When my now grown up son was about four years old, we had those magnetic letters on the ‘fridge and used them to play simple spelling games with him. So, he would read out a word like ‘hat’, and then tell us which letter he needed to change in order to make it ‘bat’, for instance. On one such occasion he was asked how to change ‘mug’ into ‘jug’. “That’s easy!” he said, very pleased with himself. “You put a spout on it.”
The younger children are, the easier they find it to slip into alternative ways of thinking. They constantly surprise you with their effortlessly fresh and unique take on things. It therefore seems such a shame that the formal education system we put our children through seems, on so many levels, intent on restricting too much wild and free thinking. It spoon feeds our children accepted ‘wisdoms’ that will, ultimately, turn them into the next generation of adults that will all process their thoughts on a whole range of things in a fairly predictable, prescribed, learned kind of way. Exactly what’s happened to most of us, I’m guessing.
It seems to me that, when faced with a big decision or a dilemma, what we increasingly do is think in straight lines. We even talk about a ‘train of thought’. Trains, of course, run on fixed rails and go in the same old direction, over and over again. As Einstein once famously commented: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Quite.
Truly great thinkers have that ability to pick up a problem and look at it from a different angle. They innovate, make unlikely associations and throw established ideas into a whole new direction.
Coaches know that a big part of the coaching process is freeing up people’s ability to think in new directions. Instead of always sticking to those linear ‘trains’ of thought, why not, from time to time, venture out into a ‘field of thought’ or an ‘ocean of thought’? When you are in a field or an ocean you are free to travel in any direction you like, and head for the view that inspires you the most.
That sounds very like coaching to me.