My husband and I were sitting in tiny neon plastic chairs on the almost-top level of the cruise ship. We were first-time cruisers, enjoying the sunrise from the open waters while our kids slept a couple of decks below. We met each morning just off the on-ship running/walking track, me having picked up the coffee, him having just finished a run.
He chuckled as he showed me the fitness data on his watch: 60 miles in 15 minutes. What in the world? He’s in shape, but that kind of speed is not human.
He showed me the map of his run: Instead of being an oval the shape of the track, it was a spiral, a curly french fry laid over the ocean.
His feet had only run 2 miles, but his body had traveled 60 because he had been running on a moving surface.
When I work with coaching clients, they often feel like they are running in circles, going only a little ways each session as they tell their stories: The blunder they made in a meeting. Conflict with a peer. Feedback they got from their boss. The opportunity they do not want to squander. Ordinary. Slow. Challenging.
The coaching experience is a bit sneaky. Clients bravely put themselves in a position of questioning and learning with a forward-looking view. Then, out of the blue, they realize: I’ve gone further than I thought. I’m comfortable where I used to feel stretched. I’m leaping ahead where I used to feel stuck. I’m creating work that used to seem impossible.
The same is true in organizations with coaching cultures where questioning and learning are paramount: Projects may seem to move slowly, but teams go great distances because they are being carried further than they could have gone alone.
You get to choose where you put your gifts to use and which relationships have the honor of holding your questions and challenges. When you put yourself in a position to multiply accelerate your growth, then even when you're going backwards or in circles, you'll still be moving forward.