Tree-cutting without Tears
One of the great things about coaching is that I find it is unfailingly reciprocal - that I learn from my clients even as we are focusing on their particular challenges.
Take the other day. I was feeling quietly resentful - no, seething - at having had to pull out of most of my work other than one-to-one coaching sessions, in order to lavish some much-needed attention on things technical. Having been ignored for too long, my computers had joined forces and revolted, and days were now turning into weeks. They were demanding new routers, anti-virus programmes, that outdated material be ditched and extra memory added, updates, new time machines, a new printer, and to be synced up properly with their mates. Not known for my technical expertise, I put myself in the hands of someone who understood their hard little computer souls well enough to guide me through. But then my heart sank, and I felt my inner grouch begin to rise as he uncovered more and more long-overdue stuff even as he sorted the issues at hand.
It was a huge relief to leave the trauma of technology behind one morning to meet with a client in the comfort of a local coffee shop.
Happily taking a breather from my laptop’s litany of woes, I focused intently on my client. Suddenly my attention jarred as he let slip something that whistled straight over my head. ‘It’s exactly like the story of the tree cutter’, he was telling me. My mind thumbed swiftly through its internal filing system - nope, nothing.
‘Tell me about the story of the tree cutter’, I said. And so he did…
Once upon a time, I learned, a strong labourer applied for a job with a timber merchant, and was delighted to be taken on. There and then, his new boss handed him an axe, showed him around the woodland area where he would be working, and taught him the basics of tree felling. The pay and work conditions were unexpectedly excellent, so the labourer was determined to shine at his new job.
The new woodcutter turned up the very next day and put his heart and soul into his work. At the end of the day, he carted 18 trees back to his boss, who congratulated him on his efforts. ‘Excellent work! he was told. ‘Keep that up and I’ll be more than happy!’
Spurred on by the affirmation, the woodcutter tried harder still the next day, but was disappointed to count only 15 felled trees at the end of it. So on the third day he turned up early and pulled out all the stops… but found he was returning with just 10 trees. In fact, day after day he was bringing back fewer trees to the timber merchant.
‘What’s on earth is happening to my strength?’, the woodcutter wondered. He apologised to his boss and explained that he was mystified about the dwindling number of trees.
The boss eyed him thoughtfully. 'When was the last time you sharpened your axe?’ he asked.
‘Sharpened it? But that takes time! I have been far too busy trying to cut more trees!’
And there it was. Even as we addressed my client’s issues, my very own Lesson of the Day was quietly sinking in and taking root. For me at the time, it had everything to do with taking a longer-term, more holistic view of my work, giving more attention to oiling the various vital cogs as I went along. And of course, it has a myriad of other applications, too - from health and fitness considerations to family and other relationships, spirituality, and everything in between.
But today, my axe is looking suspiciously like my various in-recovery computers. And yours…?