The off-track journey as metaphor by Andrew Kable

Humans understand the world through metaphor. When we learn something new, we frame it in the terms of something we already know.

This is why I love off-track wilderness adventure as a metaphor for a personal journey or for the journey of a start-up company.

Going off-track is hard.

You have to set-out with a plan, and often a compass bearing, but you also have to modify that plan in response to the terrain.

 You push through the tangle of vegetation, finding passes through cliff-lines and actively navigating the whole time. You sometimes have to backtrack, try alternative routes, and sometimes you get lost for a while. The reward is getting to somewhere amazing, a place where people who stick to the track never get to go.

Staying on an established track is doesn't take much mental energy and it gets you places quickly, even if those places are easily accessible to anyone.

If you are undergoing a process of self-actualisation, or if you are building a start-up company, you are going to have to forge your own path.

Taking a wilderness off-track adventure is a great way to make yourself more prepared for the rigours of your broader personal or corporate journey.



Why executive coaching in the outdoors? by Andrew Kable

Most executive coaching sessions take place in meeting rooms, over coffee, or over telephone or video conferencing.

These are all great environments for coaching to take place in, and are the default option because they are convenient.

So why am I running my coaching sessions in wilderness environments in the Blue Mountains, where clients need to take at least a day out of their schedule to participate?

I wrote a previous blog post about why the wilderness is great for personal transformation, but here are five reasons why the outdoors is great for coaching.

1. Firstly it is as simple as getting a different perspective. It is easier to move your thinking forward when you can step outside the city and get a high-altitude view.

2. Being outdoors allows us to have a day-long uninterrupted coaching session where there is no phone reception and some real progress can be made.

3. Awaken your adventurous self! In our outdoor day we set up an activity that will move you outside your comfort zone and force you to get in touch with your adventurous self. We then make the time to apply your adventurous self to your challenges back in the office. You will be surprised by your new thinking!

Mechanisms for personal transformation in wild environments by Andrew Kable

Wild environments provide a number of mechanisms by which personal change can be facilitated.

1. The first is simply the removal of the individual from their everyday environment into a place where the normal stimuli are absent. Escaping from the expectations and pressures of daily life gives a person time to be reflective...a vital part of any change process. A wild environment will have no communications access to the outside world.

2. A second mechanism for transformation is contact with the Sublime. When taken away from the safety and comfort of environments that are designed for people, and in the presence of the power and indifference of the wild, participants often feel a kind of awe. This may take the form of fear or ecstasy, but is always tied up with an appreciation that the individual is part of a greater whole, something bigger.

3. The third mechanism is the taking on of unfamiliar challenges. Wild environments often require additional effort to meet the basic needs of life; water, food and shelter. There is likely to be discomfort and close contact with the elements, as well as an unfamiliar level of physical exertion.

4. A fourth mechanism is the opportunity to observe the natural world. There are few distractions, and many opportunities to observe ecology in action.

5. Finally, being in a wild place with other people makes you highly dependent on those around you. The absence of distraction, and the absence of other people means you have to engage with those around you much more closely. It is a unique opportunity to engage with people.

These mechanisms can be used to take the participants through a process of change. Being away from their normal lives and the presence of the Sublime provide the right environments for participants to challenge their preconceptions and existing mental models of the world.

Facilitators can use the fact that participants have no easy way out to carefully construct challenges that put participants under some pressure. If managed well, participants can come away from these experiences feeling empowered.

More interestingly, if facilitated correctly, participants can come away with a better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses, or with the appreciation that there is a different way of seeing or doing things. If the participants are briefed to maintain an awareness of their own behaviours, and then promptly debriefed after the event, then they may well make a Gestalt Shift in awareness.

The Gestalt Shift is a change in an individual's way of seeing or interpreting the world, which causes that person to look at all their past experiences in a new light. That shift presents a window of opportunity for true change.