Think outside of the box to identify your strengths

“So how on earth (excuse the pun!) has studying Geography helped me become the coach I am today?” I started to think about this recently when trying to identify and work on my core strengths. Any good coach works on themselves as well as helping others do the same, and as such I’ve been reflecting on my educational and career history to help me. I studied Geography at the University of Birmingham and have since bore the brunt of many a joke about “only being able to colour in”! So I started to think outside of my box, partly to put a few good friends back in theirs (!), and in the process realized there’s actually an awful lot of similarities.

For all you disbelieving soles out there, Geography is a fabulously rich subject and helps you to develop many a transferable skill. Let’s take the study of human geography for instance. There’s a clue in the name! We are all human beings and as such behave in both predictable and unpredictable ways. The study of human geography looks at many externally driven factors and tries to understand the impact of those on people and place.

Why do people behave the way they do? What impact does family, society, religion, politics, democracy, globalization, technology, industry, the wider economy and the environment have on the way in which we live our lives, the beliefs we hold, the choices we make, and the relationships we build? In coaching we are taught to look out for the system within which our client is operating i.e. the external factors, the relationships they hold and the wider environmental and/or organizational context, to see how this impacts upon their behaviour, their choices, their in-built beliefs and the assumptions that they are making. Marry this with an understanding of their internal or emotional drivers such as core values, and a client’s self-awareness increases massively.

Then there’s my favourite, physical geography! I have always been in awe of the power of mother-nature, and how finely balanced this world is that we live in. It reminds me of the fragility of life and perhaps why, in a coaching sense, I aspire to help my clients live the most fulfilling version of life as it can all be wiped out in an instance……or an eruption!

Just as we trust mother-nature to do what she must to help keep the water flowing, to keep the food growing, to ensure life survives in the best way she knows how, so too I encourage my clients to trust in themselves to use all the resources available to them to be the best they can possibly be. Our physical environment bends and flexes, adapts and responds to all kinds of pressures, is resilient and opportunistic. We too can learn from this approach and be bold and courageous in the face of adversity, take those opportunities when they appear, knowing that all the time you’re trying to make you and your family’s worlds a better place.

So what has Geography got to do with being a great coach…….loads! It’s helped me to see things from different perspectives, understand the wider impacts, to accept that we’re all different, acknowledge there’s no right or wrong, understand that life is about survival of the “fittest” (and I use the meaning of this word in its most exaggerated sense – creative, resilient, confident, determined, curious etc.) and that humans are complex but amazing beings who have all the answers they need to be the best they can possibly be. They just sometimes need the help of a coach to acknowledge, accept and understand that!

If you’d like to explore what your version of the “fittest” means to you, please get in touch, and next time you’re wondering what strengths you really possess think about taking yourself out of your box and experience a new perspective. You might even try “colouring in” for a while to help clear your head. It did wonders for me!

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