A Coaching Power Tool By Alison Mitchell, Leadership Coach, NETHERLANDS
How to Shift From Frazzled vs. Flow
A Personal Perspective
For me, it was such a gradual process. I thought I had a real awareness of my own mental state. I could see the different elements I was experiencing – overwhelm, constantly tired, inability to focus, always crying – and attribute different reasons for each of them – pandemic, end of term, beginning of term, moving, illness, menopause….the list went on. I was justifying how I was feeling by an external “cause”.
But in reality, I couldn’t see the big picture. The whole situation. I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t sleep. I was afraid. I was canceling time with friends to catch up on work. I needed help but couldn’t admit to needing help.
I was feeling FRAZZLED. This was a year ago. Today I couldn’t feel more different. I wake up with energy, excitement, and enthusiasm. I’m moving towards FLOW.
I know that coaching made an impact on my own shift (as well as supporting other life decisions) so I wanted to look at how I had shifted and use this knowledge to help my own clients
Flipping the Perspective – From Frazzled vs. Flow
I have worked with a number of clients who are feeling in a state of overwhelm. Until the client can see a different possible reality it is a difficult shift to make. Using my own experience of being coached through this transformation as the initial base for my discoveries as a coach, in addition to working with a number of clients feeling frazzled, I am going to outline some of the things that have been successful. These areas are
- Creating space
- Clarity of Purpose
- Acknowledging and developing strengths
Under each section, I will put examples of coaching questions that I have found useful to support each stage.
If a client is in a frazzled state, it is important to create the space to be able to acknowledge the current reality. In my own case, this took a considerable amount of time. I had gotten to the stage where I was blaming external factors and not looking within myself. I was refusing to create space in my own routine to get a grasp of what was going on. The commitment to coaching was the first step in this process. Time was dedicated on a weekly basis to meeting with my coach. This enabled me to slow down and realize the current reality.
As a coach dealing with clients in a frazzled state, I start with some grounding work, perhaps breathing techniques (Cuddy, 2018). Within the first session, it is important to create trust, provide a safe space and allow the client to describe the current reality. This is done by actively listening, exploring the client’s choice of words, and reflecting on initial observations.
- What do you want to achieve in the coaching session/relationship?
- What makes you feel calm?
- When do you know you are doing the right thing?
- What do you need to feel supported right now?
- What needs to be addressed first?
In order to flip perspective the client needs to be supported (and capable of) creating a future vision for themselves. This way the coach can help the client move towards this new reality – in this case from frazzled to flow.
As an activity between coaching sessions, I might ask a client to write a letter to their future self. This extends the visioning that might have taken place during the session.
- If you develop the skills to transform your life/career the way you want, what will your life be like in 5 years’ time?
- We meet in 6 months’ time and you are excited to tell me about changes you have made in your life, what would you be telling me?
Clarity on Purpose
Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress: Working hard for something we love is called passion.― Simon Sinek
To shift perspective from frazzled to flow, clients may benefit from exploring their purpose. There are different ideas surrounding purpose, but I like to settle on a common life purpose that can then extend into values within my professional and personal life.
- What do you feel you were put on this planet to do?
- Tell me about a pivotal moment in your life – an achievement, something you are proud of
- What made this moment so meaningful?
- What aspects of your life are you most proud of?
- What do you want your legacy to be?
Acknowledging and Developing Strengths
I believe every individual has a unique set of talents, which are largely innate. When we work within those talents and use them every day, they develop into strengths. Supporting a client in recognizing their talents and strengths is a step towards alignment in day-to-day life.
My personal “aha” moment came about when I did the Gallup Strengthfinders assessment. I realise what was being asked of me on a day-to-day basis was right at the bottom of my strengths list! This doesn’t mean that I can’t do those things, in fact, I know I did things very well. However, what it does uncover is that it was those very things that were completely draining me and taking my energy away from the things that intuitively I did best. This really was a wake-up call for me and I spent time considering my next steps toward living a life with more alignment with my own talents.
I have worked a number of ways with clients. Some clients have found assessments useful (there are many tests available for example VIA character strengths, High 5, Kolbe index – for more on comparisons between these assessments this is a useful resource – https://www.gallup.com/topic/strengths-comparisons.aspx). Using the results of an assessment is one tool that could be used in coaching.
However, it is not necessary to use a test to be able to draw on the fundamentals of appreciative inquiry and strengths-based coaching. The following are good coaching questions to use to dig deeper into a client’s strengths.
- What are you proud of in your life?
- What do you like about yourself?
- When have you felt most energized?
- What were you doing?
- What do you do better than others?
- What would your friends/family/colleagues say be your strengths?
- How would they know that?
- Consider your various achievements – What personal traits would you give the credit to?
- What challenges have you overcome?
- What strengths helped you along the way?
- What do you admire most in others? Now, where do you already do this in your life?
The Shift From Frazzled to Flow Can Take Some Time
The shift from frazzled to flow can take some time, but I have found that working with clients who show acceptance of reality, move more quickly towards a state of flow.
In a conclusion, I wish to put in an important note. With cases of stress, anxiety, and burnout increasing, it is important for a coach to be mindful of when a client may need medical help or therapy intervention to recover from burnout. It is certainly recommended to take some time away from the workplace to focus on this recovery, which would require the intervention of a doctor in many cases to authorize this. Having said this, I believe that if the client is in a coachable state, coaching is very effective to move from frazzled to flow, possibly preventing burnout.
Cuddy, A. J. (2018). Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. Little, Brown Spark
Sinek, S. (2011). Start With Why. Penguin Books.