The simplest tool to help you flow through your day
We live in a world that’s all about Force.
It’s all 99% perspiration, and feel the burn! He who wakes up first and goes to bed last wins!
I do wonder, however, what exactly is that person winning? Does first prize go to the person who sacrifices the most in their life? At a time when there’s increasing evidence that working fewer hours leads to more productivity and now that machines are learning to do many tasks in mere moments (see Jack Ma at the World Economic Forum or Elon Musk talking about his approach to education), it’s really important that we break our relationship with force, with pushing, with pain and suffering and embrace flow instead.
Force vs Float
Force is about making yourself do something. It’s hard, it’s effort, it’s pain. Force doesn’t feel natural but it can feel good. When we make ourselves do something, we often experience a feeling of accomplishment afterwards. We’ve learned through our culture and education that the things we find hardest to do have the most value and are, therefore, rewarded the most highly.
If something comes naturally to us or is a joy to work on it isn’t given the same value. Of course, this isn’t necessarily true. Just because something hurt us it doesn’t mean it was worth more than something we did with joy or love or ease. But so says our society.
Because we believe that we must force ourselves to do things that feel un-natural, we often also avoid doing those things. We “Float”. We procrastinate. We do anything but. We fritter away our time on an activity that doesn’t add much value but that looks productive OR we do something that doesn’t add much value and isn’t even productive (Box Sets anyone?).
Force and Float are natural companions. We’re either forcing or we’re avoiding Forcing by Floating.
Flow isn’t the same as Float. It isn’t about waiting for something to happen. It isn’t avoidance. And it isn’t Force. It isn’t about pushing and hustling. It’s about connecting with the self and allowing that connection to determine what the right thing is to do.
When you’re in Flow you may do something that’s hard, that requires real focus, that’s outside your comfort zone. But doing it doesn’t feel like Force because it came from a place of connection with yourself. There is purpose in it and that purpose is understood and agreed upon within yourself.
When you’re in Flow you are likely to enjoy the activity. Not because it’s easy (although it might be easy for you) and not because it’s hard (in the case of Force where the reward comes only from completing something that felt painful), but because it is the right thing and you know it is.
Flow can happen even with a tight schedule, although if more of us were in Flow we would find that we had far less to do and tight schedules were an old-fashioned notion that most people found amusing and passe.
Even when you have little control over your time (or feel that you have little control), there is a method of connecting with yourself and finding Flow that I use in my own day-to-day life. You’re going to need a stack of Post-It notes!
Using post-its list out everything there is to do, whether that is scheduled, diarised time (a meeting, a phone call, travel) or whether it’s just a to do. One activity per post-it.
Dot the post-its around on your desk or on the wall.
Step back and look at them. Breathe. Connect with yourself.
Ask yourself what’s first. By this, I mean, which of the post-its requires your attention next? Do that.
The next thing might be “Go to that meeting”. When you’re in Flow you don’t ignore your duties or break your promises, if duties and keeping promises are in alignment with your values. Flow doesn’t mean you ignore when the kids need their dinner or that the car needs petrol. You’ll do the things that need to be done because they need to be done.
However, Force might try to override Flow. There might be things that Force tells you must do, where Flow doesn’t agree. Or not for the same reason at least.
Force will tell you to feed the kids because you have to. You have no choice. Even though you’d rather go and take a bath, you must make dinner for the kids - the same ones who’ve been driving you around the bend all day and who should be able to make their own food by now. You must do this because that’s life and we all suffer and nothing will ever change.
Flow tells you to feed the kids because you love your kids. When you connect with yourself and ask, “What’s next?”, you know that feeding your kids is next because one of your values is Love and Love for the kids, at that moment when they are hungry, is just a little more powerful than your need for a bath (although connection with yourself might tell you the bath comes first. I can’t predict that!). Flow may also reveal to you that there are other choices about how the kids get their food in future and maybe, while you’re in the bath, you can think about those.
Flow might show you that something that Force feels is set in stone, like it or not, is actually a choice you can influence. When you’re in Flow, you might think, “That meeting is in my diary but I don’t add value to it and it doesn’t add value to me. What are the consequences of not going? If I decided not to attend, who would I need to tell and what would I spend my time on instead?”
It’s worth noting that this method is different from keeping a To Do list. The thrill of a To Do list comes from ticking things off. The criteria about what comes first on a To Do list will be random - This is easy, I’ll do this. I’m going to get in trouble if I don’t do this, I’ll do this. This has been on here for a long time, I’ll do this.
The thrill of the Flow method I describe comes from the connection with yourself. Each action you take is a choice from within, even if those actions seemed, at first, to be forced upon you. You are aligned. You’ve asked the question. You’ve made a choice based on values and not shoulds. And that’s Flow.
The distinction between Flow and Force is one of the modules in A Brilliant Gamble Online, my new self-paced online self-coaching programme.
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The programme covers concepts like :
The Hero’s Journey
My own “Pentagram” model to help you design a more blended, integrated life,
Needs and Values, 20 questions to ask yourself when you’re stuck...plus much, much more.
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