The burden is never life. It’s what you’re thinking and believing about life.
– Byron Katie
You know the feeling of flow. Researchers describe flow as a temporary state during which you are fully present and immersed in what you’re doing. You have an energized focus and results seem to come almost effortlessly. I want flow in my life because I want to feel connected to and supported by something bigger than my own will. I want less friction and resistance and I want to be aligned with the flow of energy around me—and in so doing, to live with more ease and amusement. I want to do work that taps my genius. I want to feel a sense of aliveness in my body, be mentally engaged, and see the possibility in any situation. I want to be emotionally connected to myself and to those around me. I want to notice that essential resources are abundant and I’m giving as much or more than I’m getting. That’s my vision for my life and I am there most of the time. I think many of us are just one degree off from being in flow.
As I described this vision to Frank, a prospective client, he said, “Count me in! Is it expensive?” I said, “The fee should be the least of your worries. Accessing flow will often feel counterintuitive and vulnerable.” Frank knew he had to become a more effective and conscious leader to address the growing paradoxes and dilemmas he faced in his company and his life. He had just celebrated his 50th birthday and his body thought it was his 65th birthday. He knew he was not going to be able to sustain the current work pace. He didn’t want to postpone getting healthy and engaging in his hobbies until he retired. His marriage had grown flat from emotional neglect. He was not experiencing flow.
Who Would You Be Without Your Story?
Flow is available to everybody at any time. It’s not something to attain, it’s something to access. You access flow by letting go of your “story”: those beliefs and filters that distort your reality (what in my book The Business of Wanting More: Why Some Executives Move from Success to Significance and Others Don’t, I refer to as your “Bubble”). Flow happens when you transcend your story. This is where the work comes in.
If you’re an achiever like me, you have been propelled by your story. My story was: successful people are smart and smart equals studiousness. This belief led to self-consciousness because I wanted to appear competent and associate only with successful people. My story was formed by noticing what was important to my parents. In fact, I was a horrible classroom learner and became convinced I wouldn’t amount to much. I was in my twenties before I came to appreciate the various forms in which intelligence comes and learned that good students are not always successful in life. Our stories come from our conditioning and they can lead to insecurities, ineffective behavior, and unhappiness. Fortunately, our stories are not true.
Frank was unaware of his story. In addition of playing the role of CEO, he had no idea that he was playing the role of hero and trying to prove himself worthy of his success. He was taking on tasks that were unessential and not in his genius. He was doing and accumulating more and more in an attempt to feel validated. He was convinced that money and business success would lead to freedom and Godliness. Frank’s story was fueling his drive while creating a leadership and relationship blind spot that limited his ability to move to the next level of leadership capacity and be happier.
What’s keeping you from being in flow? To access flow, become aware of your filters. Look for what’s not working in your life. What are you resisting or avoiding? Notice your emotional reactions and those times you are absolutely convinced that you are in the right. Any of these triggers are indications you may be stuck in your story. Look no further than the mirror for the source of your problem as well as your solution. Do what you can to suspend your stories about how people should behave, how things should turn out, and what you “should” or “have” to do.
When you let go of your story and trust the truth that you are not in control of everything, you are free to align your life with a bigger story. You can clear out your expectations and distortions and experience flow. It could be just a simple shift in perspective. Your life in flow becomes an adventure filled with innovation and unpredictable possibilities. In flow, you tap into your whole mind/body/heart intelligence as if you stepped into another dimension. What’s one belief, decision, candid conversation, surrender, or “yes” that is blocking you from flow?