There is a magical space where life feels effortless to me and where I feel most alive. It is a flow state. In this state, I am in flow with myself and possibly with something greater than myself.
Flow state is when there is an optimal balance between the skills that I possess and the challenge in the task at hand.
Too much skill or knowledge, and not enough challenge, then I get bored. For example, cooking meals I have already cooked hundreds of times, or managing certain clients and repeated business issues, or reading about topics that I am already familiar with. In these moments, life feels effortful, despite the ease that these activities represent.
Too much challenge and not enough skill or knowledge, then I feel anxious. For example, when I tried to learn Mandarin, or was in a relationship with a specific person, or tried to navigate a more complex business challenge. In these moments, life again feels effortful, despite any desire I may have to grow in these situations.
Growth cannot be forced through effort. Like the exhaust that comes out of a car, growth is a byproduct for me when I am in flow state. In these moments of flow, I am challenged within my reach and because I can see that it is in my reach, I reach for it and through that action, grow.
In business life, I have the opportunity to support others in finding flow state for themselves. If I have asked someone to do something that is too easy for them, then they are not growing. If the work is too challenging, then they are unlikely to do it well. Everything I ask of others may not be in this harmonious space of skills and challenge, however at least some will be. And I can try.
In home life, this is why household errands and chores are often annoying. It is not the activity itself of cleaning dishes, tidying a room or doing the laundry that is annoying. It is that they are relatively easy and I do not get to grow. As a result, they feel effortful despite being routine, simple and easy.
Earlier this year, many took to baking and gardening all of a sudden. It was because these activities represented an opportunity to be in a flow state, where skill and challenge are in balance.
This is about an optimal lifestyle. One where I show up motivated, engaged and interested. Being intentional with what I do, how I do it, and why I do it, gives me the opportunity to feel and experience a deeper satisfaction with my life.
The satisfaction that I seek in life rarely comes from achieving, reaching or arriving. One of my teachers says “you have nowhere to go, you are always on your way”. This is to say that the journey is not only more important than the destination, but that there is no destination. The journey is all that I have.
When I can believe, understand and connect with this truth, only then can I start to pay attention to the quality of my journey versus obsess about a fictional destination. Finding a balance between my skills in this moment, and the challenges that I choose, is when I feel most alive, and also when I have the most to offer others.
When I was new to meditation many years ago, I found myself reading constantly on the topic and curious about what many teachers had to share. I do not find the same enthusiasm to read about meditation now, yet find myself enthusiastic about leading practice and sharing my passion with others. This is why it has felt effortless to continue teaching meditation on Zoom, so consistently, since the Spring.
I started writing my book in the Spring and transparently, have gone through stretches where I am writing almost daily for weeks, and then stretches where I do not even think about my book for weeks. Yet I continue to write a reflection for my blog, without fail, every single week. This experience tells me that writing a book is something that, right now at least, I find challenging relative to my skill level as a writer. On the other hand, posting to social media feels not challenging enough for my skill level, that’s why I do not do it often. Writing a weekly reflection is right in my sweet spot and something that I feel immense satisfaction from. Writing for me is about the journey, as it does not matter to me if this is read by one person or one million people. Case in point, a few months ago I stopped looking at the analytics for my blog, yet continue to write regularly. It feels effortless, joyful and fulfilling to me.
The insight for me is simple. When I feel bored or anxious, it is likely due to an imbalance between my skill level and the challenge level. When I get to engage with life in a way where my skills are matched with the challenge presented, life feels effortless.
Although, now I need to go do the laundry.