Vocational Chiropractic: How to experience Flow in your work!

What needs to be aligned to experience Flow in your work? Do you experience work as something you love, which uses your skills and talents and is a natural expression of who you are? Does it express your deeper values and gives you meaning? Is everything aligned internally and externally allowing you to be tremendously successful because you are bringing value to the world, just at the right time? Is your experience of work deeply fulfilling and satisfying?

Many people view work as a necessary evil. I refuse to accept this viewpoint. Why limit it to be such a thing? Fundamentally, most people on this planet have to cover their needs for food, shelter and material survival. But in the modern age there is so much choice about how you can go about doing this. So why not choose to set yourself up for success not only for survival but to really thrive. So that your work brings you the basics but also joy, self-expression, vitality, meaning, a sense of contribution, satisfaction and even pleasure in the process. In this article, I’d like to examine the factors which when taken care of are likely to produce this kind of experience of work.

Many years ago, I read a passage about work in The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, which impacted me. I still have it on my desktop. I reproduce it partially here:

“Then a ploughman said, “Speak to us of Work.” And he answered, saying:

You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth. For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.

When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music. Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison?

Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune. But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born, And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life, And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret …”

Many issues arise in our society due to a sense of separation. This is no different, I feel with work. People separate work and life. By the way, I’m not really much of an adherent to the concept of work / life balance. How can it really be separated? Do you spend 8 hours a day working say. 8 sleeping and the other 8 living? If you hate your work you are only wakefully enjoying more or less a third of your life!

Do you work to live or live to work? Why not just throw it all out of the window. Life cannot be separated like that. Why not live into your passion in every moment you can? Align to that in a way that all parts of your life are supporting it and are an expression of it. Are you working when you’re taking care of your child? Life is work. Work is life.

Ikigai

In Japanese there is the word — Ikigai. It is a concept that loosely translates to “a reason for being, encompassing joy, a sense of purpose and meaning and a feeling of well-being.” The word derives from iki, meaning life and kai, meaning the realisation of hopes and expectations.

Another definition could be “what gets you out of bed in the morning”. Applied specifically to work it is the sweet spot between the following 4 factors:

  • What you love
  • What you are good at
  • What the world needs
  • What can be paid for

Taking Ikigai as a basis, I’d like to take a look at the factors that need to be in alignment to create an experience of work that is deeply satisfying and fulfilling, work that is in Flow.

Some people happen on this by chance, intuitively or maybe by trial and error. But perhaps it is possible to be a bit more methodical about it. I’ll breakdown Flow into layers / levels, starting from the innermost, deepest, to the more outer external factors.

Knowing these layers, can be the first step in performing a sort of vocational chiropractic, examining what’s out of alignment and making adjustments to get things flowing again! Let’s look at each vertebrae in turn.

Beliefs

To begin with, you might want to consider what your thoughts and beliefs are about work itself, because your deeply held beliefs about something generally get played out in your life, since you see and create your life through this filter.

If your beliefs are not aligned with what want to create in the world, then it’s unlikely you’ll move very far in the direction you set out. As pulling a cart in two opposite directions results in little or no movement, unseen beliefs can sabotage Flow in your working life.

We all hold often unconscious beliefs about work. What does work mean to you? What is it to be successful? What about your beliefs about money? To get traction, we want the subconscious and the conscious mind to be pulling in the same direction.

A key part of creating flow in work is to uncover and clear limiting beliefs.

Values

If your work doesn’t in some way express your values, then you are probably being incongruent with a deep part of yourself. By definition, values are what’s important to you, and if you spend 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week in activity that has little significance to you, how are you going to be satisfied, when you reach the end! So, take some time to examine what your values are, and find ways to express at least some of them in your work.

Meaning

Values taken together would perhaps give you a description of what gives you meaning in life? How many people are stuck in meaning-less work?

What do you want your life to be about?

If you just don’t give a damn about selling the latest product for your company, beyond receiving a pay cheque at the end of the month, it’s going to be difficult for it to give you any deep meaning. In fact, some people work in jobs that are contrary to their values and beliefs. I found myself in this situation!

And here lies the problem with how most people employ their time. It’s just a means to an end… Everything becomes a means to an end. Life is reduced considerably with this attitude. Imagine dancing, or eating, or even sex like this.

Maybe there is no meaning intrinsic in anything but what is important is the narrative you create around your work. If the story is a negative one, then it’s hard to imagine that your experience of the minutes… hours spent at work would add up to fulfilment.

You might reach your grave and wonder what it was all about!

Talents

It makes sense to use your innate gifts / talents in your work. Obvious! As the saying goes, use the right tool for the right job! Trying to drive a Ferrari (unless it’s a Ferrari tractor) cross-country is only going to lead to expensive repairs and frustrations. Better find a race track where this fine-tuned machine can perform optimally. Also, keep the tractor off the race track.

If your work is not using your natural talents then how can you expect it to bring you satisfaction. Imagine the frustration of an iPhone used as a doorstop!

Everything has a purpose and a place in the Universe. A metal is not the same as a tree. An oak is not the same a willow. They have different qualities/properties and need different environments in which to flourish. The same is true of humans. We all come with certain qualities and properties. However, often we are forced by social conditioning to fit into a certain mould. Adaptation is good for sure, to a certain degree, but not to the extent that the essence and vitality is squeezed out of the person.

Consider for example, Einstein, Beethoven and Gandhi, three exceptional human beings. What would have happened if we mixed them around and relocated them to each others families. If Beethoven was born in India, and was given the education that Gandhi received, would he has still gone on the produce the music he did. If Einstein was born in Germany, into Beethoven’s family, would he still have become the genius he was, or produce the music Beethoven did. In each scenario, I speculate that these men would not have reached the great heights they did.

Strengths

Strengths are like talents but not quite. What’s the distinction? Talents are naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behaviour. They are innate. A strength, on the other hand, represents an ability that has been developed into consistent performance. Strengths are generally built upon talents.

So, if you’re not using your strengths at work, then just what are you using? Your mediocrity … your weaknesses? That doesn’t look like a game you can win easily. It ain’t gonna be very good. Align to your success by using your strengths, and if you can, get someone else to do the stuff you’re not so good at. It’s probably even their strength and they’ll love doing it! Win — Win!

Skills

As Mr Flow, (I call him that because I can’t pronounce his name) positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, pointed out, there is an element of skills matching needed, with just the right amount of challenge, for flow states to occur. If your skills are appropriately matched to the task at hand you’re likely to be fully involved in the activity finding it stimulating, energising and enjoyable.

Sure any job soon becomes imperfect as your level of competence starts to increase and you begin to get bored. There is a dynamic balance to be found in matching the person to the activity. The problem is people often do not take measures to adjust their employment activity to their development.

Pleasure

An important factor often forgotten at work is pleasure. Perhaps you think it’s even utopic to contemplate work being pleasurable! But why not? The more aligned your work is to your basic attributes and qualities, the more likely you are to derive pleasure from it.

If I was a professional hurdles runner, I’d probably not have a great time. My legs are basically a bit too short! Also, I don’t really enjoy running.

Joy and abundance go together. It is normal that success will follow when you are feeling alive and doing what you love. Who would you hire? Someone who is passionate about what they do and just exudes this energy, someone going through the motions, or someone who’s dragging a heavy weight uphill complaining all the way?

Pleasure from the process is more likely to yield lasting satisfaction. Do not fall into the trap of selecting your work only for the end result.

Need

If you’re producing widgets that no-one wants, or offering an ear cleaning service to foreign tourists in India, chances are you’ll not be that successful. I was actually offered this in a busy square in Delhi. Needless to say I declined, even though the price was very reasonable!

What does the world need? What is the value that you are providing? What is the supply and demand like? If these aspects are synchronised, you’ll likely be rewarded for this alignment, as if your vocational stars are pulling in your favour.

Timing

Whatever you are offering, time is crucial! A bit like the Goldilocks principle but temporally applied. It’s not beneficial to be too ahead of your time, nor too late. If you time it just right with your offering, you’ll likely experience internal and external success. Flow!

How can you get into Flow?

Recognise and align to who you are… thereby live in Flow. Discover what your values are, what gives you meaning. See your strengths and innate talents. Know what gives you joy and have the courage to follow that. Surely that will be a well spent life, impacting and spreading your joy to others.

Stop trying to fit a round peg in a square hole!

It’s all well and good to know about these various factors for Flow. This is can be a first step. But why isn’t everyone in their dream job? I’d say one of the biggest factors is awareness. Generally, people have a lot of noise in their lives. They are often moving at million miles an hour and haven’t taken the time to look at where they’re heading. If you are able to answer the following questions, your off to a flying start.

Who are you? What do you love? What you have to offer?

What currently holds you back?

What’s happening in the world today and what’s needed? What is in ascendence? What’s declining? What your contribution is?

Some things that have worked for me in the past to gain greater awareness and clarity have been… Meditation, Experimentation, and Coaching.

Meditation because it helped me quieten the noise, and as things settled I began to see with more clarity.

Experimentation because when I got into action to try things out, I got real-world feedback, which allowed me to adjust my course.

Coaching because it’s so much easier to see clearly when someone holds up the mirror to you through observation, questioning, listening and feedback.

About me

As a transformational coach, I create a space that promotes clarity and transformation, resulting in increased motivation, resourcefulness and creativity. I am passionate about helping clients create work they love. Work which gives them meaning, uses their natural talents and is deeply satisfying and fulfilling.

If you’d like to continue the conversation about this topic, or would like support with coming into alignment in your working life, you can contact me via the channels below:

Email: info@freeyourflow.org
Web: freeyourflow.org
Fb: facebook.com/freeyourflow.org/

Photo by Ajay Kumar from Pexels

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