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Why is it so imported to be attracted by the profession? How can such attraction be produced and sustained over time?
How is it possible that one worker is happy and more or less relaxed coming home on Friday evenings, whereas others seem to be worn out already on Tuesday at lunch? The answer is simple: The happy worker performs his profession in a state of flow, whereas the worn out person is not in a state of flow and does, therefore, consume too much energy.
A person who succeeds to reach a state of effortless concentration and enjoyment is in a flow state. The effortless action they feel in moments stand out as the best in their lives. It is more than happiness, it is the full involvement of flow, no passive pleasure. In this state there is no difference between the inner experiencing and the outer world. Time has lost its importance. Thinking, feeling, and action are balanced and well co-ordinated. Activity feels as effortless.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” describes flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
The more I am in a state of flow, the more I am motivated towards such activity. I just do it, because I like it. The motivation lies truly within me, and I do not need any motivation or benefits to come from outside. Under these conditions the work is done easily. Even, from doing an activity in the state of flow, I may gain some energy.
Methods and attitudes most likely pushing you towards a flow state
Step 1: Consider your task/job as a kind of game
In a real game we get continuous feedback, usually by winning certain points. Imagine you‘re doing your job playfully like you do a sport game with specific targets. Imagine any task or assignment, as if it was pure sport activity. Become aware of possible difficulties or emerging conflict, and then design or appreciate the rules of the game. Make arrangements in your work to get fast and regular feedback.
Step 2: Keep your intention in your mind
While you are doing you remember the main force behind the whole activity. What is the driving force that makes you do this at all? Remember: This activity means more to you than just attaining goals and achieving aims. More important is the reason, why you have decided to do this at all, why you wand to meet these targets.
Step 3: Concentration
Stay with your thoughts at what you are doing. If your mind wanders from the subject, this is a sign that you have departed from the flow state. In this case you turn back your attention and focus again on what you see, hear, feel, smell, just at this moment, for example on the detailed structure of the rock surface, when you are climbing in a cliff. Concentrate again on your specific next task and adjust the task‘s difficulty to such a level that you feel save to totally step in.
Step 4: Surrender to the occurrence of the flow feelings
This is the biggest secret related to the flow emergence process: You will have fun with your job, with the specific task. There is no requirement of giving you a special kick, no efforts are needed. You will be in a state of timelessness without any force pushing you to think or reflect.
Step 5: Being embraced in a sense of delight
Feeling exalted is an ecstasies result in this flow state emergence process. You start to realize you are in this state of extreme delight, almost ecstatic, just like flying through your work. At this moment you are aware of really being in the flow state.
Step 6: Peak performances
The sense of delight and ecstasies evolves because the brain in its totality is united in a joint action. It appears as if all nerves dance the same rhythm. This state of consciousness is easy to recognize. In the state of awareness you have the feeling to produce an effect without really thinking. Productivity reaches incredible levels of hight. In other words: In the case you intend to chase off boredom or disquieteness from your life, you just choose a challenging new mission or task and let yourself be emerged in the flow state. No matter what activity you may choose, it can be anything. Just keep thinking: It is a kind of game, and this game is about getting rewarded not criticized.
Wishing you plenty of opportunities merging into flow states.
Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály (1996), Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life, Basic Books.
Jackson, Susan A. & Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály (1999), Flow in Sports: The Keys to Optimal Experiences and Performances, Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics Publishers.
You may have been watching Roger Federer playing with a sweet forehand on the tennis court, game after game. But then, have you ever seen Federer’s coach? Do you know the coach’s name? Now matter how often I have viewed a match with the tennis champion, it has been very seldom and unusual to get any information about a coach.
In this field, on this court Federer is the main person, nobody else. This remains absolutely clear all the times. Nevertheless it is a known fact that Federer makes regular use of coaching support. What did I learn from Federer’s use of coaching for my own coaching practice? Lesson 1: The coach takes a back seat. He acts invisibly for external observers, and Lesson 2: For top players and executives coaching is applied for specific issues or clear objectives only. Lesson 3: The world’s top sportsmen and the best leaders are using coaches for prevention as well as an instrument to stay among the best.
In contrast to such an approach my primary teacher used to collect the worst mistakes the students had made in essay writing. The idea was to facilitate the children to learn from fault finding. In class 5 for example in an essay I had mistaken manager with teenager. Of course we laughed about this wholeheartedly. But did we learn how to write correctly this way? Richard Bandler is one of the founders of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). In his exceptional writings he opened my eyes for focusing on what really works, on studying what the best do instead of analysing the mistakes of the low performers. Learn from what is working not of what is not working. When, for example, because of fear the motivation level is declining before an examination, it is useful to find out under what circumstances the same person was able to cope with and overcome similar fear and lack of motivation, for instance while riding a horse. Therefore Lesson 4: Learn from what is working well already for you or at least for somebody else.
Maybe you have already discovered that the things we want to happen do not usually happen the way we are pushing them to happen. But then, the moment we let go the previously desired outcome, all at once it flies back to us. Milton Erickson, one of the most exceptionally gifted therapists of the twentieth century, observed that people were not always open to external influences to the same degree. Like none other than him he succeeded in identifying precisely the moments, when his clients were most receptive to his inputs, thus provoking change easily. Conclusion and Lesson 5: Await the right moment, and then intervene softly.
So, my lessons learned from Federer, Bandler and Erickson for my coaching are: Stay in the back seat, and work for specific tasks only. Support the top performers to stay on the top. Teach how to focus on what works instead of what does not work.
What for do I write this blog?
With this blog I have the intention to share experiences and learnings from the field of coaching. Further on I like to answer to questions, and I will face discussions fuelled by readers’ comments. Real coaching cases should provide exposure to the daily business. In addition to this it is hoped to get a kind of feeling about actual or future coaching needs from readers of these articles.
How did I get to write such a blog?
Since 25 years – in the role of a leader or as a personal coach or mediator – I have been supporting people to turn out their best and work happily in a state of flow. Obviously I learned a lot from all these hundreds of persons I worked with. As s sign of thank this experience should be made available to as many people as possible.
Claude André Ribaux
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