Fire or Flow

How do you know if you’re on the right track?  Are there signs we can count on to know that “yes, this is the right path for me?”

I had two parallel conversations with clients on this subject this week and it got me thinking. If you’re making a decision to shift your career or make a big life change, will it feel easy or will it feel hard?

On one hand, there’s the idea of flow developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  Flow, for me, feels like smooth sailing.  It seems that there is a sense of magical coincidence and all of the right people and resources just seem to line up.  My path is easy.  

Then, there’s the notion that when you’re making a disruptive change, it’s not going to feel comfortable.  Breaking new habits requires creating new neural pathways and altering behaviours.  You may find people respond to you differently and it can hurt.  For me, it’s a small fire in the gut.  

So, which is more important – the flow or fire?  When can you say “yes, I need to keep going down this road”?  

After some reflection, I’ve decided that both fire and flow have a place in our agility for change.  I think flow happens externally and the fire occurs internally.  

This summer, I made a values-based decision to take some time away from work as one of my kids (all of them, really) needed more time with me as we navigated new waters.  And you know what?   It worked out.  When a client’s needs conflicted with my own, I was able to bring in help or negotiate to support them in a way that didn’t take me away from my family.  

About 6 months ago, I began doing work that was very new to me.  While I was excited, I definitely jumped in without a depth of expertise.  When I met with my first clients, I certainly had that fire in my gut.  It was a combination of nerves and excitement and it was a sign that I was doing important work, for me and for them.  

No longer do I think it is either fire or flow – we need both.  If you are on the right path for you, I believe you will open your eyes and see that the people and tools you need are not as far off as you once thought.  I also think that you will experience an inner excitement, that can feel a little like turmoil, to know that yes, this is different and it is really, really good.

The experience of flow will calm the flames of the fire.