“Do what you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Easier said than done?
Put yourself in the shoes of a Manager. You are walking up to one of your most productive team members, who is working on a computer with headphones on. Without warning, you ask the team member a question. In response, they turn to you and say in their best sarcastic tone, “Oh thanks a lot… now it will take me 45 minutes to get back to where I was”. The team member was happy while working – and frustrated when interrupted or stopped. That person was likely in “the zone” experiencing flow. While working!
Are you happy at work?
I know that I am not always been happy at work, but now I have found a tool to find a way to be happy more often even when surrounded by toxic people making the worst, terrible business decisions. To be happier, I re-energize myself by intentionally focusing on flow at least a couple of times a week in my work life.
When I was younger, I would experience flow completely by accident. Usually it happened when I was giving management consulting presentations, or running a team. I would feel some energy running through me, and my voice knew just what to say that was just right. People used to ask me why I was never nervous when speaking in front of important people – such as a room full of elected officials. I knew that I did not need to worry about it, because the energy would help me out. I know now that when I was presenting in these situations, I was in a flow state. But I had no idea how to invoke it, and didn’t know why it happened. In situations when it didn’t show up that day for whatever reason – my presentation would not be as good.
I recently re-discovered flow, and have now figured out a deliberate process that works for me. And increased my happiness in the process.
Here are the five steps I have learned:
Step 1: Identify What Flow is for You
Pay attention to when you feel really happy or productive, and what your mental state and activities are at the time you feel this way. You could have experienced this if you have ever done any meaningful work. You could have been programming something and gotten lost in that process until 10pm with not a conscious thought passing your mind about how much time had really passed. You could have been writing something. You could be designing something using CAD. You could have been cooking. You could have been cleaning. Dancing, sewing, singing, bartending, working with kids … anything. It will be unique to you.
When I am in this state, it feels like time stands still and expands to provide me more time to work simultaneously. My decision-making path is sped up – so I feel none of that hesitation or indecision that hinders my productivity. Do you know what this feels like? If not, step outside of your comfort zone, and try things until you know what it feels like to be lost in an activity. What are you doing when you feel flow?
· Write it down here ____________________
Step 2: Figure out who, exactly, you want to be?
When you are in flow, you are also BE-ing your best self. The highest and best use of your body and brain. So use that flow as a tool to help you figure out who – exactly – you want to BE.
BE-ing is different than having a degree or a certification. It’s also not a goal or objective. It is knowing the essence of who you are. I’m not asking you what label you want tagging along behind your name or a job you want. Just what are the top two characteristics of who you want to BE? Your choice, and your decision to “BE” will provide the context to everything else that happens – or does not happen around you.
Once you make a conscious, verbal choice to “BE” something, then your subsequent actions are going to make that direction be fulfilled.
For example, I figured out that I am a creator. I am also a connector. I can be either a creator, a connector, or both things at once. It is the essence of my BE-ing. My current job title says that I am a Principal Consultant and a Senior Delivery Manager. Neither of these is actually who I am. These are labels to indicate to others which role I am currently playing in a specific work environment. My Being exists to create and to connect.
How did I figure it out? I paid attention to all the times in my life I knew I had experienced flow. I am a creator. I make sculptures. I write books. I invent software designs. I create businesses. All these things make me happy. I am also a connector. I am always searching for solutions to find ways to put people, process and technology together to increase productivity. I thrive when you put me into the middle of an ambiguous, complicated or disastrous situation that needs someone to imagine and create clarity by connecting people and processes together.
Now relax your mind and fill in the blanks with the first two things that pop into your mind:
· I AM ______________
· I LOVE TO ___________
Step 3: Practice Getting Started and Dropping into Flow
Once you know how to feel flow, then detach yourself from it.
Observe and make notes of the flow process.
What drops you into the zone? Is it the process itself? Or is it some other context that triggers the state?
That trigger can even be a smell, music, or touch. For me, it is indie music, and especially listening to certain artists with smoky voices. For you, the flow trigger could be a smell, a place, total quiet, or anything.
Step 4: Recognize and Compartmentalize Obstacles to Flow
Let’s face it – life and the work world can really stink. It’s easy to get bogged down and feel trapped and frustrated. Maybe you work in an environment full of horrible people? Maybe your company has terrible benefits. Maybe you are depressed by politics. In any event, you can change your situation by changing your mind about your situation. Horrible people and bad company benefits are not things you can easily change, but you can surely change how you react to them.
When you notice that something or someone hinders your flow state,is frustrating, or makes you angry, you can find a way to compartmentalize that situation “into a box”. Ignore it. It does not matter.
Or you can partner with others to provide that service for you instead of you doing it. A Chef friend posted lately online, “The fun things about running a small business are everything our guests see and taste. The less fun things are all the behind the scenes things like collecting and analyzing data. And taxes. Ugh.” What kind of skill does he need to support himself with? A bookkeeper. If you find yourself working for a horrible organization that treats people like possessions, remember your strengths – who you are – what your being is. Find a way to be true to that in spite of your current situation.
You can choose whether to let the environment rule your thoughts, or you can treat your current context as a puzzle full of obstacles to just work around. Be like water and go through the cracks in between obstacles to keep your personal integrity intact.
Name some of your obstacles at work
· Obstacle 1: ________________
· Obstacle 2: ________________
Step 5: Go Flow.
If your being is creating and connecting like mine is, then identify aspects of your current role that use that part of your being and focus on doing more of that. You will be happier and more productive. This is your essence, your strength.
As an example, I thrive when connecting or creating. My current title is Senior Delivery Manager. This role has a lot of things in it that enables me to connect people to each other, and clients to solutions. So the part of my being that likes to connect is well exercised in this role. So it is a good fit for my general happiness.
The creation part of my being is not fed in my day-job, so I write, and I create sculptures and gardens and other things outside of my day-job to add that part to my balance.
I can’t tell you exactly how to let it loose, just that you can let flow loose by focusing on your BE-ing and on your strengths whenever possible, and by continually working on reducing your busy-ness to allow the strength to shine.
In conclusion, these are the steps that are currently working for me – but since life continues to unfold before me, the steps are likely to change in the future. I am a work in progress. Make the steps your own, and I wish you the happiest Be-ing possible for you.
© Christi Kapp, 2018