Postcard from Peru
Clare Baker, Associate Consultant
Do you remember having to do homework for your first day of the new school year: ‘What I did in my summer holidays’. Maybe 'What I learned in my summer holidays' is more valuable? Either way, I'm sure my favourite English teacher, Miss Lovatt, would say this post is 30 years' overdue.
I learned that learning needs its own space. That it is an adventure in its own right.
What I did on my summer holiday
I climbed Nevado Pisco in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru, last week. I loved the experience, altitude sickness and all. I love being in nature, and thrive on physical challenge.
Can something like a mountain climb increase the power of coaching? Last week I answered that question in a surprising way.
I often walk with my clients, helping them create a deliberate physical and mental distance from their day to day life. This helps shape a fresh perspective, and people tell me walking helps them to think more clearly and makes it easier for them to find a way forward.
When my clients are walking and I’m comfortably in my office at the other end of the phone, the experience is different. People share that they can pull funny faces, walk in circles and even tear up leaves – things that help their thinking but they’d feel too self-conscious to do if I was by their side.
I was sure that a bigger challenge would give greater results. Yet as I was climbing, I found I couldn’t and didn’t want to focus on my growth as a human being, business owner and coach.
The climb tested my endurance so much that I could only be present in each moment. I had no mental or physical capacity to do more than take each next step. My emotional energy was fully committed to the ice, breath-taking peaks and achingly blue skies around me.
The perfect place to go beyond who you are to who you can be?
If you’ve ever heard learning and development jargon you might have come across the comfort, stretch and panic zones. The stretch zone is the ideal space to avoid stagnation, go beyond your current awareness and capabilities, and achieve something remarkable within yourself or the world.
I found I couldn’t work on myself and climb the mountain at the same time. I wasn’t in the panic zone. I wasn’t frozen by fear (I was too tired to be scared, and too in love with the mountain to be put off by the danger). However, meeting the challenges of being a first-time mountaineer at extreme altitude for the first time was all the stretching I could do.
My adventures build my resilience. I constantly surprise myself by how much I am capable of. Adventure widens my perspective, teaches me to let go of what I can’t control, and brings people into my life I would otherwise never meet. And they take all of me, in every moment. There is no space for anything else.
So what did I learn in during my summer holidays?
Learning is an adventure in itself. It deserves its own sacred space. I won’t be taking my clients up a mountain. The gentle hills of the Surrey and Sussex give space for people to benefit from movement and nature while having the energy to reflect on what matters and find their own way forward.
If you have a question about coaching, hiking, adventure (or me), you can connect with me or drop me an email via firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you want to find out something surprising about yourself I highly recommend climbing a mountain just because you can, and because it’s there...