A Rocky Path Triggers Change
As an executive coach, I counsel individuals on their journey toward abundance. The foundation of physical health and happiness is movement—and lots of it. It’s the first step on the road to abundance. So, when feasible, I hold my meetings with clients walking outside in the sunshine. It was during one of these sessions that Mother Nature gifted me with this illuminating insight.
We were walking high on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Southern California. The path was craggy, with breathtaking views over sparkling seas. My client was walking more slowly than usual. I had slowed down a couple of times, anxious to be responsive to her comfort and needs. About halfway through the walk, she shared with me the reason for her labored gait: Her foot was aching; she felt pain with each step.
She hadn’t noticed this pain before, so we sat down while she removed her shoe. She was wearing light, flexible running shoes, the kind with those spongy corrugated soles that open up as you flex them. As we turned the shoe over, the source of her discomfort became immediately apparent. There was a large round hole right under the ball of her foot, where sharp rocks could easily apply direct pressure to her sensitive sole.
But it was the origin of the problem that truly fascinated me.
Several weeks earlier, she had noticed a little stone wedged into the corrugations of her shoe. At first, it was mildly uncomfortable, but she had not bothered to remove it. Instead, she chose to walk on with that slightly irritating clicking noise each time the stone hit the hard surface of the road. In due course, she forgot about it.
After several weeks, the stone had become an entrenched part of her shoe, accompanying her every time she exercised. She didn’t even notice the regular click-step, click-step, click-step cadence that likely annoyed her fellow walkers.
The day before our session, her elderly father had noticed the stone in her shoe. Before she set out to get her 10,000 steps, he had suggested that she remove it. She pried it out with a strong stick, leaving a gaping hole where the hard stone had crushed the surrounding material.
As we walked back to the base of the cliffs, I thought how ironic it was that life had served her up a physical analogy to help her navigate a big change.
It so happened that she had been contemplating some major changes in her life. I could see her courage growing each week, but she remained one big step away from taking the plunge. We’d been working to identify and address the fears that were stopping her.
I’m sure that you recognize this pattern. At some point, you become aware of a problem. Let’s say you’re putting on weight or eating more than you should (or, more often, both). Perhaps you have started to rely on an evening drink or you’re yelling at your children in response to escalating stress from all that’s going on in the world. You note the problem, and then continue your life without really addressing it. The problem then disappears from your awareness, merging into the background of frenetic activity that characterizes our modern lives.
Until somebody else notices it.
At that stage, you’re in trouble, because not only do you feel the disruption, but you realize that the solution is likely to be painful. You have grown accustomed to the stone in your shoe. Removing it will leave a gaping hole. And so, most of the time, many of us will ignore the problem again, hoping that somehow it will magically disappear.
By that time, it is too late for the most obvious solution: to avoid the problem in the first place. In the case of my client, if she had reacted appropriately when she first noticed the problem, she could have removed the stone before her shoe was damaged.
Since that was no longer an option, what she needed was to quickly fill the gap she had created with something healthy. She went home and found a little of that magical foam plumbers use to fill cracks and crevices. It provided temporary relief for the damaged shoe.
This simple fix led her very quickly to understand the solution to her bigger problems.
She gathered the courage required to make the big change in her life that she had been avoiding. She quit her job and volunteered at the local homeless shelter while she looked for her next career opportunity. Rather than sitting around at home with a big hole in her life, leaving her vulnerable to the consequences of boredom and purposelessness, she filled the gap before it became a problem.
Today, several years later, she is a powerful leader of a multimillion-dollar company and guides her team to embrace change early, before gaps appear.
I hope that this simple story helps you think about a change that you need to make. Understand the source of your fear. Identify the hole you will create, and find a way to fill it before it becomes a problem. Then step out, embrace the change, and surge forward on your path to victory.
Dr. Roddy Carter, MD, has over 30 years of experience working across a range of medical disciplines and corporate settings.
At the height of his successful career, Roddy experienced a personal health and happiness awakening. During this profoundly transformative time, he began applying his deep knowledge of performance neuroscience to his everyday life. He discovered that, in moments of stress, the brain develops intricate psycho-protective adaptations to ensure our short-term survival; however, these adaptations often impose substantial residual limitations, create profound (and often hidden) distress, and prevent us from reaching our innate potential.
Today, Roddy is an executive coach and author dedicated to helping others unlock their full potential throughout their lives by applying compassionate neuroscience and sharing his unique approach to Personal Mastery™.