A few years ago I toyed with the idea of going to a coach. A short bout of illness had prompted me to re-evaluate how I wanted my future to develop. Getting the services of a coach seemed like a way to plan some new things ahead – or so I thought!

I looked around for someone whom I thought would fit the bill, without great success at first. Looking back, I realise why! What I had been looking for in a coach was not for someone to help me rethink some things. What I really wanted, without admitting it to myself, was someone to do it for me – someone to present me with the future, to do the work that I didn’t feel up to doing at that time.

Recently I listened to someone describe the role of a coach like this – it is to help a client find the resources within themselves to solve a problem or to create something new. I realised that what I had been looking for all those years ago was someone to rescue me rather than to help me find the where withal within myself to create something different.

Had I found what I was initially looking for it would certainly have been easier in the short-term, but not to my ultimate benefit. Happily, the situation was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

A few weeks ago Senator George Mitchell visited Belfast again. His visit was a reminder of the extraordinary levels of help we have received in Northern Ireland. We have had the skills of the most talented and the attention of the most powerful as we try to make our painful journey to peace. 
Senator Mitchell’s visit prompted talk of who would facilitate our political leaders in negotiations after the elections.

Globally we are living in extraordinary times. One of the things we are discovering is that there is not an inexhaustible supply of international attention or energy available to be devoted to our search for lasting peace. 
We are glad for the attention and help we have received but recognise others have their own issues to face and future to create. 

A facilitator has a job to do. It is to help our leaders to find the resources within themselves to do what they need to do. Our leaders have their own job to do. One part of that is obvious. 

It is to solve immediate problems. Yet it is so much more than that. It is to create something new – a way of finding reconciliation and a better future. 

Gaining political power is not for the fainthearted. Neither is the exercise of it. It is hard because our road to reconciliation means dealing with the past, present and the future. 

Political leadership is something most of us have an opinion about, but a task few would envy. Yet, to paraphrase one leadership expert, “We need more in leaders than just the ability to gather a following.”

Seeking help for the task is more than reasonable.

Yet, whatever help our political leaders seek, it should not now be for someone to rescue them – to do it for them. 

As with the job of a coach it is help for them to find, within themselves, the resources they need to make the hard decisions. Upon such does our future depend. It was ever thus.


Earl Storey

Journey in Self-Belief Project

Maynooth University

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