be a coach.We’ve been exploring the notion of a basic objective in scene work for several weeks.My attention was grabbed yesterday when we stopped to have a conversation as a class about the exercises we have been doing.The simple meaning of our conversation was this: knowing specifically the objective of a scene, and the specific obstacles to that objective that need to be worked through is crucial.But the focus is not the obstacle – it is the objective that pulls me through the scene, but it the obstacle that makes me want to do so.This makes for a good scene.

On the spot as we were digesting our learning, I immediately thought of some meaningful coaching conversations I have had over the last year.The meaningful part being that a coach will offer opportunities for the coachee to explore how to move through obstacles to opportunities and the objective.It is not enough to simply identify obstacles.

In the coaching models I have been exploring, I have been paying particular attention to a continuum where at one end the coach “puts in” to the coachee, and at the other end the coach “pulls out” of the coachee.To be done well, both require heightened listening skills.Specific to the latter, the coach listens intently to the coachee, minimizing the filters and analysis as much as humanly possible.What the coach thinks simply gets in the way of what is wanting to come out of the coachee.While there is a time an place for coaching models that “put in”, there is an unbalance in that respect.People seem to be hardwired to have to tell others what to do.Even in our listening that comes through in the questions we ask.

So what would happen if in conversations we served as guides to wisdom that just sits in us?What if we rest in wonder about what is wanting to come out?

Whether as a coach, facilitator, parent, spouse, manager, that there are times to “put in” and times to “pull out” of the people I am with.I am starting to notice more specifically what I need in this respect.Being skillfull in conversation requires being attentive to your actions, your default patterns, what others need and, of course, having conversations with others around what they need and what you need from each other.

In my work as a community planner, conversation is needed everywhere.Quality conversation to ensure interests are understood and priorities arGovernment, communities, developers, not-for-profit organizations, school and health systems, food production systems, energy systems, are poorly integrated in their thinking and behaviour.Unresolved and deep-seated conflict is everywhere.I don’t imagine for a moment that it is possible to get rid of it.I do imagine, however, that if by identifying what it is we wish to accomplish together, and noticing the objectives that are in our way, we then have a choice to make about where we spend our time: focus on solving the obstacles and fixing he problems, or to focus on moving through them to welcome our objective.To do either, conversation that mover far deeper than the superficial is needed.

To make our desires a reality, we have to simply note the obstacles and move past them.Just as on the theatrical stage, they are not our focus.

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