Why we all need to go with the flow.
In my leadership class at the University of Oregon, we have been talking about flow. It is a term from Positive Psychology that sums up “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
In finding flow, we looked to our Gallup’s Strength Assessment, where I discovered that I am: Responsibility | Maximizer | Relator | Arranger | Achiever.
In this post you can read about my Gallup Assessment and how those talents relate to my experiences, but today I am going to focus on how my talents can help me find flow.
I am, and will always be, an achiever. It is what drives me to try, compete, and win in the majority of my life circumstances.
Responsibility, arranger, and achiever – these executing talents all go so easily hand-in-hand. One talent recognizes and sets a goal, another creates the plan, and the third talent accomplishes the goal. They build seamlessly off each other, propelling me quickly forward. In essence, they are the coal that keeps my train moving at 80 miles per hour. But this is not a sustainable pace and I have spent many of my 24 years looking longingly at all the stops passing me by.
I realized that I was doing, but I was doing without purpose. I was distracted by the high of achievement.
I graduated high school seventh in my class of 700. I beat out all other applicants for an internship doing hands-on medical research for the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience at the age of 18. I graduated from college at the tender age of 20, having spent almost two years working for a Fortune 500 company. I accepted a full-time, salaried position with Target where I found myself, at the age of 21, leading a team of 230. By the time I was 23, I had arrested over 15 internal and external theft subjects, trained seven new-in-role executives, and achieved major burnout.
I thought I was in flow. I thought that train was moving 80 miles per hour in the right direction. But what took me 23 years to realize was that my hitting rock bottom looked a lot like reaching the top.
My flow action plan started a year ago, but I didn’t know to call it that at the time. I quit my job, moved back to the warmth and safety of my parents’ house, and paused. In order to take action, to move in the right direction, to move with purpose, I needed to stand still. I traveled, I wrote, I introspected. I made new friends, I asked questions, I read. I learned, I challenged, I dared. I explored myself and my world.
I realized that people give my actions purpose. Traveling solo was improved by the relationships I built. Skydiving was enhanced because I shared it with my brother. Learning to build this website was fulfilling because it connected me with people in a new way. The people made the difference.
I need to keep this train moving, the flow train. So here are five steps that will fuel this train forward at a pace I can maintain:
- Travel I am my best self when I travel. I explore, I learn, and I don’t assume. I dare, I welcome, I try, and I think. Once a year, despite budgets and business, I want to travel somewhere new. In 2016, I went to six new countries and one new state. This summer, I am going to add two more countries to my hit list: China and Singapore.
- Try New ThingsI have loved living outside of the box that housed me for 23 years. I flew an airplane, I started a blog, and I become more minimalistic. I need to continue to push myself, so this year, I am learning to meditate, training for a 5K, and beginning to say “Thank you, but no.” Looking forward, I want to learn to boulder, play piano, and live in another country.
- Share My Story Ironically, it was doing something so uncharacteristic, like quitting my job, that allowed me to feel so authentically myself. Through my blog, I put my thoughts, actions, goals, and history on display in such a public fashion that it allowed me to become unapologetically myself. Throughout 2017, I am going to continue to share my story by publishing at least one post a week.
- Bring People Together I am beginning to recognize the large degree that people give my actions purpose. Whether completing this MBA program, traveling, or writing, it is the people I get to share my experiences with that make it so much more fulfilling. I am moving forward on founding the Graduate Women in Business club on my campus and will continue to host a weekly Career Services Workgroup. Looking forward, I will introduce, I will include, I will create, and I will bridge.
- RefuelWith the above goals, I need to safeguard from burning out again. I must build in time to relax, reflect, and refuel. I am loving the life I am living right now and I need it to be sustainable. I need to give myself the time and energy to be my best self. So I will read a book once a month, write once a week, and sleep eight hours a day.
I hope this post inspires you to find flow, or achieve it in a new or different way.
How do you find flow in your life? Let us know below.