I have explained what FLOW is and how much it is like transcendent spiritual experiences. I talked about two ways to cultivate FLOW. One by changing yourself, the other by changing your environment. Today we will look at a 3rd factor in cultivating flow.
Do you know your purpose? How about your calling? Do you know what you were born to do? Many of us dismissed this idea years ago when we had to pick a major and start thinking seriously about making a living. At some point it may have become too painful to keep thinking about you could or should be doing with your life when there are bills to pay and bosses to appease.
Ken Robinson’s new book is called The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. In this book he says that when you step into the intersection of your natural aptitude and your personal passion you are in your element. Your element is deeply connected to your purpose, your calling, finding your “tribe” and experiences of FLOW.
We have established that FLOW is an experience of single pointed focus. FLOW happens when we merge with whatever task we are doing and have an experience of timelessness, of absolute clarity and precision of action. Our movements and thoughts arise as one, doubt vanishes and we move without hesitation. We know that you can meditate to cultivate the ability to focus on anything and therefore make yourself more likely to experience FLOW in any circumstance. We also know that you can structure your activities to be more like a game to make any activity more likely to lead to FLOW. Games have just the right balance of challenge and reward. They help us to measure our progress and see what the next steps should be. But we also know that at times we can slip into states of FLOW with no effort, no structure and no prior meditation experience. Most have experienced this at least once in their life, usually far more. These moments provide clues to finding your element.
It is easy to focus on things that we love. We get drawn in, lose ourselves and time flies. It is easy to see how doing things that we enjoy facilitates FLOW. But have you noticed the same experience happening with things that you are simply good at? I was good at math as a child. A teacher would give me a challenging problem and I just knew how to approach it. I could systematically use logic to work my way through any problem. I was good at it and I very naturally fell into a state of complete focus on what I was doing largely because the steps were accessible and getting results felt rewarding. It may sound like a stretch to you to hear me say that math was like a game to me, but it was. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it enough. Over the years, a love for numbers never emerged enough for me to want to spend my days calculating although I do still love spreadsheets 🙂
I spent years working in the security industry where, at first, I thought I was highly valued mostly because of my technical skills. I had a knack for understanding massive, multi-million dollar security systems. When things didn’t work I was expert at not only tracking down problems through hardware, software, networking, user error and many other levels of complexity, but also at getting that problem solved quickly. It was years before I realized my true gift and how this work was part of what I love. Solving problems in Fortune 500 companies and government agencies requires dealing with massive technological complexity but also with communicating with utter simplicity to complex people of all types. My real specialty, and why I was successful, had as much to do with relating to people as understanding security systems. A problem that might take someone else 3 months of emails and meetings to solve I could often solve by walking the halls, sitting on an unexpecting firewall programmers desk and getting favors done while getting to know about his life. Complete strangers often shared intimate details of their lives while bypassing protocol to get a job done quickly. My real skills merged my ability to communicate the essence of complex systems very simply while building relationships. It took me years, but eventually this led me to become a Life Coach.
What is more complex than an individuals life? We are each an elaborate system of interwoven elements with non-linear relationships that are never constant. My years of study of philosophy, health, nutrition, spirituality, meditation, relationships, careers and on and on all come to bear when helping others build a lifestyle that can support them through creating or managing major life transitions. What is the most crucial element when helping someone understand and transform their life? It is all about building relationships while making complex topics sound very simple and manageable. I love this work.
As you may have guessed, I quite regularly go into FLOW states while working with clients. Whether on the phone, in person, over skype or writing to them through emails between sessions my love for getting to know others on a very deep level merges with my skill (and love) for taking complexity and communicating it clearly to help create major change. I have found my element and it flows with greater ease and enjoyment than anything else I have ever done.
Much of what I now do is help others through this same process of discovery. What are your skills? What are your passions? What do you love? What are you good at? How can your skills and your interests come together to put you in your element?
Internet Protocol (IP) addresses
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Structured Query Language (SQL) Database Administrator (DBA)
Distributed File System Replication
Security Access Request Forms (SARF)
NetBios Name Resolution
Microsoft Terminal Services Client (MSTSC)
Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)
Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN)
WINS Resolution (Windows Internet Naming Service)
Dynamic Host Resolution Protocol (DHCP) Reservation
Quality of Service (QOS) Management
Communications Interface Module (CIM)
Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID)
Why do I have any familiarity with these things?
Amazing what we fill our heads with. I thought I opted out of the desk life for a blue collar job. Seems my career has morphed on me. Shit, I thought I had a day job, took me a while to even consider it a career. I used to spend my days filthy at construction sites, crawling under houses pulling cable, drilling concrete while standing on the very top of a ten foot ladder, hanging cameras, wiring card readers and control panels, contacting windows and doors, adjusting motion detector sensitivity, hanging intercoms and terminating cables on DVR’s. Now I write a lot of emails, spend hours on the phone, go on sales calls, act as a consultant, oversee others and take people out to dinner. Some times I miss the simplicity of completing a task with my hands, my thinking mind shut off or absorbed with something finite, entering that flow state that being good at manual labor allows; drawing blood and feeling my muscles ache, knowing that the dirt is so ground into the lines in my hands that there is no way they will be clean today……and leaving it all behind when the work day is over.
I spent the week in Charlotte, NC coordinating the installation of a disaster recovery solution for a nationwide access control system for a Fortune 100 company. Funny how these things work out.