An example of flow in my life
In leadership training, we talk about “Flow” as an important state for getting high-results and being motivated. Here is an example of Flow from my own life. As you read it, see if you can spot the key ingredients required to get me in this state of Flow..
In 2002 I was living in Brussels. I didn’t have any kids and I was “away from home”. One day, I was thinking about how I could better share my life with people in England. At the time, Facebook probably existed in the US, but it wasn’t part of our daily life like it is today. I wanted to let people know what I was up to, share stories and pictures and have more contact with them. One Saturday afternoon at 2pm, I decided to make a website.
Not having a clue about how to make websites, I went to Google and typed in “How to make a website”. I found the site htmlgoodies.com and discovered a set of lessons on how to code a site. I opened up lesson 1:
- Open notepad
- Type <html>
- Write what you want to see on your page
- (I wrote “Welcome to my webpage)
- Type </html>
- Open internet explorer and open your “document”
What I saw was a blank “internet page” with “Welcome to my webpage” in the top-left corner, font times new roman, size 10. I quietly smiled to myself and moved onto lesson 2, which was about how to make a link. I made a new notepad document with the HREF code for a link and linked it to my first page with the text “Click here”. When I opened my new page, I saw a blue link in the top-left saying “Click here”. I did. It opened my first page. I was very excited.
I went on through the lessons: How to change background colour, adjust font, add tables, put in pictures, make frames, add a form for email contact, add buttons… Each time, I slowly learnt something new and watched my pages come to life.
I carried on working non-stop from 2pm to 4.30am the next day. I only stopped a couple of times to go the toilet and I had a “dinner” in less than 10 minutes at my desk. By the time I finished, I had my first working website, uploaded via FTP and shared by email with my family. It had a kind of diary in it, some pictures and I had plans to add more later with my new skillset.
This is a perfect example of flow for me: I got the best results I could get, I was happy and time flew by.
According to positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, this positive state of flow is what everyone wants in life. It is a state of motivation where we feel good and get the best results. If we are under stimulated, we get bored (and bad results) and if things are too much for us, its stressful (with bad results). Flow is the key.
To get in flow, you need:
- A clear goal that has a sense of purpose to you
- Feedback from the world – you need to be able to see your progress (like I did with my internet pages)
- The possibility to concentrate fully on your work (no kids!)
- A balance between the challenge you have and your own competences/resources (note: most people like to be stretched a little)
- The possibility of growth
If you are thinking about how to motivate your people at work, there are lots of practical ideas of what you can do to create or maintain flow. My training participants have been coming up with many ideas. You can see some on this padlet wall and this other wall. Its not difficult to do and the impact on employee results and happiness is enormous.
So, go: Get your people in flow!
Thanks for reading!