Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Simple but not EASY

It seems that a theme for the week in terms of my client coaching interactions was the concept of 'this is simple but not easy' or in other words 'we know this stuff but its really hard to do'. Often the things we need to work on within ourselves are things that we may already know yet find very difficult to do. Whether we need to change certain behaviours, build relationships or give hard feedback, there is always a part of ourselves that we need to stretch to a previously no-go zone in order to just do it. The action required is rarely complicated, yet it is often really, really hard. It is something that we need to push beyond our comfort zone to do and it challenges us to resist doing things the way we always do them.

A client recently shared his story with me about his experience of learning to play the drums. I’m a big believer in learning to play a musical instrument as an adult since it's an activity that allows you to integrate your left and right brain and to fully focus into a completely different zone than you’re used to. So as my client – let’s call him Sam – was describing the process of trying to get each of his four limbs to think and operate independently of each other and the mush that his brain felt like it was turning into, it struck me as a perfect metaphor. Admittedly, I’ve always held the belief that the drums would be an easy instrument to play if you have a basic sense of rhythm and when you consider that the actual action of playing is simple – use your hands and feet to tap out a rhythm. But, when you think of the brain activity that needs to occur in order to co-ordinate all the activities that are happening at the same time, you realise it is far from easy. The actual action may be simple, but the co-ordination and activity required is by no means easy. This is the exact situation Sam was describing in his story. An activity that he took for granted as simple, caused him to test his patience with himself as he learnt to master the new skill. However, with practice and patience, he learnt to make music!

This is a perfect metaphor for life – where we are constantly in a state of learning in order to develop ourselves. In life (and in leadership), it is clearly even more complicated than learning to play the drums because the results are not immediately identifiable and often intangible. However, the effort is worth it and the outcome is a success when it comes with practice and patience.

Once we open ourselves to stretch beyond the 'easy', to do that hard but simple thing, we also open ourselves to possibilities that we couldn't even dream of!