Driving home from work today, I made the classic M60 mistake: I blamed the traffic for the fact that I wasn’t moving forward. Nothing particularly remarkable about that; most of us have done it from time to time. Blaming traffic can be a morning workplace conversation ritual, and it can similarly bracket the other end of the working day. It’s easy to do so. It’s easy because it requires no thought to blame the traffic and it conveniently places culpability for the problem elsewhere: traffic is never inside the car. It’s always outside and it’s always other people.
I’ve coached and mentored many teachers, professionals and students. They want to improve some aspect of their performance. I can help them. What these conversations often have in common is their initial and mistaken assumption that the answer to sustained improvement lies elsewhere. Like the traffic, if only conditions improved then the journey would be easier. It’s the easy solution and it’s a tempting trap to fall into. It’s the school that defensively points to its intake as a reason for inadequate outcomes; it’s the runner who mistakenly blames the conditions for underperformance; and it’s the student who claims that the dog feasted on the homework.
Coaching and mentoring opens up people to the idea that whatever problem is besetting them lies within. It’s often not a comforting thought and requires a degree of resilience to be able to see this for the first time. But, perhaps more comfortingly, the solution also resides in hearts and minds; we simply need to make the imaginative leap to see things from a different perspective.
Try it. Next time you are stuck in traffic, imagine the scenario from someone else’s perspective. Us, our journey, our cars are as much a part of the problem as the one in front and behind. It’s all too tempting to allow the literal constraints of the car dictate the limits of thought: if only all these other people had made their journey at a different time – I’d be moving freely. Of course, the real nature of the problem lies inside each and every car. Mine and yours included.
Of course, it’s simplistic to say that every problem can be solved, or that any issue can be resolved simply by changing perspective. We are infinitely more complicated than a busy motorway.
But it’s not simplistic to suggest that we are always in control of our reactions and our intentions.
Once we admit that, our minds opens up to possibilities and solutions. Admitting that we are often the problem, is the first step in finding an enduring solution.
If you feel that you could benefit from Happiness Coaching, click here. I’d love to hear from you.