After years of focusing on my productivity in the studio—trying all manner of time management and goal setting techniques—I decided to value flow above everything.
The shift wasn’t an a-ha moment. It was born out of utter frustration with myself. I was making myself miserable doing what I love! I was forcing myself to work long hours on a piece. I was spending less time in Nature, more time on the computer. I was losing touch with the things that gave me joy so that I could accomplish a goal. And I could see a wall looming in front of me, one that I was going to run into if I didn’t slow down. It was a wall between me and my natural state of happiness
So I asked myself, “Why do I love to draw, to write, to make things? What is it that makes it wonderful for me?”
And the answer was pretty clear. I love the flow. I love the mystery of consciousness pouring itself through me, the way that feels, like a buzz, like I’m on fire. I love the feeling of being deeply engaged, of problem solving, of creating something that is beautiful, something that surprises me.
So I’ve been making a shift, from productivity to flow, and the difference in my daily life is profound.
Productivity is external. It’s measured by how much you’ve done, your output. A good day is when you’ve done a lot. I’ve had many, many days when I haven’t done a lot and so those weren’t good days. And I’ve judged myself harshly for that.
Flow is different. It’s internal. It’s measured by how you feel, by the intensity and joy of your focus. How well did you get out of your own way? How much passion and inspiration did you allow to flow through you? A good day is when you feel mindful, connected to yourself and a greater world. A world of possibility and ideas and inspiration.
Productivity is geared to the future. I need to accomplish x + y so that z can happen. To feel good I need to complete this to-do list. I need to keep trying, keep pushing through. I need to persevere for the end-goal, whatever that might be.
Flow is intrinsic to the moment. Where is my energy right now? What excites my curiosity and attention? What can I give myself wholly and freely to? How can I nurture an inner space that feels open and playful?
After a few days of nurturing a state of flow, I realized that productivity is about making money, and flow is about opening up your consciousness.
We exist within a culture that values productivity and so we think we are creating value when we are productive. This is a lie. We are not machines, and the value we create is far and above the dollars connected to our hours. We need to stop thinking like that. Money is one thing of value we create, but we also create relationships, beauty, gardens, love. You can’t put a dollar amount on a relationship but your life is impoverished without good ones. You can live without beauty but think for a moment how stilted life would be in a gray concrete world.
We are organisms with multifold consciousness. We create true value when we are present to the moment, relaxed yet deeply focus. Because that’s when the magic happens. The door opens and something greater than the everyday mind steps into the body.
And that ineffable something can transform your world.