How to Find Your Flow to Create Magic at Work and in Life

by Alli Polin on January 26, 2016

find your flow

So you want to find your flow, but how do you know when you’re there? What does it feel like to be in flow?

In the zone.

Energized.

On fire.

Embodied confidence.

All in.

At peace.

Whole.

I’ve had many conversations with clients over the years about not only what it feels like when they’re in flow, but also how to find it and, more importantly, create it.

Typically, when I start to work with people, something is hard; they’re facing a challenge, are ready for a change, but don’t know how to get there on their own. Moreover, they want to find their flow. When every step feels impossible and more work than it’s worth, it’s nearly impossible to keep going.

What does flow look like in motion?

Late last year our family got a Kinect for the Xbox and the Just Dance game to go with it. This past weekend, my son was dancing to his favorite song and shouted to me to “watch this!”

He closed his eyes and kept dancing.

He knew the motions but, more importantly, felt the music with his whole being. Smiling, moving, and completely immersed, he scored his top points of the game. Eyes open and his thinking brain in charge he did okay, eyes closed, in flow, he rocked it.

Did my son get “perfect” for every move and gyration – no way! He won’t be on So You Think You Can Dance anytime soon. He tapped into joy and didn’t worry about every arm bend or dip.

When I watched him, I saw flow in motion… the ultimate letting go of the need to be perfect and truly stepping forward into boldly being.

How can one kid dancing in an online challenge help you find your flow? 

Take a Risk

My son didn’t know that he could do it with his eyes closed, but he believed it was possible. Find your flow by getting out of your routine and into something that gives you some butterflies – and lift off. Take enough of a risk that brings you a feeling of energy that was missing previously and not so large of a risk that it shuts you down from even trying.

Get Moving

You don’t need to pump up the jam and get dancing but you may need to physically move. If every time you sit down to work on your latest challenge you’re at your desk, you can find your flow again by making a physical change. Grab your laptop and go to a coffee house, put on your headset and walk around while you take a call, face the window instead of facing the wall… Physical movement shakes lose psychological blockages too.

Work on Your Craft

My son did his dance many, many times before he could simply feel the music and move. You can’t expect that the first time you do something you’ll be masterful. Every time you do it and work on your craft you’ll be able to stretch further. When you’re constantly working in a state of conscious incompetence, you’re more focused on what you’re doing (and totally self-conscious about it!) than immersing yourself in what you’re doing. It takes time – allow yourself to take it.

Close Your Eyes

Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and envision yourself doing what you most want to be doing. Now, since this is in your imagination, turn up the volume on what you want it to be, not what you’re afraid what will happen. Picture yourself in action with ease, confidence and competence – and flow.

Have Faith and Let Go

When you hold on to ideas of perfectionism, judgment, and worry it’s impossible to find your flow. There’s no being gentle with you – until you let go, flow will elude you. Nobody ever wrote a perfect first draft or designed the ideal solution on their first pass. The key is to get started and into action instead of letting your negative and fearful thoughts keep you chained to what is instead of what can be. 

Bottom line: Notice what brings you the most alive and lead (or dance) forward. 

If you meet me on a Just Dance challenge and my eyes are closed, I hope you’ll join me and feel the flow.

Break the Frame Action: 

Ask yourself:

When was the last time you were so immersed in what you were doing that hours passed like seconds and you were all in?

Do you remember the feeling? What was happening in your body? Your mind?

How far are you reaching back in your recent memory to find a moment you were in flow?

If it’s been too long since you felt inspired and deeply engaged, it could be time to get unstuck from your current hamster wheel and dance. Check out the eCourse Get Unstuck and Choose to Move. Give yourself the gift of five weeks to discover your next step and get into inspired action.

If you’d like a little dance break of your own to shake free your gremlins and find your flow, here’s my son’s favorite song that makes him move. Maybe it will make you want to move too…

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ January 26, 2016 at 7:33 am

Hi Alli,
You have intersected inspiration and action and that’s where success lives. The momentum coming from inspiration is often slammed as a vanishing moment.

Yet when coupled with action and daily renewal, it is the eternal flame of change.

Wonderful post. I will definitely share this on my streams.
Kate

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Alli Polin January 26, 2016 at 8:24 am

Daily renewal – critical! There are many programs and practices out there that are far from sticky because the immediate inspiration and energy fades and ultimately returns to old behaviors.

Always appreciate your input and perspective. Thanks, Kate!

~ Alli

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Terri Klass January 26, 2016 at 7:54 am

I love your post and the great tips and questions you pose!
Getting in the flow for me means taking action and not being afraid to make a mistake. When I first began as a trainer I made lots of mistakes by sometimes correcting my participants. Now I learned to ask empowering questions.

Thanks Alli for your great insights! Will share.

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Alli Polin January 26, 2016 at 8:22 am

Now there’s a tip for leaders (and parents) everywhere. Correcting vs empowering questions. It’s allowing others to find their own answers that connects them to their learning and ultimately find their flow too. Thanks for sharing your experience and how you work!

~ Alli

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Lori Gosselin January 26, 2016 at 7:57 am

Hi Alli,
This post really spoke to me. I love the picture you paint of your son dancing <3
I'm in the process of building up a new YouTube channel to promote my second book. I'm still very new and not so great at it 😮 but I'm determined to be so, eventually. What's challenging is the paradoxical guidance I'm gleaning about how to do this well; wear make-up (unnatural) so that I don't look washed-out under the lights; act naturally. Whaaat!?!?

So I'm going to try to take a page out of your son's book (though not with my eyes closed) and give it another go.
🙂
Lori

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Alli Polin January 26, 2016 at 8:20 am

Lori,

So wonderful to hear from you and congratulations on your second book!

Everyone seems to have a magic formula for success but none of it works until you make it your own. It’s so much easier to feel the flow when you’re doing it like you. I’m going to be on the lookout for your youtube channel now too!

All the Best ~

Alli

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Kaarina January 26, 2016 at 8:14 am

Ah, this is a topic dear to my heart. For years in my work as an Olympic coach and to date with athletes and business clients alike, the topic of flow, of being in the zone is key to peak performance. I teach people about automaticity: “the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit. It is usually the result of learning, repetition, and practice.”
I could go on for hours about how this is achieved, but suffice to say: when thing flow, it’s because the mental barriers have been eliminated (or minimized) to create a sense of pure, unhindered action and achievement. Cheers!

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Alli Polin January 26, 2016 at 8:29 am

Right on! Learning, repetition, and practice are essential. One of the images I frequently share is the ladder from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence to unconscious competence. It takes time, awareness and focus to make the climb.

Thanks for sharing some of your teachings here – would make a great book!

~ Alli

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Jon Mertz January 26, 2016 at 10:20 am

Alli,

Yes, faith. Faith is in our first step, finding out that everything will be just fine. So we begin to gain momentum with our faithful first step.

Great reminders as January closes and a wide-open space ahead calls us to embrace our true flow.

Jon

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Lori Gosselin January 26, 2016 at 10:37 am

I like how you say that Jon, “A wide-open space ahead calls us”. I usually only feel that way as January starts! 🙂 Thanks for this!

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Alli Polin January 26, 2016 at 7:08 pm

Here’s to those wide open spaces and moving forward with faith in hand and heart.

Thanks, Jon. Always appreciate your comments and insights.

~ Alli

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LaRae Quy January 26, 2016 at 12:35 pm

“Flow” is essential is an individual is to move past obstacles and roadblocks in life. Too often, when people fail or stumble at something they just quit and move on until they finally succeed at something. And that is where they stay—at success that often provides no value or meaning for them. No wonder so many people are dissatisfied with their jobs! But when people are in the flow, they are doing something that provides them with both value and meaning.

Great post, Alli!

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Alli Polin January 26, 2016 at 7:10 pm

I was just thinking about that… how many people I know who said that they really wanted something and when they got into it, it was hard and took a lot of effort. Instead of persevering they moved on. When it matters you don’t move on, you keep going and ultimately find your flow too.

Thanks, LaRae!

~ Alli

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Ingrid January 26, 2016 at 7:29 pm

Fantastic post Alli. This really resonated with me.

I have just come home from an hour of ballroom practice. As dancers we are constantly trying to “find the zone” and stay in it. It’s not easy. My husband is a technician, and I am a “feel” dancer, so trying to find the middle ground is challenging. We work differently.

Practice is essential. Then you need to let go of some of the technical stuff in order to experience flow. Our coach now says that’s what we need to do in order to get to the next level, i.e. being able to entertain ourselves, the audience, and the judges when we’re competing.

I’m going to print out your post and keep it in my dance bag to remind myself of what we’re trying to achieve. Thank you!

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Alli Polin January 26, 2016 at 9:39 pm

Ingrid,

Thank you for sharing your story! It sounds like you’re moving to a place of unconscious competence… the skills are all there and you’re able to let go. Beautiful! Wish I could see you dance. Do you do national competitions?

Best,

Alli

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Ingrid January 26, 2016 at 10:17 pm

We certainly do. Currently in the process of working out which events and where later in the year.

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Chery Gegelman January 27, 2016 at 12:58 am

Alli – I love this post! Imagining your son in his flow, ending with his song, and realizing how in sync you and I were this week emphasizing that it takes time to become masterful!

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Cynthia Bazin January 27, 2016 at 6:43 am

Excellent post as always Alli!!! Thank you so much for all your inspiration and wisdom. Way to go!

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Lori Anding King February 3, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Hi Alli,
I have been paying attention to my flow lately so your title reeled me in. My kids play on Just Dance too and I have seen them in the flow and notice when I do it, I’m not. You nailed it with mentioning judgment/worry. My self-criticism keeps me out of the flow. When I just let go and get out of my thinking mind, I dance so much better. Now to take that from the dance floor into tackling challenges. Kids are such great teachers.
Thank you for a great post!
Lori
@translationlady

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Alli Polin February 5, 2016 at 12:01 am

I think that children are more willing to go all in that adults. We worry about how we’ll do, about being watched, about making a mistake and they just do it. If it starts while dancing and flows into the rest of our lives I’ll take it!

Grateful that you shared your experience here, Lori. Now I’ll know that I can look for a friend across the miles the next time we try a Global Dance Challenge.

~ Alli

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