Thursday, February 9, 2012

Debts, hope and a new era

Posted on Thursday, February 09, 2012 by International Coach Federation

“Looking back, you can usually find the moment of the birth of a new era, whereas, when it happened, it was one day hooked on to the tail of another.”

John Steinbeck wrote this in 1954 in his short novel Sweet Thursday. As Steve Jobs apparently said “You can only join the dots looking backwards” Or in the words of the great philosopher Jon Bon Jovi “In my rear view mirror, my life is getting clearer.”

Well, it seems pretty clear to me that we are at the birth of a new era. The world is waking up and changing. Social, financial and environmental issues are front and centre. It’s pretty clear we are all in it together. And that no-one knows the outcome. But knowing that the dots will join up looking backwards has been a great reassurance to me. So far, it has been true that whilst there have been many fearful, dark and unpleasant periods, somehow it has all worked out, and with sufficient distance it all makes sense.

So, whatever is happening now I believe will work out. But who knows? Time will tell. Views from economists, politicians and bar room philosophers abound. Generally, the consensus is that it will be messy. The shift from dependence, to independence (held glorious and the ultimate destination by many in the West), to interdependence, has been written about for millennia and looks likely to me. But what’s at the heart of this change and flux – driving it forwards as the source of the problem and the source of the answer? Something deeper. Something human. Joining Steinbeck again in 1954 in the same chapter:

“Where does discontent start? You are warm enough, but you shiver. You are fed, yet hunger gnaws you. You have been loved, but your yearning wanders in new fields. And to prod all these there’s time, the bas***d Time. The end of life is now not so terribly far away – you can see it the way you see the finish line when you come into the stretch – and your mind says, “Have I worked enough? Have I eaten enough?” All of these, of course, are the foundation of man’s greatest curse, and perhaps his greatest glory. “What has my life meant so far, and what can it mean in the time left to me?” And we are coming to the wicked, poisoned dart: “What have I contributed in the Great Ledger? What am I worth?” And this isn’t vanity or ambition. Men seem to be born with a debt they can never pay, no matter how hard they try. It piles up ahead of them. Man owes something to man. If he ignores the debt it poisons him, and if he tries to make payments the debt only increases, and the quality of the gift is the measure of the man.”

There are some great coaching questions in here. And brilliant insights. We overwork. We over-consume. And still we are not happy - it gnaws us. And there are countries now and a generation being born with financial debts they will never pay. But John of course was writing of the social and the spiritual. Our sense of meaning, purpose, connection, giving. I have heard many coaches driven and inspired by seeking answers to these questions, and the development it draws forth, for themselves and the people they work with – and a great sense of wanting to give back.

In this, International Coaching Week, we are called to go out into the world to do just that. Perhaps we can walk into the messiness, knowing somehow it will all work out. That we can provide a sacred space for people to address their fundamental questions, to let go of things held essential throughout lives and by the passing culture. To find answers that truly work and bring joy, fulfilment and a bright future. Them and us. Together. Learning and growing. Because we want to give. And so we receive. We build the debt of love and kindness between us, each owing in equal measure, that brings us consciously to interdependence and the receiving that brings. Because it is only with and through others - with us, around us, before us and yet to be born - that our lives truly make sense.

Neil Scotton, PCC

Neil Scotton, PCC  

Co-Founder   The One Leadership Project
M: +44 (0) 7834 766 408   T: +44 (0) 1737 243 589
Skype: neil.scotton1   Tw: OneLeadership

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