Sunday, 31 January 2016

It's like trying to control the weather

I use a number of different tools when coaching. One is the frameworks for change coaching process (FCP). During a coaching session one client recently pulled the following FCP setback card.
The card was inviting my client to consider how they were being setback by control in the current situation. A situation we'd identified and discussed earlier in the session.

Sometimes when we're invited to consider what's holding us back, we find it very easy to be defensive and want to justify our current actions. Obviously that's not a helpful behaviour when we're wanting to release the current situation, and move towards a new more desirable outcome.

Control has been a frequent topic of conversation with this client - so it didn't take us long to be able to understand the negative impact control was having. 

During previous sessions he'd already acknowledged, and let go of, much of this very constraining behaviour. For example in the last session we'd explored expanding his comfort zone, one contributory factor to his need for control. (see here recent blogs on the subject of comforts zones). 

Today when he pulled this card I realised that metaphor, and landscaping your life (where we use nature to inspire change) might provide a better vehicle for insight. 

Using metaphor in a coaching session generally allows us to explore a situation without getting too caught up in the actual real life details of it.

In this instance rather than ask him for a landscape that depicted the current or desired outcomes I provided him with the following metaphor (perhaps storm Gertrude and Henry had been on my mind).

"Trying to control your life is like trying to control the weather"

So in the coaching session we explored the metaphor of trying to control the weather. 

Not wondering initially how it related to the objective of 'control' in his life, but just observing what he could learn about controlling the weather. 

Please note: as neither of us are meteorologists some of the following assumptions may be factually incorrect. Factual data may add something to our analysis, however, as it was his metaphor and his exploration, it was more about noticing what he noticed about controlling the weather. 

Here's what he discovered:
  • Weather is very changeable - here in Scotland anyway - it's certainly never static! 
  • What's interesting about the change in weather is it is determined by a combination of factors - air pressure, wind direction and speed, moisture in the air, height above sea level, time of year, time of day (these latter two impacting the direction and strength of sun) and so on. 
  • Weather is a closed system wanting/needing to get back to equilibrium. 
  • This desire for equilibrium requires an ever changing environment, for example moving the air from high to low pressure. 
  • When the pressure difference between 2 locations is very big there's the potential for 'bigger' more violent weather.
  • No control is needed - just an acceptance of how the world works - and an allowing of the inevitable outcome so that equilibrium can be found. For example no control nor effort is needed to move from day to night - simply the rotation of the planet over 24 hours. Or when sun and rain combine we get a rainbow - no effort is needed just a simple reaction of sun shining though water droplets. Or the tide moves from high to low tide - no control to do otherwise, no effort to force a change, simply allowing the presence of the moon and turning of the planet to bring about such drastic change in height of water.
  • When I was looking for pictures of weather we noticed that the only control we have over it is to wear the appropriate clothing so that we're dry when it's wet, protected when it's sunny, and safe when it's windy.

  • Or prepare the landscape for the onslaught to come
  • Another aspect of control with respect to the weather is measuring the weather - perhaps not a simplistically as the weather vane but measurements that enable forecasters to provide 24, 48, 72 hour forecasts and beyond. Not control as such but advance warning so that we may be prepared for what happens, rather than be surprised. 
  • Another aspect to weather is monitoring trends as shown here from the Forth Road Bridge recently when we experienced over 90 mph winds. The information provided enable them to know when to close the bridge to all vehicles, and when to open it again.
We spent some time exploring other aspects of weather - differing by longitude and latitude, warm, hot, dry, humid, wet, violent, calm and so on. Exploring aspects of control of the weather.

Realising we can't control the weather, only forecast and adequately prepare for it, and then manage the outcome once it's passed. 

If we'd had better weather than the amber warning wind and snow, that the above graph was part of, we might have been inclined to also go for a walk to see what he noticed.

As my client reflected on how to apply these insights to real life he suggested it might be inviting him to understand it was impossible to try to control all aspects of his life (it was bit like wanting to control the weather to ensure it was the same every day of the year - year in, year out.).

All he could do was put processes in place to provide him with data so that we could adapt to the changing world around him. And ensure he had a range of clothing that would keep him safe, warm and dry no matter what happened!! 

A significant shift for a client who historically accepted themselves as being a 'control freak' - wishing to manage every eventuality, minimise spontaneity, and rejected the unknown. 

As you've reflected in my client's metaphor have you noticed any synergies with your life. Have any insights come to mind, and if so what's the action you need to take to make most use of the insight? When will you take the action?

I wrote another blog some time ago wondering how the weather where someone lives might impact how they behave in areas such as: strategy making, decision making, time keeping, and team working.

Other blogs written since this post on controlling the weather include use of your own Thames Barrier, and in search of the Aurora.

Other blogs sharing outcomes from coaching sessions with clients using nature to inspire change in this way (shared anonymously, and with their agreement) have covered: confidence, setbacks, flexibility, perfection, and burning bridges

Alison Smith
Landscaping your life
Using nature to inspire change inside and out

* The insight card used here is from Frameworks for Change © Innerlinks -
** Landscaping your life © Alison Smith 2016

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