Our own Instruction Manual
Not so long ago there was a fashionable saying that went: “not only is life complicated, but we weren’t given the instruction manual!” As jokes go it’s a neat way of summing up the concept of existential complexity. Difficult to decipher, it is harder still to resolve, daughter as it is of a technological age in which all devices we buy are automatically kitted out with an instruction manual.
The saying also bears witness to the fact that despite the steady and ever amplified march in the last century towards homogenization and the reduction of man into standardized categories, this has, fortunately, failed.
As humanistic disciplines return to the forefront (Goleman’s work on the fundamental importance of emotional intelligence for the success of workers and companies is a good example), what is emerging is an appreciation of the uniqueness and “power” of each individual human being. If an instruction manual on how to approach life did exist it would have to be to the tune of 7 billion books, roughly the world’s population, and a huge job for whichever publisher took it on. In reality it wouldn’t be possible because mass production of identical products – the first principle of industry – would be missing. We need a different tool to help us realize our dreams, ideas, and desires, or in other words, what makes us feel good.
Think about it: there are around 7 billion people on earth, each with their own unique story, geography, genes, context and position, both in space and time.
But in spite of that we all have things in common. Above all we share the desire to be happy and to get along well with others, beyond basic human needs like eating, sleeping, and reproducing.
The glue that binds us together is the happiness and unhappiness that we glean from our interpersonal relationships. No man is an island, nor can he be one. It takes two people to give life.
Which tool then, in focusing on what unites us, will highlight and enhance our uniqueness and potential, smoothing the path towards wellbeing? What would be the features of this tool? Who would build it and who would use it? I think that the right tool needs to allow us to get on with others without judging. Judgement separates, pulls us apart. Not judging gathers, listens, unites.
What’s more the tool must know how to adapt to circumstances and time, to changing situations and contexts. More than to know it must know how to recognize; how to be flexible but supportive, helpful and efficient, welcoming and stimulating.
No instruction manual on earth can do all of these things. Why not Coaches then; people who have learned and trained how to be these tools. They are neutral because they don’t judge. Yet at the same time they know how to support a fellow human being in realizing the dreams that elude them, in shining a light on the map that will put these dreams in their grasp.