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May 7, 2014

Life Is Like A Field of Landmines!

     To emphasize and introduce a lecture on coaching, I had a group of mayors and Municipal Health officers and their community leaders undergo a game called "Landmines!" The game is simple. The participants are paired and brought inside a room filled with randomly positioned chairs. The other half of the pair is blindfolded and will be guided by the other half of the pair (who is supposedly the coach) through a field of "landmines" represented by the chair from the starting point to the "safe zone" which is just across the room. The objective is to cross to the other side without touching the landmines. The "coach" can only guide the blindfolded partner using verbal instructions. The coach are also only allowed to stay either in the safe zone or in the starting point area. Only the blindfolded partner is allowed to stay in the field of landmines.

Here's a trailer I made about the activity using iMovie:

     While discussing the post-activity insights of the participants, I also had my own realizations about the activity as well, especially about coaching, life and the landmines embedded along the way.

Insight No. 1: Life is a Field of Landmines: It is not a smooth-sailing trip this journey called life. Along the way there are landmines - obstacles - that we need to avoid unless we want to get blown away. Some obstacles can be very obvious and therefore should be easy to avoid. Some landmines are so concealed from us that we don't know they're there until they blow up on our face. And once they blow up they can be as painful as any exploding landmine can get. I've seen pictures of victims of landmines and those who survived would usually suffer a loss of a limb. Somehow, in life, when we survive an obstacle or a landmine, we kinda suffer the same loss. We bear the scars of an injured traveler and every bruise and wound has a story to tell.

Insight No. 2: We Navigate Life With Blindspots: Like the blindfolded partner, we are limited with certain blindspots. We walk life blindfolded and our blindfolds come in the form of our own prejudice, bias, our own perspectives, principles and agenda. We have made our own blindfolds and for every life experience we go through we take off one blindfold and perhaps replace it with another. Even when we walk one-eyed, we are still blind nonetheless. It is our blindspots that make navigating through the landmines difficult. It requires elucidation of these blindspots. We can do it on our own but it will be difficult. More often than not we would need the help of others, those whose eye-sight and perspectives are wider than our own.

Insight No. 3: Never Be Distracted From the Goal: When we asked the participants who finished the puzzle first among the others without touching any landmine many of their coaches told me that prior to guiding their blindfolded partners they already plotted the course which they would want their blindfolded partner to track. Sizing up how far they were currently from their end goal they decided on strategies on how to walk through the safe zone. Those who finished last and some of whom touched some chairs along the way shared to the group how fixated they were trying to avoid the landmines that they forgot about the safe zone which is the end goal of the activity. Because they were too focused trying to avoid the landmines, they found themselves farther and farther from the safe zone. It makes sense. If we are distracted about the obstacles and hurdles, we tend to focus our life trying to avoid them instead of trying to navigate a way around them towards reaching our goal. It is really a frame of mind.

Insight No. 4: To Survive the Field of Landmines, You Need to Trust: Every person has a guide and coach and whether it is a friend or family member or co-worker, we travel through life with a guide who can help us navigate the complexities of the field of landmines. Because we are limited with our blindspots, we need to trust someone to help us widen our perspective. In coaching, trust is a prerequisite. If your coachee does not trust you, then you cannot coach your coachee. It takes a lot of humility to trust. It takes a lot of responsibility and accountability to be trusted. It is the only way one can survive the rigors and threats of life.

Insight No. 5: Anticipate Life's Many Noises: When the participants were told to start guiding their blindfolded partners through the field of landmines, it became almost like a market place. Everyone was shouting and screaming at their respective partners who were also trying to listen to their own guides or coaches. Those who anticipated that this would happen (the chaos) they prepared for it by using codes so that their blindfolded partners could hear them very distinctly amid the noise of other guides and coaches. Life has many noises. Through the chaos we must learn how to pick out the genuine verbal guides so that we won't be distracted.

To see the full video of the Landmines! Game, you can click here.

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