You cannot get yourself into flow.
There, I broke all the rules of writing blogs and shared the key point, the big draw card idea, the punchline, right up front.
And willingly, not only because it is such an important idea that it is the first thing I want to write, but also it takes a bit of time to get our heads around.
When I started becoming addicted to the idea of flow, and fascinated by how we can spend more and more time in flow, I went looking for definitions of flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was a pioneer in thinking and writing about flow, and he describes feeling in flow as follows:
Completely involved in what we are doing – focused, concentrated.
A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality.
Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.
Knowing that the activity is doable – that our skills are adequate to the task.
A sense of serenity – no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of ego.
Timelessness – thoroughly focused on the present, hours seem to pass by in minutes.
Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes it own reward.
This description certainly resonates with me and my personal experiences of being in flow – with ONE BIG THING MISSING. And it is not so much a feeling as a requirement.
There have been times in my life when I FELT I was in flow – yet was still not successful, or having a sense of fulfillment. I was doing what I loved, it felt easy and natural, time passed by quickly. Yet something was just not happening.
And it was because I was not sharing the product of my work with others.
The BIG SECRET TO FLOW is that you can not get yourself into flow. Intrinsically the word FLOW implies that there has to be movement, from one place to another. An idea, experience or product needs to be shared or passed on from one person to another. The value I created for the world needs to be brought to life in the world. And not only does it need to be shared with the world, but it needs to be shared in the most easy and effective way possible.
For many years I would build great ideas and systems in my businesses. Ground breaking, significant ways to do things better. And while creating these systems I would experience the feeling of flow. I was doing what I was born to do. And yet I was still not creating real flow in my life. I was not getting results.
Because once the system was developed, it would sit there in my office – on computers and flow charts and posters – and not be experienced by the world.
What I needed to TRULY get into flow was to share it with the world. And yet for me to do this was hard. I did not like talking to strangers, and certainly not to sell them or convince them of my idea. I would go and try – and flow would be gone. I hated it. I just wanted to keep creating, where flow came naturally to me.
What was needed was to find someone else who loved doing what I didn’t. Someone who would be excited about talking to people. Someone who not only loved meeting and engaging new people – but actually needed it, and thrived on the experience. Someone who had a feeling of flow while doing it. And when they were provided with something that they could be passionate and talk about – perhaps my products – then magic could happen. I needed their love of engaging people, and they needed my product to talk about. By each doing what we loved, and sharing our value with each other – then FLOW could become real.
And this is the secret to FLOW. It is NOT just a feeling – doing what you love. It is doing what you love in such a way that you add the most value to the world that you possible can. And then sharing that value with the world by connecting with someone else whose own state of flow complements yours and who needs your value to enable them to be in flow.
This is the secret to people and teams that have high states of flow – knowing that you can’t get yourself into flow, and finding the right people to share your value with.