Flow is described as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” (Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi)
Going with the flow is supposed to signify natural, effortless movement from one moment to the next. When it comes to managing your energy and attention in the absence of an external boss, going with the flow can be disastrous.
In fact, it’s not flow at all, but faux-flow.
When going with the flow means flowing any which way, it’s not flow, it’s aimlessness.
Flow requires us to make a decision. De-cide, from the Latin “cut off.” Harsh words in our feel-good-crazy times, but essential to flow.
Flow requires deciding on a direction and turning away from competing directions. Until you make a decision, you may feel all flow-y, but you’re in a faux-flow trance.
If going with the flow means not going anywhere until the limitations are removed, it’s not flow, it’s apathy.
Flow requires constraint. A river gathers force from the narrowness of its banks relative to the volume of water. The same is true when you decide what to create. Limitation and constraint focus your attention, require you to make choices, and keep you moving forward.
If going with the flow means believing your thoughts and feelngs, it’s not flow, but self deception.
Accurate feedback is essential to flow, and we can’t get accurate feedback if we live in our heads.
The only way to get accurate feedback is to look to what philosopher Ken Wilber calls a community of the adequate. (I know. Not a very juicy term for the village that gives life to your creative endeavors, but he’s a guy.)
Left to our own devices, we see what we expect to see, what we want to see, what we are afraid to see. It’s not that we are unwilling to see the truth (well, not always), it’s just that the committee of me, myself, and I produce distorted information.
Breaking the Faux Flow Trance
Breaking the faux-flow trance means:
- Making a decision.
- Accepting constraints as an aid to the creative process.
- Actively soliciting feedback from a community that can see you in ways you can’t see yourself.
When you have those three factors in place, flow will happen. Without them, it won’t.
Flow’s more fun!