Flow in the Age of COVID-19
While the idea of flow has been studied, dissected, quantified, and defined with distinct characteristics, it remains a very personal thing. Flow is a feeling. Each one of us enters and experiences flow differently. In my upcoming book, Flow Triggers: A Practical Guide to Maximizing Flow in Everyday Life, I investigate and describe how to consciously enter flow and how to maximize individual and team flow experiences.
I thought, when COVID-19 reared its ugly head, that I would have the time and the mental bandwidth to really dig in and get the book written. However, I have hardly written a word since March 8.
I’ve never experienced writer’s block so profoundly. It’s as if my writing muse left the premises. I literally would sit at my laptop with my fingers poised over the keys and…nothing. I came to hate the thought of sitting at my computer, which for me is absolutely the strangest of feelings as my flow states often come while being creative while using technology. Since the words didn’t come, I, like many others during this pandemic, decided to take the opportunity to purge my home of un-wanted and un-needed “stuff”. In that process, I re-discovered my art bag full of old pencils, pens, brushes, ink, and watercolors. (I’ve been carting around that bag since 1975!) I also found some watercolor-grade paper. I decided to sit down and paint. I was a little rusty, but my first attempt wasn’t too bad. This has been my creative outlet for the last three months. I felt vindicated when I listened to Paul Giamatti talk to Stephen Colbert on The Tonight Show about reviving his love of drawing cartoons after many, many years. Then I heard Jenny Odell, who wrote the book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, on The Ezra Klein Show. She talked about how, since the pandemic, she has not written anything because she feels everyone is experiencing this new environment differently. Her creative outlet, too, is her art. (She teaches art at Stanford.) I remained concerned, however, that my book was languishing. The words were still being elusive. But, I do believe in the concept that all things happen in their own time. I decided to “sit in the moment,” so to speak, and trust in the idea that, if I were meant to write, the words would come, eventually. I began taking Zoom yoga class every week with my yoga-master cousin in Virginia. I began to meditate. I began to focus on designing my living space to be not just a place where I go to eat and sleep, but one where I would love to be in all the time. This last endeavor also fuels my need for creating a visual aesthetic. Then, out of the blue, a number of folks reached out to me to contribute their own projects. They wanted to know from me how the pandemic has impacted the ability to work in flow. This has been the underlying question I have been grappling with in my own life. Now, I was being asked to talk about it on a podcast and in a video conference setting. I needed to address it head on. Two other requests came from people looking for written content on the same topic. These interactions were exactly what I needed to break the block. The Universe was telling me, “It’s time.” The subsequent conversions and writing exercises helped me focus in on the essence of what was happening to me and to the world: We have been forced to change our rituals.
Consider my own personal ritual for writing. Pre-COVID-19, every morning, I woke up around 4:45, got ready for work, fed my dog, took him for a three-mile walk, and went to Starbucks. I was one of their first customers of the day. I sat at the same table every day. The music and the slow wakening of human energy, as customers began their own daily rituals, fueled my ability to work in a flow-state. When Starbucks closed their stores to inside seating around March 15, 2020, my writing ritual was upended.
ALL of our rituals have been overturned. We all feel as if we have lost control of our lives in varying degrees.
To transform into flow, the following three factors need to be in place:
Approach the world with unselfconscious self-assurance.
Focus your attention outward on the world.
Creatively resolve the obstacles to meeting your goals.
You know what you know how to do. Do what you know. Direct your work compassionately into the world. The minute you turn inward, you become fearful and anxious. This will pull you out of flow. If you experience obstacles to meeting your stated goals, don’t let them stop you. Look for new solutions. Anything goes. Note: If you do not have stated goals, develop them. The answer: Develop new rituals to re-discover your flow. #weareinthistogether #flow #flowbasedleadership #writersblock #ritual #creativity