Going With The Flow When The Going Gets Tough
This week we tackle a reader request about going with the flow:
“It’s easy when the current of productivity is strong, though when the waves are crashing around you or, the opposite, when the water is feeling at a standstill it’s harder to go with it.”
I love this question. It’s something I’ve wrestled with my entire life, especially when frustrated by lackluster leadership or moving targets.
What has helped me most is to have a greater context for flow. I believe flow is not a narrow gate, but a great expanse. Getting “into it” is a little like surfing. At any point in your day or career, you could be all over this map (that I just made up, so humor me):
While you may feel in or out of flow, the key is to remember it is all flow – good and bad.
“I accept chaos. I am not sure whether it accepts me.”-Bob Dylan
The reality is nobody can be surfing 100% of the time. Waves come and waves go. Your own energy comes and goes. You can and will be all over this map, and that’s okay. That’s life.
The challenge is knowing where you are and where the flow is. The water never goes away. The tide can be high or low. Conversely, we as able-bodied surfers can show up or go home.
Our job is to do our best to ride the wave, have fun, and try again until we are ready to call it a day. Every moment is a choice. Every result is uncontrollable and sometimes unexpected.
That said, you and I know, the problem lies in that lower left-hand corner. When you’re feeling low and pushing yourself to make waves without seeing any results, you are bound for exhaustion.
For those moments, it’s time to take a break:
- Switch to a different task
- Go for a walk
- Talk with a mentor
Without sufficient rest and perspective, you can be stuck in the lower quadrants like a hamster wheel. You’ll see big waves (i.e., opportunities) and be too scared (or tired) to go after them.
So, the goal here is to rest. Recharge because you need to…without remorse, guilt, or apologies.
However, even rested, you could then find yourself in that upper left-hand quadrant with waves crashing all around you. Where nothing you ever do feels sufficient. Feeling overwhelmed is a natural response.
As a faithful reader, I believe you are already a hard worker. The issue is your personal high productivity is still low relative to the size of the wave.
From here, the goal is to seek help:
- Delegate more
- Hire temporary or full-time staff
- Leverage other department resources
Lastly, it’s easy to feel like a victim in all these scenarios: reactive, defeated, or demoralized. I get it. Consider these as signals to step away and recalibrate. Because the healthiest sense of flow comes from an innate sense of worth inside of you, despite the ups and downs of what is happening outside of you.
Good surfers are patient:
- If things are going great and rising – great. I am glad to be here contributing.
- If things are going not so great and falling – great. I am glad that I am here to help.
Surfing or success – however you define it – is the result of many little things going right. Most of which, let’s face it, are uncontrollable. It’s a thrill when it happens. And it always seems to be just enough for us to want to show up again.
Eventually, we realize that joy is in both the surfing and the everyday flow across the board.
See you on the water!