The older I become, the clearer I become about one thing. Life is all about flow. And the current modern madness that we see in society is mainly due to us being “out of the flow” and not “in the zone”.
What do I mean?
Last week, a friend asked me to act as a witness at a local planning enquiry. It was no normal planning enquiry. It lasted five days and had barristers for the prosecution (the district council) and the defence (my friend). It was more like the hearing of a legal case in a court of law.
I was asked to turn up as a witness on the final day last Friday. Having just come off a week’s training in presentation skills, I thought I would put them to the test. I knew I had a very short slot (10 minutes maximum). I decided to take up five. I wanted to create maximum impact. How should I go about it?
A bit more context. My friend and his wife allow me to put my eight hives on their land. Their land is an oasis of natural flora and fauna – itself nestled in an ancient woodland in area of outstanding natural beauty. It is so unique, it has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (or SSI).
My friend and his wife live onsite to manage the woodlands. They also allow me to keep eight hives on their land. They were merely seeking permission to extend their project for another three years. They live off-grid practicing the most sustainable living of any family I know. To be applauded and copied, you would think, – particularly in this modern era of climate change and sustainable living. But no. The establishment was not happy. My friends might set a precedent. We might have hundreds of woodland owners taking to living in the woods and becoming feral. And that is not a good thing, apparently.
The previous four days of inquiry and inquisition had been hell for all involved. An important stand against the erosion of some law written somewhere or a total waste of precious government money? Not for me to decide, but I tend to believe it was the latter. The final day was for supporters to give evidence. Throughout the whole week, no one turned up to oppose the proposal.
I arrived at 09.30 and got the first speaking slot for the day. I did not speak on behalf of myself. I petitioned on account of the bees that I keep! Everyone knows that bees are under threat. I described the project as a colony of bees might. Appreciating my friends generosity allowing them to have the bees on their land and at their gallant efforts to protect and conserve the nature in these ancient woodlands. At the end of the short talk, I stood up and offered everyone in the room a pot of this year’s honey. The courtroom melted. I was so in the flow or “in the zone”. It was a deeply moving experience. It was brilliant!
From Wikipedia: In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone It is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.
Named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields (and has an especially extensive recognition in Occupational Therapy), though has existed for thousands of years under other guises, notably in some Eastern religions. Achieving flow is often colloquially referred to as “being in the zone”.
Jeanne Nakamura and Csíkszentmihályi identify the following six factors as encompassing an experience of flow.
1. Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
2. Merging of action and awareness
3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness
4. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
5. A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
6. Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience
Earlier this week I took on two new mentees. Folk who have been washed-out of the corporate system. “Over fifty and out”. Both trying to face the new uncertain world for post-corporate man. Again, faced with a challenge to know the right thing to do, I constructed a short course in realignment. Before plunging into the more standard questions that treat individuals like 20th-century companies – like “what is your personal mission statement”, I reflected back on what had worked for me in the past when I was a mentored twenty years ago. The first step in the process was to write six to eight stories (or vignettes) where I felt good about something I had achieved. Each story took about a page to write-up. The common theme for me was that at some stage in all stories across I was “in the flow” or “in the zone”.
In the run-up to 2016, I am going to use the weekly Thursday Thoughts slot to build on the idea of filling our lives with events where we are truly “in the zone”.
If you are interested in exploring these ideas in the last few weeks of 2015 and launch yourself into 2016 with new energy and enthusiasm, then as an exercise, I suggest write down six to eight events in your life that you were “in the zone” and achieved something extraordinary for yourself or others.
- What was the context?
- How did you feel?
- What were you experiencing when “in the zone”?
- Who were you in service to at the time?
If you feel inclined, please pick the best story and share your experiences with us! Particularly if it involved bees!