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Go with the Flow?

From once in a while, I plan to publish a book review that impacted my development as a coach, in order to offer it as a recommendation and resource for other people interested to grow as coaches, leaders or people developers.

The book I would like to shortly review this time is “Flow- the psychology of optimal experience” written by the hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who named the psychological concept of Flow, offering evidence for it and presenting it as a desirable focused mental state. After reading this book, one can use more confident the word “Flow” in the professional way, because it proves to be real and meaningful thing and not just a fluffy american term which sounds good for public speaking.

Therefore I would say that the book is a valuable reading for any coach, especially in the area of life coaching. The author offers a complex and wide perspective about the psychology of the optimal experience, a phenomenon that brings value and meaning in people’s life. With this reading, a coach could get better prepared to accompany their client in their journey of achieving happiness, fulfillment, enjoyment, and even extraordinary performance.

One of the most important takeaways from it is the acknowledgment of the power of the mind. More specifically  the theory says that everything that happens in our life, and any bit of information that gets inside our head has no meaning, because each of us gives meaning to that input using his own mastery or influenced by the societal norms (they manifest automatically and it’s good to be aware about that).

Also, a very important thing is that when it comes to “happiness”, this pursuit of the human race that humans strive to arrive to since Aristotle and Socrates, we refer actually to something that could be achieved through a different path because “Happiness is not a destination, it’s a journey”. More specifically, happiness is not a state that we achieve by chance or good fortune but it’s an ability that one can develop.  I find this insight very powerful  because  gives us a more clear reason to believe that we, as human beings are responsible for our own feelings and lives and if we want to be happy we should learn to be so. The ability of learning to be happy is defined as the capacity to find meaning and purpose in our lives regardless the external circumstances.

For a person like me, who spent more than 6 years working in the field of competence development, it a great release to find out that being happy is actually an ability that everyone can develop, in the same way as other competences like public speaking or stress management.  So next time when we talk with a person or a coaching client, instead of feeling sad for them that they are not happy, we should think about how can we support them to develop their ability to become happy.

My first thought when I discovered this was that I would like to help people to learn to be happy with their lives, no matter the external circumstances, and  helping them understand the incredible power of their mind, because their thoughts and believes  determine the valence of a life event and how that event affects them emotionally and physically. People need support to make the change, to build that discipline and shift in attitude in order to recognize and make conscious choices about what is important to them and what is not, about what brings real enjoyment and what not, about what is giving them purpose and what is staying in their way of living meaningful lives.

Also, what you can get from this book are different ways and examples of improving the quality of one’s experience, which you can extract from different study cases from the artistic and scientific world, provided in the book. It’s curious to find out that those little  tricks and mind games that each of us use at one point, represent a path we can explore in building different thoughts and self-talks we can use for ourselves in order to improve the quality of a certain life experience that does not fulfill us as it is, it gets us irritated or bored at one given moment.

Lastly I would like to outline this key idea: “If one learns how to master the information that gets into one’s mind one can decide how one’s own life should be”.

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