There is a great scene in the movie The Last Samurai that has a strong lesson for stress coaching. In this scene, a young Japanese archer tells the Western hero, Nathan Algren, that the reason he cannot beat the samurai in sword fighting is that “he has too many minds.” One mind is wheeling the sword. One mind is aware of the mind wheeling the sword. And one and many more minds each being aware of those minds being aware.
There are few situations more threatening than being at the wrong end of a samurai’s sword. Yet modern day stress can be just as deadly. And there are few handicaps, in either fight, greater than being burdened by the weight of “too many minds.”
Dealing with the Gordian Knot
Stress coaches might think that they can unravel the knot of conscious thoughts that trip-up most victims of stress. But to be effective, stress coaching must cut through that knot which binds the mind of its victims, just as Alexander chose to untie the Gordian knot with his sword.
Stress Coaching by Breaking an Egg or Two
In a similar tale, Christopher Columbus, when challenged to balance a hardboiled egg on its end, set the egg down with just enough force to crack the shell and thus balance the egg smartly on its end. By understanding that breakthroughs often require breaking with the past, stress coaching usually requires helping the client to set aside the many, but often minor, irritants that add up to envelop them. Whether by cutting the knot or breaking the egg, the stress coach must avoid becoming embroiled in the issues that add up to create the crushing burden of stress for their client.
Stress Coaching Can Take a Cue from Zen “Shock Therapy”
Zen Buddhism is a Japanese sect of Buddhism, which practices the art of spontaneous enlightenment. Reasoning that, by definition, a quantum leap cannot be made in incremental steps, enlightenment is always achieved in flash of insight. While other forms of Buddhism seek to achieve this flash of insight through patient meditation, in Zen, the student is “tricked” into enlightenment by the master when presented a puzzle with no rational solution. When the mind is occupied with this imponderable, the flash of enlightenment can come through. The question “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” is a classic example of such a puzzle.
In stress coaching, the coach can help free their client by posing a question that by-passes their conscious mind, giving them direct access to their subconscious mind.
JTS Advisors Strategy and Accountability Coach