The sense of movement toward resolution in a story
Profluence is a term that has mainly been used in literary terms, coined by John Gardner in The Art of Fiction. Profluence is the connection of events in a story that moves the story forward. We all like movies and stories. We know good stories have tension. If nothing happens —meaning there’s no tension that gets resolved— it’s not a good story. Storytelling is an ancient practice for our species. We try to make sense of the world through stories and we have a need to know that we’re overcoming obstacles and making progress.
Profluence in Coaching
As a narrative coach, I accompany people and teams during a particular moment in their life toward resolution, which can result in more engaged teams, more efficient activities, and a positive impact on their bottom line. Much of the confusion for people stems from not being able to define what’s really, truly happening and what is the situation trying to accomplish —in story terms, what is this story about? People go on in these cycles of confusion facing different situations in life that have a similar flavor. Just think, why do some people seem like they’re getting into the same kind of relationships, jobs, or situations?
Define the situation
In order to make progress, we first need to define the situation. Many times, we think we know the situation; however, one of the benefits of working with a coach, is the clarity we can gain and the ability to see how, in large part, our struggle has come from us spinning in place.
Observation is key
When we develop a practice of observation, we start making sense of the connection of events in our life. Many times, we are so affected by what’s happening that we have difficulty separating ourselves from the situation. As a narrative coach, I invite clients into a different relationship with their situation in order to focus on what matters most to them. One of the main results of this kind of work is to realize that “I am not my story.”
In a narrative coaching engagement, individuals and groups gain a richer sense of identity and purpose and better alignment with their intentions and results. With Profluence, we can see the elements of our situation like the elements in a good story. We are able to welcome tension as a force moving us through thresholds of transition. Growth is not linear. It’s an exciting spiraling trajectory of meandering between the known and confidently venturing into the unknown. What do you need to have a sense of profluence in this moment of your life? Can you observe stories particularly profluent for your team or in your organization?
Remember, things don’t happen to us, they happen for us. What do you need in order to grasp the connection of events in your life, leave habitual cycles of repetition, make progress, and gain a fuller sense of your own self and that of your organization and team?