Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a (Christmas) cracker of a book. When I first read it as a young teenager I didn't share my older brother’s conviction that it came from a brain affected by psychedelic drugs, but saw it instead as a religious allegory that ‘spoke’ to my adolescent Christian leanings.
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
This is how Leo Tolstoy opens his masterpiece Anna Karenina, in which the pursuit of happiness comes at a very heavy price (especially for Anna).
I once had a boss who, in a moment of characteristic levity, said that he thought I was “practically perfect in every way”. I took a while to digest this, struggling with a self-image of floating through the air with the aid of an umbrella whilst clutching a bottomless bag, and then retorted (probably equally characteristically) “So…what do I need to do to drop the ‘practically’?”
“One who chases after two hares won’t catch even one.”(Japanese proverb)
One of my clients, founder and owner of an SME, often starts our sessions outlining the series of new business opportunities he is currently chasing. This is always a lengthy list and often different from the one I heard before.
“What matters most to me at work is that I am simply able to be myself.” This is the response I received when I asked a client what she had learnt about herself as a result of our coaching relationship.
The pace of modern working life leaves us little time to stop, listen and connect with our colleagues and employees. But, if we focus on stretching our empathy muscles in this way, what do we stand to gain?
A client recently described to me how, when tackling some unruly undergrowth in her garden, she came across a bearded iris. She was able to clear its way so that it could find the light and sun it needed in order to grow, and to bloom.