By Brianne Allen
What is liminal space?
Hallways. Waiting Rooms. Rites of Passage. These familiar architectural spaces and anthropological events all share a theme that hosts a powerful and symbolic message about the coaching mission and journey. These in-between places and moments have been given the term liminal space, meaning a transitional stage, process, or place. In these spaces we pause before we move, we wait before we arrive.
As we become more self-aware of the liminal spaces in our lives, regardless of size and frequency, we see their impact on our mental, spiritual, and physical spaces. Whether by choice or by force, we experience these liminal spaces as a result of change and challenge.
We move, shift our community, change careers, become a parent, lose a loved one. All of these events present a moment between our change in position, location, rhythm, or identity.
Because these spaces can be disorienting and ambiguous, there is little surprise that we often move briskly through these valuable hallways of life fixated on opening the next door.
In a culture hyper-focused on achievement, and in effort to rush through the uncomfortable stage of in-between, we question what to do in the hallways of our lives. It may be a place of discomfort and perplexity, but it is an important phase to be embraced and not rushed.
Psychologists, philosophers, and theologians all agree there is purpose in life’s hallways. The liminal space between doors can provide space for contemplation and growth. There is opportunity for reflection and time to seek perspective in order to carefully prepare for the next door. Activating a mindset of openness and curiosity while staying focused on awareness rather than achievement allows for greater success. Before charging the next door, use this time to discover or enrich your why – your unique purpose and intrinsic motivation – as that will become your most trusted and authentic guide in decision-making.
Liminal space is a rich analogy for coaching. Clients are likely seeking coaching because they are currently in a liminal space. They may be nearing a transition, in a transition, or processing a recent transition. Knowing this, how can we as coaches best serve our clients? What is the most valued proposition we can offer as coaches? How do we encourage awareness as the fundamental focus in effort to achieve? As we coach our clients in the hallways, we empower them to confidently navigate life’s future hallways and doors. Achievement and action are important, but they often remain hollow without awareness and transformation.