Why have we, at the Nottingham Coaching Centre, decided to call our approach LifeFlowBalance?
People recognise the immediate similarity to the phrase work life balance, they may even link it to the concept of life balance- but flow? Where does that come in?
For clarity I’m going to break this down into its component parts in order to demonstrate the inner rhythm of the thinking that gave energy and meaning to the label.
It’s almost become a cliché to reference the fast paced complexities of modern life, made even more so by the advent of the internet and digital technologies. Add to that the increased emphasis on material acquisition as a measure of economic and social advancement and the performance driven cultures that the majority of us work in and we have a potentially toxic mix.
Toxic for those of us who, for whatever reason, have not developed the necessary resilience to manage the conflicting demands and complexities.
It has become a modern epidemic.
Some stats from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Work related Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics in Great Britain 2015
- The total number of cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2014/15 was 440,000 cases, equivalent to 1380 per 100,000 workers.
- The number of new cases was 234,000, an incidence rate of 740 per 100,000 workers.
- This rate of stress has remained constant over the past decade.
- The total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2014/15 was 9.9 million days. Equivalent to 23 days lost per case.
- In 2014/15 stress accounted for 35% of all work related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health.
- Stress is more prevalent in public service industries, such as education; health and social care; and public administration and defence.
- By occupation, jobs that are common across public service industries (such as health; teaching; business, media and public service professionals) show higher levels of stress as compared to all jobs.
Their conclusion gives pause for thought:
“Work related stress, depression and anxiety continue to represent a significant ill health condition in the workforce of Great Britain. Work related stress accounts for 35% of work related ill health and 43% of days lost, in 2014/15. The occupations and industries reporting the highest rates of work related stress remain consistently in the health and public sectors of the economy. The reasons cited as causes of work related stress are also consistent over time with workload, lack of managerial support and organisational change as the primary causative factors.”
So what can be done about it?
As individuals we take protective measures to ensure that stress never exceeds productive levels; as leaders and managers we can build cultures that remain productive yet are less toxic. That is why as a coach I work at both the individual and the organisational level.
High levels of productivity and happiness do not need to be mutually exclusive.
So let’s now look at …
Stressed people do not experience flow. Flow has a specific meaning in positive psychology and has been popularised by the phrase ‘in the zone’. First described in Western psychology in the 1990s by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The concept is associated with high performance at work, a heightened sense of pleasure in life and increased happiness.
“Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi asks, "What makes a life worth living?" Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of ‘flow.’ “
This concept was very important to me as a teacher. My best lessons where those where both I and the pupils experienced flow. We became so immersed in the task, so focused on the nature of the challenge posed buy the learning, so hooked in that we lost all track of time and the bell came as a resounding shock to the system. Real, lasting, memorable learning takes place when we are ‘in the zone, as well as peak performance.
What are barriers to flow? It should not surprise us to see barriers see uncertainty, lack of confidence and anxiety at the top of the list.
Learning how to live a balanced life in the midst of complexity and constant change is an acquired skill or set of characteristics. Building this skill-set is crucial if we wish to live our lives well.
Balance is achieved when we know what is important to us in terms of our lives as a whole rather than being driven by the demands of ‘bits’ of our lives at the expense of other ‘bits’.
Learning how to establish and manage boundaries in order to prioritise what is important; learning to say ‘No’; being able to manage so that not everything becomes urgent and important all at the same time. Being able to move between the long term goals and immediate needs is an important hallmark of balance in any area of life.
Let’s put this in everyday terms.
Mrs B has booked a table at a posh restaurant in honour of the couple’s 10th anniversary. It’s a pressured time at work for them both but Mrs B resolves to turn off her phone for the evening in the long term interests of their relationship. This evening matters. She has informed her boss that she will not be contactable this evening and the babysitter has been given her mother’s number to ring if there are any issues with the kids. She can now relax and focus all her attention on Mr B.
Mr B, however has been so busy that he has not given any thought to the significance of the evening. He has an important meeting the following day and left work without setting boundaries around the date with his wife. He knows that his boss is likely to text him to check that all is set up for the evening so is anxious not to miss this message. The boss hates to have text messages go unanswered.t
So the evening begins to go wrong from the point that Mr B sits down at the dinner table and sets his muted, but very much still turned on phone face up at the dinner table where he can see it just in case it is brought to life by an incoming text.
This way goes many a potentially happy relationship…
But it’s equally true of relationships at work as in personal life. Multi-tasking does not work at the dinner table on your anniversary and there are many occasions at work where it leads to poor managerial relations and poor work performance and induces stress. Recent studies show that it is mistakenly seen as sign of competence.
Complex tasks require the singular focus and deep attention associated with flow. Only those who practice balance are likely to make the distinction and adapt their behaviour to suit the circumstances; managing relationship and environmental boundaries successfully.
So that’s where coaching comes in because this is precisely what I aim to help individuals, teams, and organisations do.
Key, powerful questions in my toolkit are ‘What’s important to you?’ ‘What do you value?’ What is the gap between what you value and what you do? What are the consequences?
Lifeflowbalance is our way of saying clearly to our clients – this is what we value, this is what we can work with you to achieve.
This post is longer than I would normally write but I hope, as an inaugural piece that it sets the tone for ongoing communication and discussion. Please do comment, and share it if it hits a spot for you.