Unlocking Flow in Coaching: It's All About Timing
I started canoeing when I was 12 as a Scout with my father. I can imagine myself then totally focused on my paddling (was I doing it correctly?) and the boat (was it doing what we wanted it to do?). The water in the Russian River in northern California was somewhere between a menace and a mystery as it rolled along under the shimmering surface. I suppose this is what it always feels like to learn something new.
As I got better and better at canoeing, I realized two important truths, both of which played into my formation of The Five Maturities framework we teach in our ID Way Experience:
- Beyond the essential skills, your maturity in the boat becomes more important than your mastery.
- Your focus shifts to the river and its flow as part of a dance with you and the boat.
Looking back, I can see how these two lessons shaped my life’s work. You can see it in our principle that everything you need is right in front of you and in our commitment to radical presence and working with what IS in the field.
While in my canoe, I learned that time and space are more experienced in relationship with the river than with a watch. This lesson is echoed in how we teach our programs. There are many places in our lives and work where planning, preparation, and processes are vital. However, like in coaching, interacting with humans calls for an approach more like finding the flow in a canoe.
- What if you could experience time in a way that helps you easily tap into flow states?
- What if this moment and the future are not separate but intimately connected?
- What if this space and what is unfolding are not separate but intimately connected?
This blog will explore these questions and more, diving into an understanding of time and space that goes beyond clocks and calendars, rooms and structures. It reminds us that time and space flow independent of our measures and invites us to unlock more flow in our sessions with clients.
Why a Conventional View of Time Holds Us Back
We bill our clients by the hour, plan our workshops according to a timetable, worry about how to get everything done on our To-Do lists, and more. We've been taught to see time as a linear progression that moves from the past to the future. This conventional view assumes that life and growth take place in straight lines, and it often takes us out of our present and leads us to think we can control our future.
While such strategies offer a sense of comfort, we observe that they often fall short in helping us deal with complexity, with emergence, and with remembering why we were doing it all in the first place. But what if we thought of time not as a linear path but as a multidimensional experience?
In this perspective, time isn't just a one-way street moving 'forward.' It unfolds as an intricate matrix with continuous interaction between past, present, and future. This natural approach to time — much like with the river — enhances your state of mind, your choices, and your readiness for life's challenges. It enables you to tap into flow states more effectively in your client sessions.
The Flow Factor: Readiness as a Dynamic State
When you think about 'readiness,' you may think about a destination, an end goal. 'If I do X, Y, and Z, then I'll be ready for what comes next.' We've all gone down this road — planning, preparing, and anticipating the future. This is helpful when planning a backpacking trip where you have to get by with what you carry. In keeping with our call to lighten our load, the secret is to focus on what is essential and use it adaptively based on what is encountered.
In this sense, what if readiness is not a destination but an ongoing, dynamic state you can tap into at any moment and in any space?
This shift in perspective allows you to work more fluidly with what emerges rather than try to maintain the illusion of control. This will help you to enter and maintain flow states while you work — from which you can more astutely sense and respond to what your client is ready for here and now.
When you are working in ‘flow,’ you find yourself more aware, more intuitive, and more attuned to your client's immediate needs. All kinds of amazing things happen seemingly coincidentally — and much more often than when we are trying to drive the conversation or the agenda. What we often dismiss as 'coincidence' is, in fact, a sign of our full engagement with the flow of time and space.
Reality as the Ultimate Guide
Traditional coaching models often prioritize agenda-setting, goal-setting, and formulating. While these approaches provide a familiar structure, they risk narrowing our perception and limiting our ability to respond in real time. This entanglement with preconceived notions can lead us to miss the expansive opportunities unfolding in the present moment.
Working from a flow state with the reality of what IS as your guide allows you to adapt your practice to meet the needs and the openings in any moment. This provides for a more dynamic and responsive sense of readiness based in a full engagement with the here and now. Instead of attempting to force the present to conform to pre-set plans, your actions become organic responses to the opportunities immediately at hand.
This shift doesn't just make you more effective in coaching; it also primes you for entering states of flow more frequently, where 'coincidences' become meaningful guideposts, and the boundaries between past, present, and future blur in a dance of possibilities.
So, What Does This Mean for Your Coaching?
Attune with the flow
When your timing is attuned and in harmony with the client's internal and external pace as well as the pace of the story and experiences as they are emerging, you allow for a coaching experience that is genuinely collaborative and deeply impactful.
Stay in the flow
When you relinquish the urge to control time and allow it to unfold naturally, you’ll find that serendipities increase. These ‘coincidences’ are signs that you are in tune with the greater rhythms of life, bringing greater effectiveness and richness to your coaching practice.
Use the flow
Seek to discern the dynamics of the flow as you find a good balance between the energy it makes available and the purpose of your work. Your role is not to force the boot or fight the river but rather to use the flow to guide you and the client in what is most needed.
As we've seen, these insights into timing, readiness, and flow can revolutionize your approach to coaching. So, what might this mean for your own practice as we move forward?
Putting Theory into Practice
How could these insights enhance your own coaching approach?
To explore how practitioners like you apply theory to their practice, join our upcoming Beyond Coaching Experience at no cost and embark on a transformative journey that offers new perspectives and practices on the work we do.