Go with the Flow

Christmas is holiday time for many of us in the Southern hemisphere. Sun, sand, surf, swimming – you get the idea.

It also seems that when we get a chance to have more than a week away from our office and/or jobs a much higher percentage of us rethink our jobs.

Colleagues working in the recruitment sector tell me that this triggers a flurry of activity as people look for new jobs or look for changes to their work situation in some other ways.

I suspect changing jobs can bring with it a higher level of satisfaction on some parameters but the underlying dynamics will have more to do with personal awareness, as well as other conscious and unconscious choices we have made.

Many of us find that our intentions and our level of engagement are not always consistent with our work life. 

For myself I have days where I am totally “in the zone” or flow of my various projects and something about those times means that I am on exactly the right frequency or pitch to respond best to whatever the day brings. 

Other times it seems like I should really move to another project as it seems like there is no “flow”.  Luckily I work on multiple projects so I have more flexibility but that kind of switching doesn’t always improve the flow at all. 

Which suggests that it is not so much the content or subject but something about my approach to the task at hand that can transform “work” into something that energizes as part of the engagement process. 

As it happens two newly released  videos on TED visit some of these ideas in much greater depth and add alternative perspectives from the worlds of psychology and design.

Mihaly Czikszentmihaly presented on flow in 2004 but the video was only released in Oct ’08.

Mihaly  asks, “What makes a life worth living?” Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of “flow”. His view is that  “creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives”

And in a partner presentation (21 mins) Paula Scher talks through some of the creative cycle ideas from a different perspective. Her presentation comes from a May 2008 design conference on serious play.

I’d be interested to know what readers think about these topics after having watched both videos and or other insights that you may have. (Mihaly alt video link)

Paula Scher looks back at a life in design (she’s done album covers, books, the Citibank logo …) and pinpoints the moment when she started really having fun. With a career that fuses rock and roll, corporate identity creation, and impressionistic geography. (Alternative Paula Scher video link )

It would be wonderful if we could all just switch jobs the moment they move from being serious fun to being solemn. So love the cycle idea but wondering how it might apply to most.

Also it does rather look like labelling stuff is a recurring theme in Paula’s work but there appears to be no self awareness or recognition of this at all which seems puzzling. That is  – I don’t think she is really changing too much about her content so it is not the subject matter that provides the “serious fun” but rather something else.

Mihaly’s and Paula’s presentations look like perfect companion pieces here. They use quite different approaches to talk about much of the same territory but (ahem) Mihaly would probably be the better dinner guest in my view.