Coaching For Flow

Lu Setnicka

I was going through my office last week and found the following books in my collection:  “Coaching for Performance,” Coaching for Commitment,” and “Coaching for Dummies” (yes, I admit, I own several of the “Dummies” series on a variety of topics!).  There has yet to be a publication titled, “Coaching for Flow,” or, if it exists, it has yet to land on my bookshelf.

As viewed by the individual who coined the phrase, “flow,” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “flow” happens when “…the task at hand draws one in with its complexity to such an extent that one becomes completely involved in it.”  They way I like to describe the experience to my clients is when time seems to stand still; when you’re so engaged in an activity that you look at a clock and realize several hours have passed.  And you didn’t even know it!

I had the honor of interviewing Professor Csikszentmihalyi at the Drucker Graduate School of Management (Claremont Graduate University) many years ago when I was completing a final project to receive my coaching certification.   While receiving my coaching training I reflected on the “flow” concept and realized it’s a state of complete engagement and, often, utter satisfaction.  How appropriate for a coaching strategy, to help clients land in a place where they experience “flow” several times a week, while working at their job, leading a team, or anticipating a career change.

Dr. Csikszentmihalyi thought I was on to something and encouraged me to continue with that orientation, introducing “flow” into a coaching conversation by asking, “What are you doing when time seems to stop still?”  More than likely that’s an activity, an environment, or a group that brings you deep pleasure; who wouldn’t want to bring as much “flow” into their life as possible?  He went on to explain that the activities where we experience “flow” are “…intrinsically rewarding because their primary reward is simply in being involved with them…” as opposed to those that are extrinsically rewarding “…which we do only with the expectation of some gain, or to avoid being punished.”

“Flow” is ultimately “…the matched balance of challenges and skills.”  As a coach, I strive for that in my practice with clients.  Life is challenging, no doubt.  And it’s difficult not having the skills, confidence, or courage to deal with those challenges.

Pay attention next time you realize several hours have gone by:  What were you doing?  Who were you with?  Where were you?  You may have been in “flow” without even knowing it…and wasn’t it a great place to be?

To being a conversation towards “flow,” please consider setting up a 25-minute exploratory session with me at; I look forward to hearing from you.

[All quotes from an advance copy of “Good Business:  Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning,” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi]


Start typing and press Enter to search