(This is adapted from my upcoming book on coaching skills for non-coaches.)
The new biopic “Eddie the Eagle” chronicles the story of a man who was criticized for competing in ski jumping at the Olympics, even though he had no chance of winning.
He says in a recent article, “‘I was there, representing my country, a patriot, a sportsman. I jumped a personal best in the 90m and set British Olympic records in both the 70m and the 90m. How is that a failure?”
Simply participating in the game of life to the best of your ability and defining your own success is crucial to growth and happiness.
Paula Hemming, my first coaching teacher, used to say, “You can’t save people from disappointment, and it’s not your job to discourage people.”
In my corporate coaching work I sometimes run into supervisors who worry that the employees I coach may develop unrealistic expectations of what is possible for them within a company.
They don’t want the employee to be disappointed if what s/he wants isn’t possible, either because of internal limitations in the structure of promotions, or because they doubt the employee’s capabilities.
What a client chooses to do is always their decision. My job is to encourage clients to think bigger and try to attain their dreams.
If a client discovers obstacles, it’s an opportunity to re-think. Is this still important? Is this worth the effort? What is the essence of what I want? Is there a different way to achieve this? Do I need to commit more energy? Do I need to learn new skills?
There’s an expression, “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
Coaching philosophy says trying is more important than failing. Getting past doubt, getting clear about your dreams, committing to them and taking action towards them is always more empowering and more important than staying safe.
However, if staying safe is a core value for you, incorporate it into how you frame issues for yourself. (But don’t assume others feel a need to stay safe in the way you define it.)
How can you achieve your dreams and still be safe (economically, physically, intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually)?
It’s not usually your job to keep others safe or to save them from disappointment.
If staying safe gets translated into abandoning dreams, taking no action and doubting ability to succeed, it’s counterproductive.
People learn more from taking action, even if it doesn’t ultimately lead to what they want. They will also be less disappointed and more empowered when asking questions and taking risks, than they will by avoiding action and not testing their limits.
We can’t all be eagles, but we can all learn to fly.
May we pursue our paths, not worrying unduly about other people’s chances, and encouraging ourselves and others to explore what needs exploring,
And ultimately, may we all learn to fly,