This post took me 26 minutes to write; I timed it and am writing this sentence last. Why did it go so fast?
It's Monday afternoon on Memorial Day weekend, a holiday in the United States. I've spent the weekend researching overlaps between ikigai—the Japanese term for "reason for being"—and the flow state, which some call "being in the zone."
Why did I work all weekend? Did a client make me? Not at all. My purpose is helping other people find their purpose, so my whole weekend felt like play.
Few things excite me like finding an idea that other people can use to great effect. In this case, asking a simple question can lead you to a life elevated with purpose and meaning:
When have I experienced flow?
Flow is what happens when time seems to stand still. You are operating at your very best, 100% focused on what you are doing, and utterly enjoying yourself... even if what you are doing is especially challenging. In reality, flow often comes as a direct result of challenging yourself.
True confession: I cheated slightly. In reality, I want you to ask the same question four times, with only a slight variation:
- When have you been in the zone because you so much loved what you were doing?
- When have you been in the zone because you were so good at something?
- When have you been in the zone because you were helping others in such a meaningful manner?
- When have you been in the zone because it was so effortless to make money?
I'd like to suggest that the presence of the flow state is a wonderful clue that you are doing something you are meant to do. It is nearly impossible to achieve flow when doing something you hate. You might think of flow as an extremely helpful sign leading you towards ikigai (represented by that white circle in the center, where the other four elements overlap).
Starting at the top left and moving clockwise, the circles represent:
- Your passions
- Your strengths
- What others will pay you to do
- What others need
Finding your ikigai and shifting your career to focus on it is more complicated than this, but following your flow is a wonderful way to begin the process.
Photo credit: Dick Sijtsma/Flickr