Artwork by Phil Jimenez
Over the past few months, I’ve been studying two subjects simultaneously. The first is Greek and Roman Mythology with Professor Peter Struck. The second is Co-Active Coaching at CTI. Co-Active Coaching provides the foundation for all professional coaching recognized by the International Coaching Federation (which I proudly joined last month.)
The connection between classical mythology and professional coaching might not be evident at first glance, but they go together like peanut butter and jelly.
For starters, reading ancient stories normalizes our current struggles by revealing that our personal problems are nothing new. Ever since storytelling began, humanity has wrestled with mortality, belonging, ethical behavior, power dynamics, and intergenerational squabbles. Every person may be uniquely individual, but our problems are remarkably few in variety and rarely, if ever, unique.
Greek mythology, especially through the lens of Jungian psychology, invites us to look at the world through the eyes of the Olympian gods, who embody different values and perspectives: Zeus, the warrior king. His wife Hera, protector of contracts. Hermes, the quick-witted trickster who speaks eloquently but in half-truths. Athena, the strategic goddess of wisdom, war, and weaving. You get the idea.
Perspective-taking is a powerful coaching tool. When facing the world, we always see it from our own point of view, which we tend to regard as The Truth. But it isn’t. No one ever has access to The Whole Truth. We just have a perspective that has been informed by our past experience, mood, and maybe what we had for breakfast.
Here’s an example:
Flying during the holidays.
Right now, when I think of holiday travel, I roll my eyes, my stomach drops, and I think, “ugh, that’s going to be stressful and a lot of trouble. It’s not worth it.”
Now, what does that look like from the perspective of, say, Hestia, goddess of hearth and home?
Hestia focuses on the people traveling to be with their loved ones, to find coziness around a fire or breakfast table how everyone is in it together, with so many people braving the unknown to connect with family. She also reminds me that I love my family.
Hermes loves to travel! It’s an adventure. Movement is excellent, and speed is better! And think of all the stories! What if you meet someone interesting? A new client or friend or travel companion? The journey is the thing, not the destination. Keep it light and playful!
Athena says to plan carefully. By making sure I’m well-packed with what I need. Extra masks, appropriate clothing, and keeping a careful eye on my surroundings, I can make it home strategically and tactically, with minimal strife.
Ares, the god of war, relishes the danger. Don’t be a wimp! If you want to travel, relish all the potential conflict. Relish the battle with the world. Get lost in the moment.
Aphrodite agrees with him. Get lost in the pleasures of the world. Enjoy the sensual delights, the beautiful people. You might fall in love or punch the mile-high club card.
You get the idea. These are all valid ways to look at holiday travel. None of them is truer than the others. Since I’m going to get on that plane, I might as well choose a perspective that empowers me and makes it more fun. And the gods provide quick access to a variety of perspectives. And they are all a lot more fun and engaging than the perspective I started with.
Now, which one to choose?
What’s an area of your life where you might try on a different perspective? Please share in the comments!