The primary concern for my clients is to build their lives around what they love. My job is to help them connect to their vision and values, address what is stopping them, and take new actions to get where they’re headed.

I have been working to write about how I approach vision and action in my coaching. However, my attempts have foundered, because when I write generally I sound like another self-help book, and when I write specifically I struggle to maintain confidentiality.

Here’s a parable, instead, illustrated with pictures from a trip to Colorado this fall.

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a little boy who found an egg. The boy loved the egg and kept it warm, and when the boy was ten years old the egg hatched into a dragon.

The boy didn’t want his family to find out about the dragon, because he was afraid they would take it away. So, after meals and after chores, the boy sneaked away to the small shed where he kept the dragon and fed it and played with it, so it could grow strong.

One day, the dragon looked into the boy’s eyes and said, “Take me out to fly.” The boy was shocked. He didn’t know if the dragon had spoken out loud, or if he had heard the dragon by some kind of magic. “But you are still too small for me to climb on you,” said the boy.

“Am I?” asked the dragon. The dragon doubled and tripled in size and continued to grow. It burst open the shed where the boy had been hiding it, and it scales hardened and darkened from the egg’s baby blue to a steely cobalt.

The boy’s family rushed out of their house to the ruined shed. The boy was frozen.

“What are you doing?” screamed his mother.

The boy climbed on. “Flying my dragon,” he said, and took off into the air.

Ridge and plains scrub

“Where to?” said the dragon.

The boy was silent. He had never been out of his valley before. Now he was far from it, and he didn’t recognize the roofs or trees. He was afraid. The sun bounced off the river below, turning it platinum. “Up the river,” said the boy.

They followed the river into the mountains. The air got cold and the boy held closer around the dragon’s neck and shoulders to stay warm. Below, a light layer of snow covered the ground. In a clearing, something thrashed frantically, throwing light powder into the air. “Down there,” said the boy.

The dragon landed and the boy dismounted. A little bird was thrashing, caught in a bear trap for an animal ten times its size. “Help me,” said the bird. The boy straddled the trap and gingerly threaded his fingers between its teeth. He pried it open a hair and the bird pushed free.

“Thank you,” said the bird.

“How could I not help?” asked the boy. “Who are you?”

“I am your purpose,” said the bird. “Follow me.”

The bird shot up into the air. The boy ran to the dragon and jumped on, and the two took off to follow. The bird disappeared in the brightness of the sky. “There!” said the boy. The bird was flying back toward home. Then the bird flicked to the right and disappeared against the clouds, and was gone.

Bird in the sun

The boy hovered with the dragon, scanning the sky. “This way,” he said, and the dragon charged to the right, but they couldn’t find the bird. “Then back toward home,” said the boy. The dragon wheeled to the left and started home. They flew for twenty minutes, the sun began to set, and the boy’s eyes began to ache from searching the sky. He leaned back, tired, and the dragon instinctively slowed in the air. The boy did not want to return home yet. He knew his family would ask about the dragon, why he had left, and what he was doing now. He imagined the bird nipping at his shirt to tell him which way to go, but he couldn’t make out the direction.

Valley at dusk

Exhausted and embarrassed, the boy directed the dragon down. They landed in a grove of pine trees and the boy got off and leaned against the dragon’s side.

“What am I going to do?” asked the boy.

The dragon blew a stream of flame from its nose and scorched some pine cones. The boy laughed. He leaned against the dragon and fell asleep.

In his dream, the boy was in a broad field of snow and the bird stood in front of him, as tall as he was, its beak the size of his hand. “You won’t see me in the world again,” said the bird. “And no dragons or wizards or silly life coaches can tell you where I am.”

“Then why did you appear to me at all?” asked the boy.

“So that you know how it feels when you are chasing your purpose.”

The boy woke up the next morning with the warmth of the dragon on his back and the cold of the sky on his face.

“Where to now?” asked the dragon.

I challenge my clients to find their purpose, and to respect that purpose feels clear sometimes and illusive other times; to take bold actions aligned with their purpose like daring to leap onto their dragon; and to keep going even when they feel lost.

Mountains and sun