Most of us have had the experience of sitting by the sea, or on a mountaintop, looking out over the vastness of everything. Sitting there quietly, breathing in and out and in and out, the world seems to all make sense. We feel small, we see the inter-relatedness of everything.
For a moment, we get it. We see the infinite and the minute, all in one breath – the forest AND the trees.
That pure, brilliant clarity – how can we as consultants and coaches bring that clarity to our work with clients? And can our clients be the excuse for a practice that brings such clarity to our own lives?
When we sit on that rock overlooking the sea, several things are happening (this is not an exuastive list, by any means…)
- We are giving ourselves time to just be, to barely even think – to just let what really “is” wash over us. We feel like we are coming back to something we knew before we were born, a sense that pre-dates anything we can remember.
- We are seeing life’s inter-relatedness.
- We are getting out of our own skin, seeing the vastness we are part of. You can’t sit on a rock, staring at a vast valley outstretched for 100 miles in any direction, and seriously think it’s all about you.
- There are no demands. You don’t have to be smart. Or right. No expectations.
If you have ever been with someone who is sitting on that mountaintop for the first time, experiencing that sense of WOW for the first time, it is amazing. Watching the effects of that moment, we realize that connectedness to something larger than ourselves – that is something born deep inside each of us.
I am on the train from Perth, Western Australia, to the coastal town of Freemantle. A colleague who commutes from Fremantle to Perth every day had alerted me about the ride. “When we’re heading home, as the train comes around the bend and the ocean comes into view, everyone gets quiet. Heads turn to the window. Just for a moment, every single person on the train breathes. Then we all go back to our lives.”
It is Sunday morning, and across from me on the train are two teenaged boys, acting very much like teenaged boys (which is to say I spent most of the ride thinking, “Do you have any idea what asses you look like?”). The train turns the bend as Lyn had described, and the ocean comes into view. And even those boys become still, turning their heads to the sea. It is astounding how connected we all are to water, that even 16 year old boys acting like complete dweebs stop being dweebs for long enough to connect.
There is something in all of us, even 16 year old boys, that we are all able to come back to. That power is the “touchy feely” stuff we are taught, as consultants, to ignore in favor of the “hard stuff.” The content. The tools and metrics and doing.
But that sense of being, of relatedness, of simultaneous grandness and smallness – that is where our strength lies. That is the source of our power to change, to transform. That spirit is what makes all things possible.
So what, then, would it make possible if we could bring that strength to our consulting and coaching clients?
How would that change our job as consultants – and even, perhaps, the very definition of what it means to “consult?” What would we do? How would we do it?
The Place of Infinite Possibility
Imagine that every time you worked with a client, the room were filled with the same calm sense of being fully present that you might find in that place by the sea, that place on the mountain.
If that was the space you were always occupying with a client, from the time of the very first phone call, what would that make possible?
Could it make possible all the bullet items noted above? Could it allow for bigger, inter-related thinking? Might it eliminate the fear? Create context?
And if even a small part of that result were possible, what could you accomplish?
Suddenly we see that that place of presence, of being, of context – it is not airy-fairy and touchy feely. It is real and concrete. It is the source of their power to transform.
Suddenly changes happen overnight that have been blocked from happening for years. (Think of a time you sat by the sea, and suddenly the entire solution to a long-irking problem appeared fully formed, in all its detail, as if handed to you by the gods.) The concreteness of that reality is astounding.
So what would that take?
It would take creating that environment. It would take encouraging clients to stay in that environment. It would take understanding in ourselves that that environment is where the good stuff happens.
But first it would take being in that place ourselves. Learning to be that. Learning how to practice that. Learning how to stay there.
It takes letting go of the things that no longer serve us. It takes aligning our own work with what is possible. It takes amplifying those parts that connect to possibility, and turning down the volume on the parts that move us away from that possibility.
It takes remembering, touching back to say, “Yes, I thought that once, too. Now I am seeing something more effective – something that will not just solve your immediate problem, but aim you at the change you want to create in our world.”
It is easy for clients to spin off into the day-to-day of what is not working. The day-to-day is why they call. It is what they want fixed.
It is easy for us consultants to get sucked into that as well. The day-to-day is what we have learned to do in our years of experience. Raise money. Establish a recruitment process. Set up a Facebook page. The doing is the easy part, the part we have done so repeatedly it has become as much an unthinking habit as tying our shoes.
As we sit on our own mountaintop, though, the bigger question calls to us. What do we want for our clients? What do we want to make possible for them? What potential do we want to help them achieve for their communities?
Reconnecting with that potential, we see that the difference our clients can make in the world is our own highest potential as consultants.
And so the greatest gift we can bring to our clients is our ability to stay above the reactive muck and mire of solving this or that. Our greatest gift is our ability to stay fully present to our clients’ potential to make a difference, and our ability to encourage and support those clients in staying present to that potential as well.
As consultants and coaches, our greatest gift is our ability to remember the immense power that lies innate within each of us, waiting for the train to round the bend as the ocean comes into view. Our power lies in our ability to hold open that place of potential, allowing our clients to step into their own power.
From the power of that larger context, we will indeed address the day-to-day. But it is our ability to see both the forest AND the trees that will allow us to reach our own highest potential – the potential of our clients to make a difference in the world.