Finding Flow: How to Welcome a Joyful Balance Between Chaos and Control
This word has been everywhere lately. But for so many people it means WAY more than just a word, it's a state of being. It also means drastically different things to different people. In my opinion, this is the raw beauty of the concept.
For example, my working definition of flow looks something like:
"The delicate and glorious balance you strike between a state of total chaos and a state of total control. Your creative, true self is exposed and cherished in an easy state of being, doing, enjoying, and appreciating the world."
Travis Berg is a close friend of mine and a fellow advocate for the beauty of flow. (Be sure to check out the fantastic work Travis is doing with the Valhalla Movement.) His definition sounds more like:
"A feeling of intense gratification that nothing else can equate to. Understanding rather than reacting, learning rather than closing off, appreciating the truth and beauty of what is happening in each moment and knowing you are right where you are meant to be. It's heaven on earth."
As you can see, our definitions are vastly different, though both are true and wonderful. Travis and I had a conversation recently about the fact that flow is SO difficult to describe, but those who have experienced it know exactly what you are talking about when you bring it up.
Today I'm going to share a little bit about my theory of the Flow Spectrum: that flow is the delicate balance you reach between total chaos and total control. Plus...some helpful how-to tips for finding your own glorious flow and living in that personal heaven as much as possible.
Above is a little mock up of how I see the flow spectrum. I came up with this concept over the last several months of owning my own business and being my own boss. I can't even begin to describe how difficult it has been for me to find this delicate balance between total chaos and total control.
Some days, I find my schedule so rigid that I am having no fun and starving my own creativity. Other days I find myself lost in a sea of procrastination and near chaos...not exactly what I would call a productive environment.
I've come to the conclusion that flow is all about finding a balance. Some days, I find myself in total flow. When I do, I make sure to take note of what I am doing, where I am working, what time it is, what projects I am making progress on, and any other details that I find important. After all, if you read my last article, Are You Living with GUSTO? Embracing Great Enthusiasm in Your Daily Life, you will know how important I believe knowing yourself is. It is the key to finding true happiness and purpose in this world...and also helps you welcome more joyful flow into your life!
The idea is to find yourself right there in the middle, at Optimized Flow...somewhere between the world of total control and the world of total chaos. Neither of these states are healthy for your joy or your productivity. Lean toward control and you cut out the fun and flexibility of life. Lean too far toward chaos and you run the risk of not making progress.
Keep in mind that this means that flow does not equal procrastination, as some have come to assume. Flow is still very productive. But it is a sort of productivity that doesn't limit your creativity or universal connection by quenching it with control. Here are some tips to finding flow, or adjusting if you currently fall somewhere else on the spectrum (we all do at times!).
If you are really interested in monitoring where you are on the spectrum and finding your own joyful flow, check out my free Flow Finder Worksheet!
Tips to Finding Optimal Flow
Find Joy in New Places:
Make even your chores joyful experiences by adding music, incorporating a game, or asking a friend or partner to participate alongside you for some genuine connection.
Mindfully Stay Productive:
Learn how to realize when you are on the procrastination side of the spectrum and how to nudge yourself back toward the productivity of flow. (See below)
Mindfully Stay Creative:
Learn how to realize when you are on the limited flexibility side of the spectrum and how to nudge yourself back toward the creativity of flow. (See below)
Don't Force Yourself:
Flow is about feeling comfortable and true to yourself. Note when you are productive, when you are not, and set healthy boundaries around these notes.
Be Responsible for You:
Know it is okay to take breaks...but be responsible for getting back on track.
How to Adjust if You Are Leaning Toward Chaos
Adjust Work Times
Re-evaluate your ideally productive periods and work when flow comes naturally.
Be responsible for setting reasonable reminders and boundaries for how you conduct yourself when you mean to be productive.
Treat Yo Self
Try using a reward system of sorts for when you accomplish tasks.
Adjust Work Space
Try a change of scenery, sound, or company.
Find Your Rhythm
Create your own ideal morning, evening, and workday routines or rhythms.
Work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break and repeat. After 4, take a 30 minute break.
Find Your Accountabilibuddy
Ask a friend or colleague to help hold you accountable for what you commit to get done. (Check out our Lists and Lovelies Accountability Action Group on Facebook!)
How to Adjust if You Are Leaning Toward Control
Commit to Fun
Be sure to set aside some time each day for fun...schedule it in if you have to, but give your brain and your body a break.
Try giving yourself a creative hour to do anything from write to draw to paint to brainstorm your next passion project.
Weekly Flow Day
Try allowing yourself one day each week with no schedule, no commitments, and no expectations. Do what feels good for an entire day and see what happens. (I do this Sundays!)
Mix It Up
Re-arrange your schedule or routine for a day or more...what new experiences do you find yourself in and what do you learn?
Adjust Work Space
Just like above, a change of scenery, sound, or company can go a long way and open up creativity you didn't expect.
Whew! That was a hell of a lot of info thrown at you. I hope it brought to light some connections to the concept of flow or some ideas for how you can find it for yourself and welcome the happiness, gratitude, and killer productivity that goes along with it. You deserve to experience what it means to be in flow and I can't wait to hear what sort of amazing things happen when you do. Please do tell!
(And a HUGE shoutout to Travis for his thoughtful insight and help with this article!)
Now go live life with gusto and get to it!