Is it wrong to want to find ‘flow’ again?
Ah… focus and flow, how I miss thee! I have a distant memory of how you felt from February 2020!
March and April 2020 have taken my work/life blurriness to dizzying new heights, requiring mind, time and space bending feats. In recent days, in the span of a few hours, I have found myself trying to switch focus between immensely diverse tasks related to coaching clients, home schooling my 2 year old and 6 year old children, redesigning entire team effectiveness programs to be delivered virtually, trying to stay in touch with family, friends and clients around the globe and brainstorming for this article!
Switching between these diverse roles and tasks in such a short timeframe and all under the same roof was a perfect visceral reminder of how the dilution of focus can leave us feeling like very little is getting the attention warranted; that almost nothing is getting the best of us and everything is getting the rest of us.
Beyond the tasks, I have also found myself grappling with diverse thoughts and emotions and contemplating the gap between what I’m doing and feeling and what I “ought” to be as I aim to balance the wants and needs of others I care about and support at work and beyond, including:
- What I ought to be doing in the midst of this pandemic and how I ought to be dividing my time and energy between family, friends and work and self-care.
- How I ought to be feeling or not feeling in reference to what others are experiencing.
In the background of all these thoughts and tasks, multiple curves are very much on my mind.
While we are inundated with information on the COVID-19 curves in each of our nations and around the globe – and as we all make efforts to flatten those curves – we are also experiencing and navigating the Change Curve (aka Grief Curve and Kubler-Ross model) related to coping with the implications of the coronavirus and with the existential grief that so many of us are feeling.
The words of my undergraduate psychology professor about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs feel quite relevant these days as so many of us are grappling with the flipping of our higher-order needs to more physical safety and security needs. Some are also grappling with the guilt of wanting higher-order needs to be met and for life to go back to normal. Writing this article while lamenting the loss of so many critical elements of my own intellectual engagement and flow in recent weeks has led to my own reflection of guilt – namely that I should not have the audacity to lament this loss when so many of my clients, friends and loved ones are experiencing traumas associated with illness, job losses and losing loved ones.
As I grappled with tuning in and out of this cacophony of noises and needs, I realised that so many of my clients and loved ones are struggling in similar ways and this very struggle is impacting our feelings of focus and flow in all facets of our lives.
Across the hundreds of conversations I have had in recent weeks, I’m recognising that we are all having very unique experiences of the Change Curve, resulting in different strategies and tactics being needed.
A mere month ago, the notion of writing about the need or expectation related to intellectual engagement and flow felt almost impossible and potentially tone-deaf to what we were experiencing as the reality of COVID-19 hit us and we all sought to cope, respond and adapt to our “new normal”. For many of our clients, colleagues, friends and families, this may still be the case.
But by now, some of you may be feeling the acute need to abandon our new normal and return to a time when we felt more intellectually engaged, switched on, free to focus, free to innovate and empowered to learn, grow and evolve, while playing to our strengths.
Throughout my career, I have witnessed several classic leadership errors across all industries and the four corners of the globe. High up on that list is a propensity to presume the motivations and needs of others are similar to ours and to project our needs onto our teams, colleagues, family and friends.
Intellectual engagement and flow in the midst of COVID-19 is a perfect example of this.
While you may personally still be reeling and focused on immediate survival for yourself or your business, your colleagues, family members and friends may be feeling the loss of intellectual and innovative elements of their role or vice versa. Understanding, empathising and adjusting to these diverse needs is core to us tending to our own needs while supporting others to do the same.
In Part 5 of Leading for Wellbeing Through COVID-19, we explore the topic through the lens of Intellectual Engagement and Flow, defined as our intrinsic interest and focus in the work we do, touching on the concepts of focus, flow, mastery, autonomy and creativity.
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