Preventing Forest Fires
When I was a kid, there were constant, ubiquitous public service announcements (or PSAs) that admonished kids for playing with matches because of all the forest fires we could and would start given to our proclivities as, well, kids. It ignored the part about first being in a forest which for most of us was only when we went camping with the family which, in most cases, was not in a forest.
And what if there is a forest? And we can’t see if for all the trees in there??!! I digress.
Back to Smokey. His message was one of prevention. Let’s not get into the weeds (or trees) with all of the permutations of how we prevent things. In many ways, prevention is about playing defense. It’s a combination of playing defense and playing it safe. These are slightly different perspectives of course.
Playing defense is about not giving up ground. Playing it safe is about not losing. Defense is good because you have sweated, toiled, gritted out forward movement and, while that pace can vary from inches to miles, it’s hard fought ground, not to be surrendered lightly.
Safe is well, not really defense. It’s about not making mistakes. So, this is good in certain circumstances, like defusing a bomb. In most life instances though, it’s limiting our ability to learn. To learn from our mistakes, our trials, so we can leap forward to the next version of ourselves. When we play it safe, we are limiting this opportunity for growth.
Now, growth can have its challenges too. There’s a difference between letting out the sails in a strong wind and wing-suited hang gliding. One has some sort of foundation below, in this case a strong hull, the other is just jumping off a cliff in a weird, loose-fitting, button down attempting to be an eagle. Let’s not confuse daring, uncomfortable stretching with crazy.
As a coach, I tend to get most of my clients in a state of playing it safe. They’ve had some successes and now, as their cheese has begun relocation to safe and maybe unreachable spaces, they see a degradation in their performance. They’re stuck and they want to move forward somewhere between stuck and parachuteless flying. While this is a perfect time for coaching, it’s also a little late. Why do we avoid reengineering ourselves when things are going well? So many create a plan and stick to it until of course, it no longer works. Why not consider coaching when it doesn’t look like rain out there?
I’ve been recently considering my horizon and I see cheese that’s being moved out of my maze. I can see it. And I’ve gone from super proactive “hide the matches” prevention to a complete lack of candle lighting capabilities. The more I think about it, the less I do to it. Is it lack of insight? Motivation? New knowledge? Am I missing out on practicing new skills? Or the ever elusive lack of accountability? At certain times it can be one or the other or a combination of several of these. Awareness is the first step. I still have time to create something new and exciting before I end up standing in the charred remnants of what was once a beautiful walk in the woods. Time for a campaign, to move things forward while life and work have been really good. Every campaign needs a good hat by the way, and Smokey had a doozy.
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