My wife said something the other day that got me thinking. In her massage therapy world, one of the things she is trying to do is take care of people before they go “over the edge”. What did she mean by this? She wants to treat them BEFORE an acute injury occurs. Over time, people accumulate physical and emotional pain that remains unresolved. The body has the habit of storing these incidents somewhere (in the shoulders and neck, or perhaps the stomach, or in the lower back). We go along in life for a short or longer period accumulating these pieces. Then, all of a sudden, a small incident occurs, throwing us over the edge into deep pain.
Another phrase for this “edge” is the “tipping point” -the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change. Or think of the phrase, “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
Steve Browne, one of THE most positive people in the world, recently wrote this in his blog:
“When you step back and understand that people mask the facets of life, both great and challenging, in order to even make it in for another day of work, you’ll realize it can become exhausting. However, no one is stepping into this gap and providing an outlet for people. HR has to be the profession that willingly and genuinely steps into the lives of others. When people know that they have someone they can connect to and that you will genuinely listen to them, you can honestly feel the pressures of life slowly release.”
Those two separate thoughts got me thinking. Keeping people from the edge is the essence of what I am trying to do as a career coach. Avoid getting to the edge – the edge of losing their job, the edge of hating their current job so much that it effects the rest of their life, the edge that is despair that nothing will go right, that edge that is taking another job simply because they need a paycheck even though they know they have not fully considered the job.
I want to help people stay away from that edge. Thinking about “what’s next” in a career can be tiring, especially when you have a lot going on in life. When things are going well, who wants to plan for the next contingency? But just like Rose’s “edge” or the person canoeing down the nice river not knowing rapids are ahead, we often don’t know we are getting close to the edge. That’s what a coach is there to do, build awareness of that edge.
For all of us, there is a second message. Shouldn’t we be helping others avoid their edge?
Like Rose spoke about, sometimes we are not even aware we are getting closer to the edge until we do that one move, that one reach, and our back gives out. As Steve wrote, some people are masking those things just to get through the day. We don’t see behind the mask, or choose not to pay attention to the fact that a mask is present. Might we have an opportunity to back someone – ourselves or someone else- away from the edge? Might we be the individual someone else can connect to and help them slowly release the pressures of life?