Parallel Journeys & Sadhu Priests
It’s never just about what you achieve, it’s who you become along the way.
Whenever we’re challenged, take on a new goal or step into uncertain territory, we undertake parallel journeys; the ‘practical journey’ and the ‘learning journey’. Whilst both feed the other, one is often under valued and seldom acknowledged.
On my second day in Delhi, I met a Sadhu Priest sitting on the wall of a bridge overlooking the traffic that streamed chaotically past Delhi’s main train station. I took his photograph as he ate some fruit and then in broken English he shared how he was walking the length of India on a sacred pilgrimage. Travelling virtually empty handed, he had a small sack made from white cloth that he carried over his shoulder and a long walking staph. I reflected on my relatively huge backpack back in the hostel room I was was renting in the Grand Bazaar… I had most definitely over-packed!
Practical Journey – What you do to reach your goal.
A practical journey involves the choices you make, the things you say and the actions you follow-through on. These are the ‘tangibles’ that get you from A to B; everything from your to do list, the conversations you have, how much sleep you get, resources you secure and the work you put in to get to your goal or overcome your challenge.
For the Sadhu Priest, his practical journey was moving through and between towns and cities; navigation, finding food and places to sleep and rest.
Learning Journey – Who you become along the way
Parallel to the practical journey is the learning journey. This is who you become along the way; what you learn about yourself and others, your insights and the development of your strengths, skills and knowledge. In terms of emotional intelligence, we can link into the development of self-awareness and social-awareness.
For the Sadhu Priest, I suspect he would have called his learning journey a spiritual journey, which I’d say is hugely appropriate. Personally, I see that those experiences which grow us spiritually, sit also within the learning journey of who we become.
Parallel Journeys and Development
The learning journey is a very important principle in coaching, because it’s the learning journey that grows a person’s capability, develops their leadership and sets them up to continue to succeed. It’s a myth to think that a coach is only focused on helping you achieve you goals or create change; coaching focuses too on developing who you are so that beyond your current goals, you’re capable of more.
What you can gain from the learning journey:
- Discover, challenge and/or adjust your brain’s model of the world
- Meet yourself under pressure; assess and refine mental and emotional responses
- Unlock caged thinking; improve self-belief and expand what you see is possible
- Become comfortable, where you were previously uncomfortable
Under valued and seldom acknowledged
All of these gains from the learning journey revolve around who you are. However, outside of coaching, my experience has been that the learning journey is mostly under valued and seldom acknowledged. Focus on the practical journey can dominate and at a simplistic level, can too often boil down to success and failure. As soon we acknowledge the learning journey, meeting challenge and achieving goals become vehicles to develop who we are, and the greater the emphasis we place on this, the more we grow our potential to achieve more into the future. Importantly, even in failure, we gain just as much value by assessing the learning journey, which is when failing becomes useful!
Learning journey questions:
(Learning journey questions can be asked ‘pre-journey’, ’on-journey’ or ‘post-journey’, just tweak to make them work.)
- What strengths can I apply to achieve this goal?
- How will this challenge grow my leadership?
- What is it I need to model to others around me?
- What have I learned about myself over this time?
- What thinking doesn’t serve me, that I can now let go of?
- What thinking would be useful to embrace going forward?
- What has this experienced uncovered as being meaning?
- Where would I improve next time
- How would I define the next level from here on in?
After 14 years of coaching and over three-hundred clients, I can say without doubt that the learning journey is as empowering as the practical journey, if not more! It’s where we get to KNOW who we are and GROW who we are.
There are many ways to measure success, yet I think those learning journey insights, such as realising we are far more capable than we had previously imagined, are the most liberating measures. Interestingly, the goal of a Sadhu is to attain ‘moksha’ (liberation).
There’s a short exercise I often run when I’m speaking and training. I give twelve to fourteen volunteers a simple brief to create a certain formation together but without communicating. When I ask them how they think it’ll go, “Chaos” is the word that normally arises from what they perceive is an impossible task. However, in less that two minutes, they complete the task and it’s mind-blowing!
Chances are your mastery mission is not an overnight journey, and so it has to matter to you.
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