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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

North Pole of Inaccessibility

I know at this time of year there's more interest in the North Pole where Santa lives, but I was intrigued when I heard about there being a North Pole of Inaccessibility. Not only that, there's also an expedition headed that way in February 2016 - for more see icewarrior's website.
Training in Spitzbergen
The North Pole of Inaccessibility - what a great description. It describes a point that is remote due to its lack of proximity to any place of access - therefore making it the most difficult place to reach ie inaccessible (despite expeditions planning how to conquer it). It's a journey of over 1000 km (800 miles) to the loneliest place on the ice, and is about 450 km from the geographic North Pole.

I loved the description so much I wondered how I might use it, and the landscape is describes, when Landscaping Your Life (LYL) - a process that uses landscapes as metaphors for our lives.

There are many different processes in the LYL toolkit - one that comes to mind requires us to:
  1. Envisage a landscape that depicts the current situation we're feeling stuck about,  
  2. Envisage a landscape that depicts the desired outcome, (there is no right or wrong just what landscape comes to mind immediately, or intuitively)
  3. Plot a course from one landscape to the other - ie what would you need to do to get from one to the other? Or another option is to identify what changes need to be made to the current landscape, and to imagine making those changes (warmer, colder, more colour, more greenery, more or less cloud or sun, louder or softer sounds etc). Either way we end up in a landscape that looks, feels and sounds different to the original stuck landscape.
  4. Then, and only once steps 1-3 have been completed, consider what action is required to achieve your desired outcome in reality. That is you stay in the metaphor for as long as possible, and only think about the actual situation once you've explored the metaphor/landscape.
It may sound a little a lot weird, but it makes sense to your mind, and will enable links to be set up in your brain to bridge the gap between where you are, and what needs to happen to get where you want to be.

The only way to be sure about the efficacy of the process - is to try it for yourself. Coaching is available if you'd like some guidance the first time you use the process - see here for notes from a session to see how it worked with one client.

In this post I'd like to consider what happens if we choose the North Pole of Inaccessibility for either landscape when using the above process ie the landscape is used to describe either the current stuck state, or the desired outcome.

To do that think of a situation you'd like more clarity about, or want to feel more resourceful about, or that you currently feel stuck about. Notice how satisfied you feel about it on a scale of 0-10. Then decide whether the North Pole of Inaccessibility best describes your current situation, or the desired outcome. Don't worry about whether it logically makes sense, nor try to understand why the answer is what the answer is. Just go with what ever comes to mind - current or desired situation and then consider the following questions.

Desired outcome or goal 

Please note this post isn't about making something that feels like a 'walk in the park' into a 'North Pole of Inaccessibility' - please do stay in the park if that's the case.

That said I'm sure many goals can feel a little like we're trying to get to the North Pole of Inaccessibility - ie inaccessible and never achievable. It also explains why no progress is currently being made too - or at best it's slow progress. 

If you do feel stuck, and can relate to this metaphor then do read on. Remembering to stick with the metaphor for as long as possible - ie answer the questions from the perspective of your interpretation of the North Pole of Inaccessibility (keep logic out of it for now).

Questions to consider:
  • Do others agree with you that it's inaccessible?
  • Have others got there easily? If so it's not really that inaccessible - how did they achieve it?  
  • Do you know without any doubt that there are no closer points of access?
  • How can you make the journey easier - i.e. what resources do you need e.g. time, people, training, finance, equipment, maps, coach or guide and so on.
  • What will you do when you get there?
  • How long will you stay? 
  • Where will you go when you get back? 
  • Why do you want to go there - ie what's the benefit? 
  • Does a different landscape, or description of the landscape best describes the situation
As ever notice what you notice, and take appropriate action that arises from that noticing.

I'm thinking the likely outcome of answering these questions is to either decide the desired outcome is better described by another landscape, or to know the outcome isn't as impossible as perhaps you were thinking it was. Although perhaps another option is to choose a different outcome having realised the current goal is superfluous to requirements?  

The process for developing well formed outcomes may help too - although I'd suggest you apply it to the real situation and not the North Pole. 

Current situation or state
If you're envisaging you're currently already at the North Pole of Inaccessibility then you may want to consider:
  • You have already got here - so you have proved you do have the resources needed to get out, and there is a route out that you know.
  • You've also proved you have the courage and determination needed to do anything.
  • If it wasn't difficult to get here, then it's very unlikely to really be the North Pole of Inaccessibility - what happens if you change the landscape to truly reflect the current situation, or change the description of the landscape? 
  • How can you make the return journey easier - i.e. what resources do you need e.g. time, people, training, finance, equipment, maps, coach or guide and so on.
  • Is it inaccessible for you or for everyone? If just for you - how have others got away from here?
  • Have you made it more inaccessible, and if so how can you make it more accessible?
Using metaphor to resolve issues in this way is very impactful. 

Other suggestions would be to make the saying absurd - the aim being to laugh out loud at the absurdity. This allows something to shift internally - allowing solutions to be found. What about considering:
  • The North Pole of Accessibility
  • The North Point of Inaccessibility
  • The North Circle of Inaccessibility 
  • The North Square of Inaccessibility or Accessibility
  • The North Pole of Flexibility 
  • The North Pole of Opportunity
  • The North Pole of Solutions  
  • The South Pole of Inaccessibility or Accessibility
  • The West Pole
  • The East Pole
  • The Centre Pole 
  • The Centre of the Earth Pole
  • The Inaccessible Pole of the North
  • The Accessible pole of the North
  • and so on - just play with the words, and as you do the attachment and association to the less than helpful image will be released
Consider the original situation you wanted some insight on - how satisfied do you now feel about it 0-10, and what action can you take today towards achieving that desired outcome/goal. 

If you're still unsure about how to do this then here's notes from a coaching session using this saying. 

I'd love to hear how you got on as you read this post - whether you were intentionally applying it to a situation or not.

If you're intrigued by how Landscaping You Life processes may be able to help your organisation, team or you personally do get in touch - alison@alisonsmith.eu +44 (0)7770 538159. Or keep an eye out for forthcoming events.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

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