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Aesop’s fables and the System

Some boys, playing near a pond, saw a number of frogs in the water, and began to pelt them with stones. They killed several of them, when one of the frogs, lifting his head out of the water, cried out: “Pray stop, my boys; what is sport to you is death to us.”

What has this got to do with Challenging Coaching and FACTS?

This is one of the famous Aesop’s fables. Aesop (620–564 BC) was a storyteller credited with a number of fables. I came across this when I was helping my daughter with some homework and I connected this fable with systems thinking, the ‘S’ of FACTS.

Aesop's Fable The Boys and the FrogsThe moral of this fable is what we do in sport can make great trouble for others. So in the ‘system’ of this fable there are two parties at play, the boys and the frogs. But each has a completely different view of the same events. The intention behind the action results in a very different reaction that was not anticipated or recognised by the boys until the frog spoke. In the fable the boys had not considered the viewpoint of the frogs. The boys only considered themselves.

This suggests the complexity of the system. There is a connectedness that may or may not be obvious. When talking about systems thinking we often use the popular example of a butterfly flapping its wings causing a storm in another part of the world. No matter how distant the links can be traced between the action and the reaction. However, if the reaction is a thought or feeling this remains hidden from other people. This is not like an event; there is no visible reaction. However, a change has taken place.

So in the system how do we uncover hidden reactions? This is twofold. The person who is acted upon must speak their truth, and the actor must ask and listen. In this Aesop’s fable, the frog spoke his truth. His reaction was freed from the confines of an internal thought and allowed to become a visible part of the system. The boys listened and heard.

What reaction have you caused and not listened to? How can you understand your system?


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