Do you need to walk a mile to see a mile? How many ducks need to be in the row before you start walking? What are you afraid of? What are you still waiting for?
Walk a mile – see a mile (Audio)
Have you ever got somewhere only to wonder how you go there? You know, we sometimes drive somewhere and were so embroiled in our thoughts that we can’t actively remember how we got there? And do you sometimes know you need to get somewhere or achieve something but have no idea how you are supposed to do that? You know, stood before a challenge and wondered how on earth you are going to manage it? This is part of the phrase I use when I say sometimes you need to “walk a mile before you see a mile”.
I often use this term in a coaching session, when a client has come to a conclusion or a realization or an awareness of something important to them. You will also have heard or read me talking about “the journey” in the context of reaching an outcome or a result (as in destination) and that the “getting there” is often as important (and enjoyable) as having got there. In that context I often use this phrase that in order to “see the (next) mile”, they had to walk (this) mile first. Akin to taking success on the basis of step by step, encountering and overcoming objectives along the way, and re-iterating that age old cliché: “we eat an elephant one mouthful at a time”, right?
I sometimes use this phrase in connection with tempering perfectionist obsessions or conversely, with encouraging situations of a lack of confidence to “have a go” despite things not being perfect. It usually depends on the context, but it is usually always a great new perspective for someone “stuck” in a particular place, or when I want someone to realize and acknowledge how far they have already come.
What are your Options?
In order to see (the next) mile, you usually need to have walked one beforehand, right? In order to walk a mile, it usually helps to have an inkling of that it looks like before you head off, don’t you?
Once you have walked that mile, it’s often so much easier to see the next mile, isn’t it? And then all you have to do is walk it. Doesn’t it feel so good then, when you have walked it? And perhaps wondering why we were so concerned with it before starting out?
And then blow me down if we don’t see yet another one? Which we then walk much more comfortably, buoyed by the confidence we gained from having seen and then having walked the previous ones.
I’ve seen many clients, particularly those that have such a strong need to strive for perfection, that need to “have all their ducks in a row” before they feel comfortable “to have a shot”.
I’ve spoken before about fellow coach Joe Pane who shared a story that he was out jogging when he realized he was on a collision course with a mother duck and her chicks wanting to cross his path. As he was deciding whether to stop, he saw the mum “take action” and purposefully turn back where they were coming from, and noticed how all the chicks immediately turned, lined up and followed mum’s actions.
Joe relates that to learning that it’s not that all the ducks need to be in a row before taking action, but rather the opposite; that when you take action, all the ducks (chicks) get themselves “lined up in a row”.
Build it and they will come
I have also spoken before about the German saying: “der Appetit kommt beim Essen”, which loosely translated suggests that even if we aren’t hungry, often the taste of the food raises our appetite and suddenly we are enjoying our food, akin to being really hungry. So why not just head out on that mile, irrespective of how we feel about it, and trusting that the right path will emerge?
Seeing the mile and coping
My clients often hear me saying that we don’t ever “get given” anything that we aren’t able to deal with; that we only “get given it” when we are ready for it and that until we are ready for it, we wouldn’t even be aware of it as a “problem”. I know that this is often a very useful encouragement, particularly when “people are down” or struggling with something significant.
Have you ever felt the book was changed since you read it last?
Isn’t it amazing when you re-read a book or a chapter of a book at a later stage that you come across “new content”, and think hang on – that wasn’t in there when I first read the book? Who snuck that in there in the meantime? Can you relate? ….. Walk a mile, see a mile. It’s of course that when we first read it, our “filters” allowed us to process that information according to where we are at at that point in time (that is, according to the mile that we had walked up until then). And when we read it again months or years later, we will have probably walked many an additional mile and seen so many additional miles as well, that we had expanded our knowledge, wisdom and understanding that we are suddenly able to appreciate or recognize or understand so much more than we did way back when. We were ready for the new content we hadn’t seen in the previous read.
The “extra mile”
Of course while we are on the “mile” metaphor we can’t forget “walking or going the extra mile” which I believe is so indicative of a great work ethic and attitude. In today’s competitive world we can forget how easy it is to fall into a “me – me – me” attitude in which space we can also easily forget how important it is to recognize how from time to time we need to take our eyes off ourselves and put them on those we work with or lead.
If you, like me, believe that “what goes around, comes around”, then going the extra mile will probably be an extension of that belief.
Bringing the two metaphors together however suggests that experience and wisdom are required to realize the value of the mile to be seen once having walked a mile and to know when to go the extra mile, so that we maximize our contribution and don’t allow ourselves to be exploited. That can sometimes be a fine line, can’t it?
So what does this all mean to you? Can you relate? Even if you are struggling with something at the moment, can you take encouragement from the fact that miles are there for the walking, that there will be a reason for “that mile”, that you won’t be “given” a mile that you can’t walk and that we will always learn something from every mile we walk, and that having walked that one you will see the next one?
Provided we have a purpose and are striving towards something that really matters to us, isn’t that what this is all about? Walking and seeing? Seeing and walking? Year in, year out? Isn’t that how we build our life experience and our life skills?