I thought that this month, as we enter March and Spring is in the air, it was timely to think about personal development and personal growth and in particular, useful ways of self-coaching. At the same time, I came across the often quoted words from Joseph Campbell, American mythologist, writer and lecturer, who said:
‘Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for’.

This got me thinking.

Within the sentiment of what Campbell was expressing lies, I believe, the most powerful self-development tool available to us and affords each of us the opportunity to become our own coach.

Let me put it another way. When we have a physical allergic reaction, our bodies are essentially letting us know that it doesn’t like what it has encountered and triggers our immune system to deal with the unwanted invader. This is an attempt to protect the body from harm of course.

When we meet someone we do not like or we receive feedback we don’t take kindly to, then emotionally, we have met the equivalent of the physical invader and our emotional anti-bodies are put into action.  Chances are, our emotional immune system, having been triggered in this way, will set up all kinds of defences to protect us from hurt and harm. Thus, in that irritating person or in that unwelcome feedback, we have come to the mouth of Joseph Campbell’s cave.

Staying outside the cave, we stay cosy and safe and, at the same time, stale and static in our personal development. Daring to enter the cave requires us to ask ourselves the following kinds of uncomfortable questions. Let’s take the encounter with the irritating person. Chances are you can think of someone right now. So ask yourself:

‘What is it about this person that I do not like?’
‘Why does that particular aspect / quality of their character irritate me?’
‘When have I demonstrated that way of being myself?’
‘When have I denied myself that way of being?’
‘What do I think would happen if I demonstrated more of this quality / aspect of character?’

Similarly, with unwelcome feedback.

‘What is it about this feedback that I am feeling defensive about?’
‘What would accepting this feedback as true mean I have to give up in the way I think of myself?’
‘What would the opposite of this feedback look like and would I fear or welcome being seen that way?’.

Once you’ve stepped inside the cave, you can experiment and play around with all sorts of questions and you will open up the chance to experiment with new ways of being.

Over time, you will also find yourself less irritated by others and having fewer defensive reactions. And that is a far less stressful way to live, work and be.