by Keith Merron (USA)

There once was a man who woke up one day to discover he was trapped in a 10-foot by 10-foot by 10-foot wooden box with no windows and only one door. Inside the box was nothing but an old, beat-up chair on which he sat, and he was overwhelmed with despair, dread, and emptiness. Outside the box was the rich fullness of life that was replete with love, family, friends, purposeful work, and all the successes and joys that are part of our earthly lives.

The man had the discomforting thought that during the night a group of dangerous men had abducted him and had informed him that he must live the rest of his life in this box. They said they would feed him enough food to survive but, if he ever tried to escape, he would be shot and killed immediately. He was told that they stood outside the door day and night with machine guns ready to fire.

The man struggled with his thoughts. Was what he remembered true? Was the threat real, or was his mind playing a trick on him? Was he destined to live trapped in the box for the rest of his life? Would the mere possibility of living a free, fulfilling life makes escape worth the tremendous risk? Was there a way out that hadn’t occurred to him? Could he avoid the bullets? A decision was gut-wrenching. He sat frozen, unable to move, because he feared that what he imagined was true, but he didn’t know for sure.

Too often, our paradigms shackle us and bind us in a way of thinking in which there are few options. Within such a box, we make choices and live out our lives. While constricting, the box becomes familiar and comfortable over time. We know its contours and its boundaries.

Although the potential for a splendid, freedom-filled life exists outside the box of our paradigms, dangers lurk there as well—or so we fear. We can only experience the fullness that a new paradigm offers if we find a way to escape the boundaries of our current paradigms.

The problem is that we don’t know what awaits outside that box or how our present lives and identity might be threatened—and we will not know without risking that sense of certainty and stability that we now have. Our ‘inner abductors’ tell us not to leave the box of our own thinking—that if we do, others might ridicule or reject us, and we might even face failure. Our inner abductors ‘protect’ us from this possibility and, at the same time, prevent us from a more expansive set of choices—even a fuller life. To live a fuller, more satisfying life requires that we let go of the shackles that bind us. We must strip away that which holds us back.

Source: iCN Issue 31  (Life Coaching: Personal & Professional Empowerment; pages 12-14

About Dr. Keith Merron

Keith Merron is the Managing Partner of Leadership Pathways, a consulting firm dedicated to helping organisations with bold visions achieve sustainable high performance and industry leadership. As an organisation’s effectiveness and an executive development consultant, he has more than 35 years of experience assisting executives and managers in business, government, and education.

In the context of his consulting, he works with the C-suite as a transformational coach. In addition, Keith has designed and led over 100 seminars and workshops for leaders. He has helped create some of the most innovative leadership training programs in the country. Through his consulting firm, he regularly offers a workshop for coaches called: The Art of Transformational Coaching. See his website: for more information.

Keith received his Doctorate from Harvard University in 1985, where his studies spanned the fields of human and organisation development. He is the author of five books on human and organisational change and is putting the finishing touches on a new book, tentatively titled: The Art of Transformational Coaching.