When Little Red Riding Hood set out to visit her sickly grandmother, she prepared her basket of goodies and set out on the journey. When Snow White was taken into the forest by her wicked stepmother’s huntsman to be killed, she also began her great journey into the unknown. Even Shrek (in each movie) faced a formidable journey before he could get to where he needed to be. The truth is that every good story has a journey and it plays a very important role in the narrative structure and also in the personal development of the character.
So what is the role of the journey in our stories? Well, the journey is a metaphor for transformation. The protagonist of the story undergoes some kind of change which is enabled by the physical movement of the journey. This transformation can be physical, emotional or intellectual but it is described through the journey in the narrative form.
When I was 18, I left home and went to university overseas. It was my first time living away from home and leaving the shelter of my family and the community I grew up in. My journey had immense significance in terms of the personal process I went through. Even the journey itself can be viewed on several levels. There was the part of the journey that took place in the first 24 hours after I left home. The flights, the baggage handling, the arrival and the confusion all added to the discomfort and metaphorical severing of the ‘child’ from home and family and being catapulted into adulthood.
I believe that the journey went way beyond the first 24 hours of physically and literally leaving home and flying overseas. The journey continued over the next 12 months of my university program, living in dorms and meeting people from all over the world. The journey continued with the learning how to shop and budget and cook for myself for the first time. It continued when I ran out of money and worked waitressing and cleaning houses to get by and not have to ask my parents for support. The journey continued as I realised what I wanted to study and moved into the degree program that was offered in another town that I had to move to.
In some sense, the journey still continues and will do so even after all these year as my life unfolds.
The coaching process is often described as a journey. The assumption being that the client when committing to the coaching process undertakes a life changing journey, from which she or he will emerge changed – hopefully, for the better! Just as we are the protagonist in our life stories, the coaching journey is the vehicle of change for our protagonist, the client. As we enable our clients to take action, this movement creates a momentum which enables further action. The outcome is the coaching journey which facilitates reaching goals and creating the life that we dream of.
There is an immediately obvious link between our stories and the coaching process. When we use story, the metaphor is clear and useful to help our clients take those first crucial steps on their journey to self-realization and fulfilment.
As we learn to examine our stories and identify our journey in them, we become better equipped to see movement, change and transformation in a positive light. When we understand our journey, through our actions and through our stories, we have the wonderful opportunity to celebrate our own personal transformation.