Coaching insight: The map is not the territory

iStock_000019326792SmallIn 1931, Alfred Korzybski, a Polish-American philosopher and scientist, used the phrase, “the map is not the territory” to draw a key distinction between reality and our thoughts about reality.  It’s a very rich metaphor because there are so many ways to think about it and extend it.  You tend to create problems when you lose the distinction.

When you look at a map, you know it represents the territory.

What about your thoughts?  Your map may say that all Democrats are spenders and all Republicans are tightwads.  And think about your life.  The destination says “winner” but the route seems a little fuzzy at times.  In one sense, coaches operate within that metaphor as they coach.   Here are a few possibilities:

Clients want to reroute their map.  I have a client who joined a company ten years ago.  He was in the right spot at the right time and quickly moved from the production floor to management and is still going.  He’s added three children and life got very settled and busy.  Now he thinks he’s gone as far as he will with this company and it’s not what he wants for the rest of his life.  His dream of being the “thought hub” had turned into a comfortable existence.  The dream hasn’t changed, but he’s now in the process of finding a new route.

Clients think their map is real.  Whenever a client says, “That’s just the way I am” they are thinking that their map is real.  Fascinating comparisons show up when they compare their map to those around them.

Clients want to enjoy the scenic route.  Ever had a client think the express lane was going to burn out their engine?  If the journey no longer is fun, then the client wants to slow down and enjoy the moment.

What about you?  How well does your map match the territory?