A Coaching Power Tool Created by John Eustace
(Executive Coach, UK)
There is a force in the universe, which, if we permit it, will flow through us and produce miraculous results. Mahatma Gandhi
She who knows life flows, feels no wear and tear, needs no mending or repair. Gautama Buddha
When we live a life free of trepidation and fear then we are truly living life to the full. It is natural to feel anxious or nervous that something will not turn out as planned as is the feeling of relief and accomplishment when things turn out perhaps even better than anticipated. Sometimes it is important that we are concerned about an event whether it is related to health, safety or other important issues impacting our lives. We can then take the required action in the knowledge that we are driven by an awareness of the impact of inaction rather than by fear.
When we discuss the terms ‘Flow’ and ‘Apprehension’ as they have several meanings, for clarity, below are the definitions relating to this Power Tool:
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. (Wikipedia)
Apprehension is the anxiety or fear that something bad or unpleasant will happen: a feeling of being worried about the future. (Webster’s Dictionary)
Remember a time when you knew you had to make a decision or prepare for an event and you waited until the last moment before taking action? How about when you have delayed taking a decision and perhaps are still delaying it until this day? How did you feel – tense, nervous, anxious? What caused this, fear of failure, fear of being wrong or perhaps not being motivated or confident to take action?
Apprehension = Indecision + Anxiety
Now cast your memory back to a time when you had freedom of thought, were inspired, focused, ‘alive’, energized, empowered and ‘in the zone’. A time when everything seemed to fall into place, when you were in full flow and highly confident of your direction and goals. A time when you felt so good that almost anything was possible and when you could visualize yourself in the moment being the best you could be.
Flow = Focused + Empowered
Connecting Language to Thoughts
How often have you said something about yourself that you did not necessarily believe which then led to negative thoughts developing? For example, you have told either yourself or someone else that you will not be able to achieve a certain goal or complete a certain task. How much of this has been based on reality and how much on your perceptions and beliefs? Your language impacts your unconscious and negative thoughts can impact you just at the time when you need to be in a positive frame of mind.
It is important to be able to understand what you are assuming that is causing so much apprehension, to be able to change perspective, to explore new possibilities and to visualize yourself in a place of total confidence going forward.
Ben worked for a large consultancy company that had won a major contract to develop a strategy with the leadership teams of two culturally diverse companies that had recently merged. The appointment of a senior consultant to oversee this project was considered vital to the success of the merged companies and there was strong competition within Ben’s company to be selected for this role. Since joining the company five years earlier from a competitor, Ben had been relishing the prospect of an opportunity such as this and was initially keen to be selected.
After some thought, Ben was apprehensive about the prospect of going head-to-head with other consultants that had been with the company since graduation and who he considered were better qualified for the role. Ben decided to enlist the help of a coach to explore various options and decide if this was the role for him. He was also now having serious doubts as to whether his current company was the right fit considering he was one a few people who had not joined directly from university.
Ben met with his coach, Susan and explained the current situation to her. His earlier sense of excitement at the prospect of winning the role had almost dissipated and he was now at a loss as to how to move forward.
Susan worked with Ben to clarify his goal, which was to win the role as lead consultant for the merged company however, for some reason he was now reluctant even to put his name forward. Susan followed a specific line of questioning:
Susan: What are you assuming that is stopping you achieving your goal?
Ben: That other consultants have been in the company longer and are more qualified for the role.
Susan: That’s possible, but what are you assuming that makes that stop you? (What’s the story you are playing in your head?)
Ben: I do not feel the directors and partners would view me as a serious candidate. I feel that I would be going through the motions just to fill the quota of candidates. I feel that my pitch would be so poor they would reconsider my role in the company. I feel that others would laugh at me going for a role outside my specialist area.
Susan: What is the positive opposite of your assumptions?
Ben: That the directors and partners would consider me as a serious candidate, that I would be expected to be on the shortlist, that my pitch would be the best I have ever done and I would be considered for promotion even if I did not get this role, that others would respect and support me for taking a chance on an opportunity outside my comfort zone.
Susan: So if you knew that the directors and partners would consider you as a serious candidate, that you would be expected to be on the shortlist, that your pitch would be the best you have ever done, that you would be considered for promotion even if you did not get this role and that others would respect and support you for taking a chance on an opportunity outside your comfort zone (new, freeing assumptions) what ideas would you have?
Ben: I would engage with the relevant directors and partners to solicit their input on the requirements for the role. I would understand the cultural differences between the two companies and use my international experience and knowledge of languages to develop strategies to build bridges between the cultures.
Susan: What else?
Ben: I would actively engage with other stakeholders who would have relevant information about the companies.
Susan: What else?
Ben: I would develop an outline strategy for the company and design a presentation like none other before.
Susan: One more thought?
Ben: I would be confident knowing that I have a very good chance of securing the role and expanding my level of expertise.
Ben’s thought process was now flowing; his approach was focused and positive. Susan then worked with Ben to visualize his presentation focusing on what he would see, how he would feel and what he would hear. At the same time, exploring what message he wanted to get across and what he wanted his audience to see, feel and hear.
Not long after the first coaching session, Ben was invited to pitch to the merged company and he secured the role as joint lead consultant with a senior partner.
As coaches, it is our responsibility to work with the client to challenge their existing assumptions and beliefs pertaining to a specific situation. If a client is not moving forward due to a belief that a negative outcome is an almost certainty then incisive questions will draw out the underlying assumptions that prevent the client achieving the goal.
Understanding what is driving the negativity and then working with the client to frame this positively will allow a new freeing assumption to develop and ideas to flow. Exploring further until every idea has been brought out is important as one idea could lead to several new ideas found at a deeper level of awareness.
- How can you help clients change perspective and generate new positive thoughts and feelings?
- What examples can you think of where a client would benefit from a complete change of mindset focusing on freeing assumptions?
- Which aspect of your life can you focus on to move from apprehension to flow?
- How do you maintain flow in a coaching session?
- How do you feel when you move away from apprehension and towards a focused and empowered state?
Time to Think – Nancy Kline