This evening during my spinning class I was again reminded of the amazing feeling I get whenever I’m in flow. We were in a moment where we’d already been cycling for 40 minutes and the teacher put on a hardcore electronic track and made us stand while cycling at breakneck speed. In that moment as I hit and surpassed 130rpm it felt as if I was one with the bike; it was a feeling of complete flow where I was going so fast and with perfect technique.
I think I remember almost every time that I’ve felt truly in flow. Whether it’s been almost falling flat on my face while dancing ballet, but instead turning it into a different move so no one noticed. Singing and getting lost in my song only to finish and realize the audience is in tears. Completely improvising my lines in a play where my fellow actors just pick up and we create an entirely new scene. In these moments it feels like there’s electricity running through my body; it’s a powerful creative energy and when I feel it I know I’m performing at my best.
What used to be a feeling of flow that I’d experience primarily through art, I’ve been discovering more and more is possible in my professional life. The first time I think I became powerfully conscious of this was when I was a fundraiser; I would get moments of being in the ‘zone’ where I could easily close 4 partnerships in the span of 2 weeks. I feel in the ‘zone’ nowadays in the moments of connection I get with my teammates when we have a tough problem to solve and all of a sudden the energy in the room shifts, we’re bouncing ideas and perspectives off of each other and all of a sudden we’ve got an amazing solution and we’ve started to bring it to life.
There are lots of things that can get me out of this flow; and when I do I don’t like it. My energy is in a different place and I know I’m not being the person I am. Recovering from that state to one in which I feel in flow is an ability that I’m still consciously developing. Some things that help to get me in the flow when I’m out are:
- Taking a break. I get moments where I know there’s no point beating my head against the wall; it’s better to sleep or go and do something else and then come back with a fresh perspective.
- Dialogue with trusted individuals. When I get stuck in a problem I ask for help. Contrary to some, asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness. Through dialogue with others they help me to open my eyes to things I’m not seeing.
- Practice. Performing at your best requires practice. That means that every moment of practice is a warm up act for your big performance so we should neglect it!
- Inner peace. There are a few things I do to stabilize the dialogues that are taking place inside my head so I can calmly approach situations. These include breathing techniques that can improve concentration, journaling exercises, and drinking lots of water are just some of the things that help me maintain some level of inner stability.
What I notice in my work with organizations is that there are a lot of people that are not working in flow. That’s a huge shame not just for them and their happiness, but also for organizations and the communities they serve. What would it look like if each day we were performing at our best?