I am richly blessed: I love my work. I get a thrill out of supporting leaders to become the best they can be. Going on a journey of discovery with a client to explore potential, hidden talents, blind spots, and options is deeply rewarding to me. Nurturing and encouraging clients to tackle challenges in new ways is intensely meaningful. Hearing their reflections as they grow in understanding and insight is often hugely inspiring. Receiving news on the breakthroughs they have achieved is enormously energizing.
In deep coaching conversations with clients, I often experience a state of “flow” – the special feeling in a high-challenge situation where you use yourself to the utmost of your abilities and apply all your skills and experience … in such a way that it seems effortless.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has studied flow over a long period and highlights seven characteristics of being in flow:
1: Completely involved in what we are doing – focused, concentrated
2: A sense of ecstasy – of being outside daily reality
3: Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are going
4: Knowing that the activity is doable – that our skills are adequate to the task
5: A sense of serenity – no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of ego
6: Timelessness – thoroughly focused on the present, hours seem to pass by in minutes
7: Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes its own rewards.
As I work with my clients, I wish, intensely, that they might regularly experience flow. Sadly, this is not common. People often feel stuck in a dead-end job that does not challenge them. Or, they experience very challenging situations but do not have the mastery required to tackle these situations, and become victims of circumstance. Regularly, people feel stuck in well-compensated jobs that they do not find inspiring, but they struggle to articulate the vision to break free. They struggle to find the courage to step out.
Friends: life here on earth is short. Do not settle for mediocrity. You were gifted with talents, skills and passion for a purpose. Keep looking until you find the sweet spot where three circles overlap: your strengths, your passion and the needs of your organization. If you know what your strengths and your passion are, but there is poor fit with your current organization, find another organization where you can invest yourself and find fulfilment. If there is a good match between your passion and the organization you are in, but your struggle to deliver what is expected of you, build the additional skills required for true mastery, so that you can excel and experience flow. If you are doing well in your current organization, using your skills optimally, but your heart is not in it, beware. You may come to regret your loyalty. Investigate what you are being loyal to, and explore how you can live out your passion more fully.
Where and when do YOU experience flow? What can you do to savor this experience more frequently?
[If you are interested in the topic of “flow” and want more, check out this classic talk by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi].