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FLOW: My Word-for-the-Year 2021

I’ve engaged an end-of-the-year review that’s helped me dig down deep into myself, into my experience of 2020 and what I hope for in 2021. I’m getting there. I’m finding the good stuff. I’m catching the scent of what God is awakening in me.

I’m sensing that over this past year as our work has decreased and we’ve bobbed about in a sea of alarming uncertainly, I’ve responded by battening down the hatches, working hard to “maintain” life and some semblance of homeostasis. It’s how I’ve sought to protect and provide for myself and my family. On high alert, I’ve tried to keep my inner and outer world calm, ordered, and at peace.

It strikes me that this is a perfectly acceptable way to respond to crisis—and we’ve certainly been in a crisis. It’s even my gift, my penchant to keep life ordered and stable in the midst of instability.

And…, I’m sensing now that the homeostasis I have worked hard to establish can stunt my creativity and FLOW. Establishing order helps me feel more peace. Yet fixating on order can also inhibit living deeply and creatively.

To live deeply and creatively requires letting go of control and tolerating disorder and mess. I must turn inside, and attend to my inner life, longings, experiences, and creative impulses, instead of staying on the surface, eyes scanning the horizon like a lighthouse, searching and preparing for the next big wave.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi first coined the term “flow” in his 1990 bestseller, FLOW: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. In the book, he defines flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake.” In that state, one’s ego falls away. The ego, that part of us that we all have and need in order to take care of ourselves, can also get in the way if we become hypervigilant, especially during times of stress or crisis.

A recent study during the pandemic revealed that people’s mental health improved when they were able to regularly experience FLOW. More than 5,000 people in quarantine participated in this study and researchers concluded “that those who achieved a state of flow reported decreased loneliness and higher levels of positive emotion, even though they were staying home alone during their period of quarantine.. “

There are five things I’ve learned I can do to increase experiences of FLOW in 2021:

1. Choose activities for which I have complimentary skills.

2. Challenge myself, but just beyond my current skill base.

3. Have well-defined and intrinsically motivated goals.

4. Avoid interruptions or distractions.

5. Focus on the process, not the end result. In other words, enjoy the ride!

Like many of you, I’m grateful to be turning the page on 2020. I’m also aware that this last year generated some gifts for which I’m grateful. As I begin a new year, I want to bring those gifts of order, focus, a right-sized work life, and a family-centered orientation with me. And along with these gifts, I plan to set aside time to intentionally experience the creative process of FLOW. I’ve got a few writing projects in the queue and feel genuinely excited about them! More on that.

I’ll conclude this post by sharing my life end’s goal, something I named during my end-of-the-year review:

To be a conduit through which God’s love, creativity, and wisdom FLOW freely and fully.

Happy New Year! And may you experience FLOW this year in whatever activity you find deeply engrossing and satisfying!

P.S. I always create something to help capture my word of the year. From David’s example, I decided to create a bookmark to keep in my planner to remind of my goals and my focus. See image.


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