A Coach as People Gardener

I have had many conversations with a lot of different individuals throughout my life. And I have come to realize the great potential that lies in this format—both as the person providing some exploratory space as well as being the one who is given the space to explore. Over the past few months, my desire for transitioning my career into this direction has grown substantially. In this post, I would like to outline, in large part for myself, what I would like to achieve. And I would like to invite you to leave comments which will help me calibrate my approach.

The reason I conceived of the image of a coach as a people gardener is based on the following observation: most people, at some point in their lives, go through experiences in which they perceive their environment as not providing sufficient resources to grow. This can lead people to see their intrinsic passion—what they see as their desired direction to grow into—as worthless, or at least not as worthy of their utmost attention. This in turn can produce feelings of depression, literally not having enough room to unfold oneself.

Coaching then can be seen as providing a garden. The garden is akin to a container in which people can come in touch with both their innate passions as well as what they see as obstacles on their natural growth trajectory. And rather than providing people with specific advice—which I would translate as doing the growth work for them—a coach simply makes the necessary space and resources available. This in turn gives the person being coached the required encouragement and maybe permission to fully attend to the interaction of some currently unfulfilled growth need and what is preventing that growth.

And it is my experience that with sufficient attention, paired with the experience of resource availability coming from the environment—the coaching context in this case—people can then find creative ways to grow despite the initial experience of impossible odds in overcoming these obstacles.

How does this matter? It provides a blueprint for the direction in which I want to grow. I want to become a people gardener. My hope is that by allowing people to be in my presence they can discover where and how their current growth passions are blocked by experiences of resource scarcity.

In some of these situations, people may find that there are in fact many resources available, and that what is holding them back is their concern about the “what if?” of tapping into those resources. Change and growth is generally accompanied by growing pains and it takes quite some courage to step out of one’s comfort zone. So, that experience itself may require some exploration first.

In other situations, resources really are not available—at least at the outset. This certainly seems like the more challenging situation. And I hope that together, through the coaching context, creative solutions can be found that lead to the discovery of resources which were not on the radar initially.

Ultimately, I believe that, like all life, humans have the capacity to use their innate gifts—adopted to the situation in hand—and grow. This process requires our full attention and commitment, however. It will most likely lead to discomfort, and means letting go of old habits and patterns that—as much security and familiarity as they provide—keep us from reaching our full potential.

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