When was the last time you were totally absorbed in a task? You lost track of time. Nothing distracted your focus. You knew exactly what you were doing and how you would reach the goal.
There’s a name for that. It’s called “flow.”
I’ll admit it. I may well be the last leader on the planet to become intrigued by the notion of flow.
But as my wife was writing our new episode for her radio program on the spiritual applications of this “positive psychology” theory, I also began digging in, to find leadership applications.
Turns out Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who is considered one of the co-founders of positive psychology, was the first to identify and research flow. Flow has been described as an intrinsically rewarding experience that helps one (or a team) achieve a goal or improve skills. It occurs in various situations: creative endeavors, work or play. And as a “state,” it tends to be reached when a person’s skills are so fully involved in overcoming a “manageable” challenge and simultaneously, overcoming boredom – or a lack of activity.
Researchers have learned that when individuals are in this state of flow, they perform at peak levels. Productivity soars along with a deep sense of fulfillment. Work or play – the result is great enjoyment. It’s like being in the zone. Nothing else matters. No distractions are attractive. Focus is full. And the results are personally and professionally beyond satisfaction.
You’ve seen it in elite athletes. Michael Jordan winning a championship despite fighting the flu. Or, Simone Biles, the most decorated American gymnast in history, performing for all the world to see but oblivious to everything else going on around her.
Imagine the difference such a positive flow will make in your enterprise, business or ministry. Who doesn’t long for this type of caring, focused and successful environment?
So the question is: how do I achieve flow and how might I inculcate this concept into my everyday life?
Here’s the bad news. I will suggest that being in a constant state of flow is nearly impossible. Nearly.
But flowing in the Spirit of God can alter how we think and behave at all times, and when applied to Csikszentmihalyi’s constructs, might result in a wholly new approach to flow.
OK, follow this thought line, All of God is in Christ and ALL of Christ is in you:
- Do you believe Jesus was fully God? Colossians 2:9 answers the query, “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.”
- Do you believe that God now LIVES (dwells is a good Bible word) in you? Myriad corroborating scriptures here. Two are uber-precise: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word: and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him,” John 14:23 and in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
- Do you understand the ramifications of this Truth? What does it mean to have the Creator of the universe living inside you? What power, insights, creativity are available to you 24/7?
I contend that the only way to exist in a semblance of ongoing flow is to be fully aware of and immersed in the flow of the Spirit. The theorists describe all the conditions one must meet to enter into a state of flow. What I’m attempting to describe, in Christian terms, is flow reframed as “feeling God’s pleasure.” We instantly think of the British gold medalist Eric Liddell (made famous in the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire) who famously said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
The other side of this same coin is summarized by the great question of the Church: “What is the chief end of man?” Answer provided by the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” So, the perfect set-up for ever-flow is both enjoying God and His presence, and living so that He enjoys us and how we live for Him.
So why don’t we already live in “ever-flow?”
Perhaps because we alone are the gatekeepers of God’s flow in us; that we turn off and on the spigot of His graces of peace, joy, flow? How? We can prevent divine flow by ignoring the power of God’s presence resident within our physical body. We either forget His presence or we delay accessing it by our habit of self-sufficiency. “I’ve got this,” is certainly not an uncommon sentiment among all of us – Christians included.
We also can prevent ourselves from receiving all the benefits of God’s presence when our focus falls away from others and their needs (read: your employees, customers, parishioners – even family and friends) and onto us. Reminiscent of the Dead Sea that only has sources of incoming water, but nothing flows out, if we keep our focus on taking rather than giving, we lose the balance God intends necessary for us to maintain His ever-flow.
This is excerpted from Dr. Norm Mintle’s blog, True North Leadership (www.medium.com). Dr. Mintle holds an earned Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership. He has served in executive positions across a broad range of media organizations and as a dean at three universities.Are you in the flow?