What might happen if you decide to live? (Revised July 2022)

Isn’t it amazing how a short, 10 minute video can change your whole perspective and reawaken ghosts of the past? Ted Talk: “Draw your Future” by Patti Dobrowolski had this effect on me recently. Not because the talk brought new knowledge or fresh wisdom but because it ignited in me some heartfelt memories of some very powerful visions that I’ve been privileged to encounter. As a Coach (and trainer of coaches) I use vision in different ways with coaching clients and trainee coaches. I have witnessed the struggle some people go through to release their vision into the universe.

“I don’t really have a vision” they tell me; then let’s just spend some time being quiet and allow your heart to communicate with your imagination…your vision will come.

“I can’t draw” protest those who do have visions but are reluctant to capture it on paper. Then let’s just sit with it for a while and see what arises: words, poetry, song, collage, colour, splashes of paint, pictures from magazines, photographs…

The truth is, if we take the time to connect with our inner vision, let go of the blocks and barriers that are getting in the way…what emerges can unleash some powerful energy; clear insights or the realisation that, as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

In this post I want to share one such story with you that encapsulated this genius, power and magic.

A Vision of Retirement

Many years ago I worked as an executive and performance coach in a large organisation. I mainly focused on new and aspiring managers, supporting them as they settled into their new roles however, one day the CEO asked if I would coach him in preparation for retirement in 18 months’ time. After the first couple of sessions I noted that he always had lots to bring to the session to keep us engaged however, when it came to the question of retirement, he was an expert at diverting my attention to other things. I had asked what he thought retirement might look like once he left just to encourage him to look beyond the stuckness.

At the start of the third session I shared with him that I was not fulfilling my contract if I did not pursue my intention to support him in exploring how we might get started on planning for his retirement and I asked him if he had moved any nearer to having a vision of what life might look like when that time came. At this point he admitted he had been avoiding talking about retirement because no, there was no vision after his work-life ended. When I asked what he thought was going to happen after he left work he bowed his head and said, very quietly, that maybe he would just die.

He said that he had experienced a metaphorical vision of sorts, that ‘just came to him’ when he was not thinking about it. In this vision he was climbing a hill, through a forest, knocking the branches aside as he pushed forward towards the top. When he reached the brow of the hill, the trees ended and he stood in a clearing overlooking a valley.

“What’s in the valley” I asked. “Nothing”, he replied, “maybe this means my life is over”.

“So what might happen if you decide to live?” I asked. He smiled.

”What if the valley represents a blank canvas on which to create a new way of life; it’s your imagination, you can choose what to put in it”. Again, he smiled and we sat pondering for a while.

Over the next few sessions, this imaginary valley became a very busy place. First came the sheep, then cows and a farmhouse. Then, in the next field (there was a next field?) campers appeared and school children came in groups for visits. The joy as this vision unfolded was very real. The excitement grew as he (and his wife) spent weekends visiting farms for sale around the country until eventually they found the one that was just right for them and their family.

At his retirement celebration he shared with colleagues how happy he was to be moving on to pastures new (literally). He shared with me that the turning point for him had been when he decided to live.

Like this one, every ‘vision’ story that people have shared with me through my coaching and training years is very special and unique to the individual who created it and it has been a real privilege to have been there when they emerged. Neil Gaimen says, “The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

I wholeheartedly agree.


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