How to Create Flow in a Coaching Session
People are most creative, productive and often happiest in the flow state, according to renowned psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi. Flow means concentrating fully on the task, being effortless with full of joy and being unconscious of time.
Artists, athletes and people in a variety of fields experiencing “optimum” flow describe the experience in following words: having no past or future but present, being one with the activity, forgetting yourself, timelessness, having optimum clarity, having no judgement, not planning a next move, daily problems melts away.
Here are some tips for coaches to create and benefit from the flow state:
Flow state starts with a not-so-easy task that can even be perceived as challenging, but only to the degree that is suited to the individual’s capacity. If the challenge is higher than skill level, it can leads to anxiety; if the challenge is lower than the skill level, it can lead to boredom. To translate to coaching as such, the coach is knowledgeable, skilful with regards to coaching competencies and methodology, knows what they are doing, are confident and brave to go out of their comfort zone.
Another step in creating flow is “having clear objectives.” By its nature and methodology, coaching is aligned with this step, as outlined by the ICF Core Competency of “Planning and Goal Setting.” At the beginning of a coaching engagement, the client arrives with a set of objectives to change and/or improve their life, and a contract, which sets clear objectives for each coaching session, is drawn up and agreed upon. In addition to the clear objectives, regular feedback in the process contributes to creating flow.
Focus, Focus, Focus
I can’t think of a successful coaching session, yet alone flow state that does not involve full focus. To maintain focus at your coaching session, do preparation work before the session, show up on time, minimize distractions, and conduct emotional checks to prepare the client for the session.
Focus is a state of mind and requires practice to achieve, apart from the above-mentioned tips. For instance, people who often try to multitask tend to have more challenge in focusing because they’re switching from one task to another, lowering overall productivity and quality. To better your focus, practice it at other times while doing other activities, such as reading a book or writing an article. Try to do this without allowing any distractions like checking notifications on your phone. Gradually increase your focus time.
One of the biggest distractions is actually in our head—self-talk, inner voice, saboteurs. A trained and practicing coach is well aware of these and knows how to manage the mind chatter. Practicing mindfulness and meditation, as well as assigning tasks to saboteurs are some ways to manage it.
What is expected at this focus stage is in line with the ICF Core Competency “Coaching Presence;” it’s like dancing in the moment.
There is one more crucial element to flow: loving what you are doing. You should not expect any other reward or outcome from the activity because the activity itself is rewarding enough. If you love coaching, chances are higher that you experience flow state during your sessions than if you do not love coaching.
Practice makes it perfect. By embracing these steps, you can create flow at your coaching sessions and experience the joy, effortlessness, depth and impact of flow.