Performance optimisation remains a popular goal in coaching. On the surface, this sounds great. After all, who wouldn’t want to become a self-confident and successful individual – i.e. to be ”all that he or she could be’?
But in reality, such striving for excellence does not come without its dangers.
Throughout history, there have been plenty of examples where hubris (i.e. excessive self-confidence, OED, n) has been the cause of a disastrous fall. Check out The Icarus Syndrome by Peter Beinart for insight into how hubris has shaped what he argues have been some disastrous American foreign policy decisions.
So where ought we to draw the line between well-deserved success and hubris?
Meditations on the Tarot (A Journey into Christian Hermeticisim) provides a thoughtful answer:
Every Christian has been taught that man was ejected from the Garden of Eden for desiring more ‘knowledge’ than God wished to reveal.
Origen (circa AD 185) suggests this is hard-wired in our souls – i.e. we are built to push the boundaries of nature with the purpose of breaching them – i.e. for example through scientific research.
According to the Hermetic tradition, this is dangerous. If God had wished us to have such knowledge, he would have provided it.
Does it mean that we should never strive for more than we’ve been given?
Of course not.
According to Hermetic wisdom, pushing the boundaries is absolutely necessary for us to work and grow – to think and await the ripening of our thoughts – to cultivate and maintain ourselves much as we would care for our garden – i.e. all shall grown and harvested in accordance with the laws of nature.
So why would we push ourselves more than we push our gardens?
Hermetic wisdom suggests that (through ignorance), we identify ‘self’ with ‘ego’ – ‘I’ must have this or that because ‘I” want it (not because I need it or because it is good for me but because I WANT) – and such behaviour is further fueled by advertisements suggesting you should want whatever is for sale for no other reason than because ‘you’re worth it’.
Danger – danger – danger !!!!
What will you be ‘worth’ after your personal fall?
Whenever you’re tempted to push beyond the bounds of your own nature and, like Icarus, fly too close to the sun then stop, sit back, and be heartened.
Coaching is not just a process by which you can achieve your wildest dreams but also it provides a time and space in which you can find much-needed equilibrium and balance.