05 May 2020

Small Fires

About a year ago, I was on a retreat just outside New York City as part of a nature based coach training program.  One of our activities was to create a structure for a fire that we could light with one match.  It had been raining for a few days in a row, but nonetheless, our leaders thought this was possible.

 So, I started by finding the driest wood I could and created a structure like a teepee and filled it with leaves.  I asked for a match, lit it next to the leaves, and it smoldered a little before dying out.  A coach came over to talk about my thought process when building the structure and why I thought it didn’t light.  There wasn’t much thought put into it; I simply imitated what I thought our leaders had done in building our fires at our campsite.  So, my coach gave me a few suggestions, and pointed out that my choice of sticks was probably too big after so much rain. 

So, I went about finding smaller sticks, made a new structure with leaves in the middle and attempted to light it again.  Same result.  I talked with my coach again and this time I started crying.  Yep, this fire had brought me to tears.  After the first attempt, I was still excited and felt encouraged to try again.  Now I felt defeated, started thinking I can never do anything right, I’m never going to get this, etc.  I was making it mean a lot.  Then, my coach asked me – what do you think nature has to say about this?  I said “nothing”.  Nothing.  I was creating a  whole lot of meaning around a big story that wasn’t true. 

So, my coach lead me out into the woods, taught me how to look for small, dry kindling when the ground is saturated with water and helped me create a new structure, which was similar in appearance, but much smaller than the first two.  And while we were building it, we talked about the metaphor of making goals in my life smaller and smaller.  And, also, using good material to build with.  And guess what?  It lit!  My coach gave me the option to light it or not; I chose to light it, and was delighted to watch it burn.

What’s my point in telling you my fire saga?  3 Reasons:

  1. To illustrate how small things, foundational things can often be overlooked and yet, are important to the goal that we’re trying to achieve.  Big goals are attainable when broken down into smaller “sticks” that are also more conducive to what we may be trying to achieve.

2) My initial thoughts about how to build my fire were centered around what I thought I “should” be doing based on what I saw others doing.  But, what worked in the end was something different in appearance and size.  Which begs the question – where in your life are you frustrated, trying to get results based on someone else’s model?  How could you use your imagination to create something different to get the results you’re looking for?

3) I allowed my mind to make up a big story that wasn’t true, and it happened fast.  Often times, we allow our minds to run wild and we don’t even notice.  Is there a goal in your life that you’re frustrated with?  What’s the story that you’re telling yourself about it?

We all have times when things don’t go as we hoped or planned.  But when we are able to ask ourselves discerning questions, they can provide clarity into the possible solution. 

There are many paths to success, and once you find yours, you can delight not only in the result, but in the process itself.

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