In my work, every day, I’m looking to hit that “sweet spot” and find myself in “the zone”.
It doesn’t matter what I’m working on – business, writing, speaking – I want to hit flow, every day, because if I can hit flow then I grow in complexity as a individual, I do my best work, and most importantly, I really enjoy the process.
Flow is a principle that is well known in psychology and performance literature. First articled by Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience – it has been described as that optimal human condition of energized focused where all of our abilities are directed at the completion of a specific task.
When we are in a flow state we feel complete immersion in the activity that we are pursuing, so much so that when in a flow state, the rest of the world seems to disappear, and the only thing that exists is the task that is in front of us – time stands still, even hunger can go unnoticed.
All of us have been in a flow state – when we think back and recall these experiences we recognize that they are compelling, meaningful and also addictive (in a positive way).
In a flow state the sense of “self” is absorbed into the task we are pursuing, in a way that we don’t think about our “self” – there is a oneness with what we are doing.
Flow states, in my opinion, are the practical explanation of the esoteric principles of “presence” and “detachment”. Repeated flow states are how we progress, and these states can be induced in any environment – although I have found that they are easier to attain if the task that we are engaging in is in someway related to what we uniquely value as individuals.
When our values are aligned with what we do there isn’t internal resistance – therefore we are able to more easily submit ourselves, and lose ourselves in our tasks.
For example – some of my most strongly held values are freedom, autonomy, and creativity. So activities that allow me to express my creativity in a free and autonomous way are likely to engage a flow state. However, because I value freedom so much it is sometimes a challenge for me to channel a flow state when I’m in a compulsion driven activity – ie. doing something simply because I’m told to do it (which is why I struggled in a “big law firm” setting).
Unique value awareness, in my opinion, is the secret to channeling daily flow – which should be a goal for all of us, if we want to truly feel fulfillment in our work.
If we uniquely value community building, teamwork and the empowerment of others, then activities that allow us to experience this will channel flow for us, and be intrinsically rewarding, independent of any “reward” for our actions.
If we love puzzles and solving complex problems then activities in our career that allow us to experience these values will channel flow, and again be intrinsically rewarding.
If we love discovery, adventure, and are curious about the world, then actions in our job that allow us to experience these values will trigger flow, will be intrinsically rewarding, and will lead to personal fulfillment.
This principle is at the heart of a fulfilling career, and a fulfilling life – inducing flow experiences daily in activities that are aligned with what we uniquely value – and anyone can experience this in their career.
All we have to do is choose (or change into) a career where our daily activities allow us to experience the things that we uniquely value.