I’ve been through many transformations in the past 30 years and noticed that three things were always part of the process:
👣 Choosing a path at a crossroad
🛡️Using a shield to protect myself from the scary change
⛩️ Crossing the threshold from where there’s no return to my old way of being
That’s why I chose these 3 metaphors when the ICF Chapter in Budapest asked me to give the keynote talk about transformation at their annual conference last year.
It turned out to be one of the highlights of 2023 for me.
Not only because there were 200 people in the audience but also because I had to dig deep and reflect on the transformative coaching work I’ve been doing and how this work has transformed me.
This was the gist of my keynote:
👣 CROSSROADS 👣
In fairy tales, crossroads are a place of important decisions where the question is not just about left, right or straight but also about the willingness to sacrifice something, like the last piece of bread, or carrying heavy wood for the tired witch.
In Greek mythology, Hekate is the goddess of crossroads and also the goddess of the night. Therefore, in a transformative process crossroads represent much more than choosing the right direction.
This is also the beginning of descending to deeper and darker realms where leaders get a chance to see, and then integrate, some of their shadowy parts or aspects of their leadership blind spots.
They symbolize healthy protection, necessary boundaries and often unconscious defense mechanisms.
One of the most famous mythological shields that was loaned to Perseus by Athena was so polished that it served as a mirror when he cut off Medusa’s head. This mirror saved him from becoming petrified unlike all the warriors before him.
Both in leadership coaching and team coaching this metaphor suggests that we regularly need to reflect on our symbolic shields so we can establish healthy boundaries and become aware of our destructive inner resistances.
⛩️ THRESHOLD ⛩️
It’s the symbol of leaving the old behind and entering the new.
Hesitating, waiting for things or going in circles are typical behaviors that we can observe at this stage of the transformation.
Thresholds are scary places because we never know what’s waiting for us on the other side.
For me the most fascinating aspect of crossing a threshold is the silence before we do it. Clients always stay quiet before they allow themselves to cross it.
In fairy tales it’s very similar.
In the Russian fairytale, the Beautiful Vasilisa nearly faints from fear on the doorstep of the frightening Baba Yaga. In Andersen’s tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, everyone gasps when the little boy calls out the Emperor.
It’s almost like we need silence to drop into a deeper place…