When most of us think of flow at work, we may think of charts, project plans and deadlines. But there is another kind of work flow that is incredibly important, especially for entrepreneurs.
Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi popularized the concept of “flow” in the early 1990’s. According to his theory, flow manifests itself when a person’s natural skills align with the challenges they face.
When people operate outside of their flow, problems arise. For example, if an individual works in a highly challenging environment in which their natural skills are outclassed, they tend to experience terrible anxiety and stress.
Conversely, if an individual’s advanced skills are wasted in an industry that is neither interesting nor challenging, boredom and apathy quickly set in.
In the world of business, this situation occurs when an individual’s natural skills and proclivities are simply not a fit for the career they chose.
That’s why I believe that finding the right fit, both in terms of natural skills and interest, is the most important factor when it comes to success.
Finding your personal flow in the context of work can be incredibly challenging. Fortunately, there are a few key lessons I’ve learned over the years that can help you find your place in the workplace and reach your true potential.
Know your strengths and weaknesses
I began my career in consulting, because that’s what young business school graduates do. I wanted to do something more creative and entrepreneurial, but I was afraid to take on the risk at the time.
These were tough years for me, because no matter how hard I worked it just didn’t feel right. I tried so hard to conform to the ideal of what a hot shot consultant should be, even though I knew that wasn’t who I was. As a result, I was constantly anxious about my performance relative to my peers and stressed out over everything.
It was only when I took the time to be honest about who I really was that things started to improve. I grew to understand that my natural strengths were found at the intersection of finance and the humanities instead of analytics.
Once I began to see myself as someone with the soul of an artist trapped inside of a finance guy’s body, things started to make sense. I realized that I’d never be successful or happy as a consultant and that my ideal state of flow would be found elsewhere.
This ultimately sent me down the path of entrepreneurship and ultimately led to the founding of my company, BodeTree.