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The Compass and the Sat-Nav


Being a coach, people often ask what coaching is, and how it works. I’ve pondered this for many years, wanting the perfect explanation that makes everyone understand the power of coaching. The truth is, you have to engage in coaching to truly understand how it works, but as a starter for ten, the description I find works best for me is the Compass versus the Sat-Nav. Let me explain…


Sat-Nav systems are designed to tell you exactly what direction to go at every stage of your journey; the traveller simply puts in a destination and can then sit back and follow step by step instructions. The direction of travel is decided by a pre-programmed tool and the traveller does not need to engage any more than knowing how to programme the destination in to the system. If there is a problem on the route, such as an accident or closed road, the Sat-Nav identifies it and plots an alternative. Thus the traveller arrives at their destination without having to do anything other than follow instructions and drive.


Perfect, I hear you say. Takes all the stress out of the journey and you can rely on taking the quickest or fastest route. But what if the Sat-Nav no longer works? What if you can’t rely on the step by step instructions? By simply following the Sat-Nav directions, we remove our involvement and potential to learn for next time. We become dependent on a set of clear instructions to get us to where we need to be. We become disempowered.


Now this may seem a dramatic interpretation of the impact of using what is now an every day item for most of us. They are even in our phones so why would we have a problem using this tool? So, what if you wanted to explore a little wider, off grid, do something a little more adventurous maybe? Could you plot a journey if you had to without a Sat-Nav?


By contrast, the compass indicates where North is, and therefore gives you the ability to see where you are in relation to your chosen destination, key milestones and waypoints. Even better, when used with a map a compass enables you to understand where you are and where you can be, even when your goals and milestones are out of sight.


Yes, a compass requires a wider range of skills to navigate your journey. And this may seem like unnecessary hard work, but mastery of this skill means you are free to travel anywhere, and to explore away from the well-trodden paths of others. But more than this, you can apply these skills to any scenario where navigation is required, with any limitations or restricted circumstances. You have the ability programmed into you so you are the navigator. You are the pilot. You can lead yourself and your party through any journey to any destination.


This is what I believe coaching does.


Coaching doesn’t tell you the answers. Coaching helps you work out the answers in a way that enables you to apply this process to future scenarios.


Coaching doesn’t give you a set of instructions. Coaching helps you identify the right solution for you for the situations you are facing.


Coaching doesn’t send you step by step on your way. Coaching creates the space for you to explore and identify the best pathway for you.



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