Becoming a Trapeze Artist

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

Over the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about a trapeze bar. My mentor, Pam, was the one who initially shared the metaphor with me as I contemplated a career transition and it stuck. She offered it as a way to illuminate the process of letting go of something before you can grab hold of the new thing – a job, a relationship, a personal goal or vision for yourself. It continues to resonate with me, but I’ve added my own take to it, and wanted to share in case it was helpful to you too. So, grab your safety harness and let’s dive in, shall we?

Real video of me doing trapeze circa 2012 which is still one of the coolest/scariest things I've ever done


Imagine you are swinging on a trapeze bar (I know, I know, just stay with me here). While you are chilling up there, just swinging along, minding your own business, someone throws the other bar to you and it starts modulating in time. You get a glimpse of it every time the two bars get close to one another, but it’s not yet in focus. You weren’t even looking for another bar. In fact, you didn’t even know another one existed, but now that you see it, you can’t stop thinking about it. You don’t know what you’re even looking at initially, but over time, as you begin to get curious about that far-off place, it starts to get more clear. This is what happened for me with coaching and facilitation. I had no idea that signing up for a professional development course would result in me leaving my job and starting my own practice a year later, but I got a glimpse of something on day one of my class that told me to start paying attention and to stay open-minded. There was something brewing even if I didn’t quite know where it would lead.


Once there’s more clarity on what that next thing looks like, you might find yourself feeling torn between where you are and where you want to be. The bar you have in your hands is comfortable, familiar, and safe. Why leave for something that’s untested, unknown, and unpredictable? That’s not the kind of person I am, you might even say. But, that other bar keeps showing up. You notice your energy shifting when it gets closer. You notice a feeling of restlessness. You notice your hands getting tired as you grip that first bar unwilling to budge. Or, at least, that’s what happened to me.


The truth is that a lot of people stay precisely in this place for a very long time. And, that’s OK. There’s no judgement here. However, clinging to that trapeze bar and not being able to reach for the next one also brings with it its own kind of exhaustion and frustration. Do you ever think to yourself “I know I should be happy – I have all of the trappings of happiness – but something still feels off?” Once I knew that coaching was something I was drawn to and excited by, it got harder for me to sit idly by and not explore the possibilities that existed beyond my current role. I knew I could be content with where I was, but I also knew I would be left wondering if I didn’t at least consider what might be. So, I summoned my courage, held my breath, and dramatically grabbed on to the next bar…with one hand.


And that’s how I stayed for a few months. Stuck between where I was and what might be. Not confident enough yet to let go of either bar and unsure which one was going to win out. Do you know what happens when you’re holding on to two trapeze bars simultaneously…nothing. Nothing happens. There’s no momentum. There’s no movement. It’s impossible to get a good grip. There’s just perpetual discomfort and it’s not sustainable. Something had to give.


And it was in that period of total paralysis that, with the encouragement of a wonderful coach (yes, even coaches have coaches!), I took a moment to look around. I was so narrowly focused on this terrifying task that I had failed to take in the view. Not by the bar in my left hand or by the bar in my right, but directly in front of me was a huge cheering section. There they were, rooting me on, excited for me to take this leap, and confident that I could stick the landing even when I doubted it myself. Even just the idea of my support team reminded me that there was a safety harness holding me up and a net below me to catch me if – when – I needed it. That awareness helped me to realize I wasn’t in this alone.


It was then and only then that I felt ready to reach for the new bar with my other hand, and let the old bar go.


Sometimes it’s hard to envision what the next thing looks like – that career pivot, that new passion project, that inkling of an idea that starts to whisper in your ear or call your name. Other times, you might know exactly what it is, but you’re stuck in that uncomfortable place between where you are and where you want to be. Working with a coach during these critical moments can empower you to clarify your intentions and enable you to move forward. I know it can feel overwhelming and daunting, but I promise that with the right support, you can soar!


If you (or someone you know) could benefit from working with a certified coach and trained facilitator who will provide customized, holistic, and tireless support as you or your team identify and take action towards your goals, please reach out to One Eleven Leadership to set up a complimentary consultation.