News & Musings

Look Where You Want to Go

Posted on Sep 16 2016

In my work I have been reflecting on the stubbornness or uncontrollable aspects of systems and how shifts or changes occur over time whether within organizations or individuals. This was reinforced recently by a personal experience that I thought I would share.

Every summer I enjoy biking, paddling and hiking the trails of the west coast. A year and a half ago I had a significant fall that broke and tore a variety of muscles and bone that were fundamental to my core stability. There had been many false starts along the road to recovery. So it was with mixed feelings that I left home again on my bike. I was filled with doubt. I wondered, would I be able to make it up to the end of the road, and if I could make it to there, could I make it up the hill to where the trail began.

I approached the trailhead, and realized I could go farther, but how much farther. As I climbed and wound through the forest, rocks and roots generated anxiety and fear. I thought back to what I had learned from years of mountain biking and said out loud, “look where you want to go”, “look ahead”. I kept saying it as I climbed and wound my way through the mossy forest with its beautiful lush shades of green. I was so happy to be out there cruising along. When I reached the lake I still felt no pain and was not tired. As I rode along I realized I was riding faster through the corners, with more confidence. The fear did not have such a strong pull. I had a new more solid strength, as result of the training and physiotherapy I had been doing.

As I rode along I reflected on the experience of biking and thought about the similarities to paddling the Thompson and Squamish rivers. My instructors always said, “look beyond the hole or the whirlpool” “paddle strong to get you where you want to go”.

I understand that we need to look where we want to go. Yet sometimes we hold on to shadows. Unnamed fears that can be deeply personal or organizationally entrenched in many ways from hierarchical structures to decision-making. Often what has worked in the past no longer serves the decisions we must make today. We need to be aware of the rocks and obstacles but if we focus on them, rather than where we want to go there is high potential that we are going to crash. We are going to get sucked into that hole or whirlpool and/or oscillate back and forth trapped by our fears not elevated by our strengths.  

This is why I value Appreciative Inquiry processes. They use questions to uncover what we truly value; what worked when we thought it would fail; what are the core factors that give our team, our organization life when we are at our best; what are the strengths that we can build on? For me, this is the place to start when we are looking at where we want to go. 

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