The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Slowly Yet Swiftly

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When do you go into your equivalent of the zone? When do you flow, flow and finish?

Different people describe this experience in different ways. They say things like:

I felt in my element – at ease and yet able to excel.

I felt hands-on and fully present yet, at the same time, I felt like I was hovering about the situation and seeing the big picture.

I felt things were going slowly, yet afterwards people told me that things went swiftly

When do you experience such feelings and also do fine work? You may be counselling a person, playing a sport, performing a song, solving a problem or tackling some other kind of challenge.

Writing in his autobiography, Second Wind, the Boston Celtic’s basketball player Bill Russell described one time when the whole team went into such a zone. He explained:

It was almost as if we were playing in slow motion. During those spells I could almost sense how the next play would develop and where the next shot would be taken.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific activity where things seem to go slowly for you – yet others may think they go swiftly – and you do good work.

Describe specific examples of when you have done good work in this activity.

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Peak performers often seem to have ‘more time’ to do things in the activities in which they excel. They make complicated things look simple. They seem to go at their own pace and yet perform superb work.

People can experience this feeling when working as individuals or in a team. Writing in his book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote: 

Surgeons say that during a difficult operation they have the sensation that the entire operating team is a single organism, moved by the same purpose; they describe it as a ‘ballet’ in which the individual is subordinated to the group performance, and all involved share in a feeling of harmony and power.

Great workers are simultaneously able to see the big picture and yet have attention to detail. They also quickly see patterns. This gives them the ability to know what will happen before it happens.

Al Siebert, author of The Survivor Personality, called this gift personal radar. This gives them more time and space to use their repertoire of talents to deliver great results.

So what happens when people use their personal radar? Entering the situation in which they excel, they feel alive and alert. Employing their antennae, they rapidly gather information about the following things.

They clarify the big picture and the small details. 

They clarify the potential picture of success.

They clarify the best strategy for achieving the picture of success.

Peak performers then use their repertoire of tools to achieve the required picture of success.

This sounds a long process, but sometimes it takes just a few seconds. Great workers go at their own pace, which for them may seem as if they are doing things slowly. For other people, however, the events seem to move swiftly.

Let’s return to your life and work. How can you specialise in the specific activity where things go slowly? How can you continue to do good work in this activity? What will be the benefits – both for you and other people?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific activity where things seem to go slowly for you – yet others may think they go swiftly – and you do good work.

Describe the specific things you can do to pursue this activity in the future.

Describe the specific benefits – both for yourself and other people – of pursuing this activity.

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