Monday, January 13, 2014

Stepping on the problem

On my first snow shoe hike this winter my daughters and I got to talking about how to handle the shoes so we don't fall down. People who snowshoe all the time seldom have this problem but newbies often do. Me being one of those people  until I learned to keep my feet separated. 

After a couple of the group had taken a tumble P decided she was stepping on her other snowshoe which caused her to fall. If you are a new snowshoer you will know this is easily done. The snowshoes are wider than your boots and are often covered in snow.  This prompted me to respond with "When that happens we can't fix the problem cause we are standing on it." I am not sure why I said problem instead of snowshoe. Maybe because we had  been having grand conversations about careers and lifestyle choices as we walked the trail. Her comment made me think of how we can get ourselves tangled up trying to sort out our problems.

This led me to think about  my work with folks who have problems and/or difficulties in the workplace. 

When you step on your other snowshoe two things usually happen. One is that you are stopped up suddenly and you have no idea why. You lose the sense of where your feet are and which one is on the top of the other if you have even figured out that much. If you are new to snowshoeing you will fall down immediately. Your body and brain are not quick enough to register the problem. If you have a little more experience you realize what has happened but you have no idea what to do about it. Once again you have lost that sense of where your foot is and which one is causing the problem. You will fall. With more experience you prevent your shoes from coming near each other. 

I see people continuing to believe they are right in what they did and cannot see that they are heading for trouble. They sincerely believed that what they were doing was in the best interests of the child or for the work place. They have their viewpoint obscured by the snowshoe on top. They cannot see the problems they are creating for themselves and others, since they are stepping on the reasons. Some times it appears that they are deluding themselves into thinking they are in the right and the students or the co workers and bosses are wrong. We shake our heads in amazement at what they have gotten themselves in to. I  see that they recognize they are in trouble since they are being investigated but they truly do not know where their "snowshoes" got tangled up since they are standing on their problem(s). It takes considerable time and energy for a counsellor or a mentor to show them how they ended up falling. Some people learn to "keep their feet separated" and do not repeat their errors. Others end up with a thick file of missteps and "falling down". They never seem to learn to keep their "feet separated" at all times.

The search for self awareness is important if it is paired with "other" awareness. We need to try to understand how we view the world and our place in it but we cannot stop there. We also need to try to understand how others are perceiving how we are presenting to them and to the world at large. 
The Johari model might provide an answer. I have included a link here to a site that explains how this works. 
This link connects to a website that explains the Johari model of awareness.


  1. Great analogy! The stepping on snowshoes was a figurative and literal problem for me - sometimes I stepped on the other snowshoe, but learned quickly, most of the time, I was separating snowshoes!

  2. Ah, metaphors. Life is full of them.

  3. Don't think many of the people I encounter in my work recognize metaphor. Too bad since they can help learning even for adults.

  4. I think it's only with "big decisions" that we end up understanding metaphor or when we are standing on our own problem!! Loved our hike and this quote of yours.