My 7 year old son came home from school the other day and announced he wasn’t sure who had written his story in his school book. He remembered starting it but it was almost as if it wrote itself! Spooky? Or maybe he was just ‘in flow’
I have been thinking about ‘ease’ recently and as is the nature of these things, once you start paying attention to an idea, you see it all over the place. It wasn’t that the people, the comments, the reading, the situations and conversation weren’t there before: it’s just that your change in focus means these things are suddenly made more visible to you. And so it is with the concept of ‘ease’
So what do I mean by ‘ease’? Well it’s that ability to do something so automatically, smoothly and with an energy that almost seems to come from without. Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi called it being ‘in flow’. When you are doing what you really like to do.
So, I have been working with a client who uses his coaching skills to help his clients reach this state of ‘ease’. Our conversations have been about how passionate he is about helping others access that clarity and focus and direction and state… and how to talk about it
I delivered a training session and it almost felt magical in the way I could put across the information, facilitate the learning and even more importantly how I connected with the group.
And of course there was the mystery of my son’s spookily written story!
So where does this sense of flow come from? How do we achieve it? What does it mean when we reach it?
Here’s a quote from Mihaly Csikszentmihaly and his TED talk about happiness and ‘flow’
“When we do studies — we have, with other colleagues around the world, done over 8,000 interviews of people — from Dominican monks, to blind nuns, to Himalayan climbers, to Navajo shepherds — who enjoy their work. And regardless of the culture, regardless of education or whatever, there are these seven conditions that seem to be there when a person is in flow. There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other; you get immediate feedback. You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears, you forget yourself, you feel part of something larger. And once the conditions are present, what you are doing becomes worth doing for its own sake.”
This is so powerful for people who work with others in unlocking potential, discovering their strengths of working, counseling and coaching.
It is also something I am mindful of, and have become more so in latter years, when helping my clients stand up and speak up.
For example, clients will often be worried, anxious, fearful * (take your pick) of what happens if they forget their words, what happens if someone interrupts, what happens if they skip a slide or mess up their words or have a heart attack or throw up (yes, people have said all these things to me at some point!)
Or clients will recognise that by standing up to speak out, they suddenly become a different person: not the person they want to be but someone who has lost a little bit of the warmth, fun and personality they know they really are.
To support them in being the person they want to be and therefore speaking from a place of integrity and authenticity and clarity, I need to help them discover a sense of flow. Let’s be clear, the work still needs to be put into the content, the sequencing and structure, the delivery style and so on. Perhaps I can call this the technical crafting of the presentation.
But to be in flow requires something else:
- Focus – to have absolute clarity about what your message(s) is/are. Not just content –wise but meaning-wise for your audience
- Certainty about the HOW – have the confidence in the skills you have to deliver and the structure you have crafted
- Being fully present – if you are worrying, then at least part of you is inside your head. Being aware of and connected to your audience and what is happening (seen and unseen) in the room is a powerful place to be
- A belief that it is possible. What I mean here is that regardless of what happens, having that certainty that you will be ok. Some of this is having a set of skills to help you manage: most of it is a state of mind.
- Forgetting yourself and being in the moment– similar to being present with the added benefit of building rapport with the audience and in tune with group consciousness. This is also a valuable feedback mechanism
- Understanding that what you are speaking about is part of something larger. Where you have clarity about where your message fits in, then you become clearer about delivering that message. * I will often complete an exercise with clients to help them work out that meaning
- Understanding and feeling that you are doing something of value. A genuine belief in the value of what you are saying based on humble understanding of your audience and a purposeful tailoring to meet their needs, sets your presentation into a different sphere of influence.
I’d be really interested in finding out more about your experiences of ‘flow’ and what you’ve learned from those experiences. And of course if you’d like tips and techniques on all things presenting, then sign up for Speech Bubbles, a weekly-ish email sent straight to your inbox.