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Why You Should Go With the Flow and Stop Fighting Your Life

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor

As a Type A person, I heard “go with the flow,” a lot from people. What does that mean, though? I always just thought it was sitting back and waiting for life to happen to you, and I have never been about all that.

However, ‘the flow’ is an actual state of mind, and “going with it” can have several benefits, including making you happier! It also increases the level of work performance and commitment.

Going with the flow will also make you happier because it helps you reach a higher level of self-actualization and life satisfaction. Going with the flow will make you happier because you will be on the path that is right for your life.

That state of mind known as flow happens when you become so absorbed in something that it almost feels like you lost time. This can be an intellectual, professional, or physical pursuit; anything that puts you in the zone. Paying attention to what you are doing when this happens will help you figure out the things that you are passionate about.

Although, an actual state of flow is emotionless. It is almost like you lose consciousness and are singularly focused on the task in front of you. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one psychologist to do research on flow theory, identified these six indicators:

  1. Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
  2. Merging of action and awareness
  3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness
  4. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
  5. A distortion of temporal experience
  6. Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding also referred to as autotelic experience

Going with the flow increases our commitments and performance

Achieving that kind of flow state can be great if it matches what you are doing for work. The motivation a person has for these types of tasks is intrinsic, and that helps you stay committed and performing well despite any outside influences.

According to “Flow Theory,” heralded by psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura, “intrinsic motivation comes from someone’s internal drive rather than an external pressure to do something or a reward for doing it. This is because the flow experience is so enjoyable that people continue the activity for its own sake.”

For me, this happens when I am writing. Sometimes, I can just sit at the computer and type. I have to keep going because if I stop, I will forget the words I wanted to write. I do not even know exactly what I am typing until I can go back and read it later. Then comes the job of making sure it makes sense and is edited, but the actual act of writing just well, flows.

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If you can match the activities that put you in a flow state with a career, then you will probably enjoy your days at work immensely! That enjoyment will translate into you being committed to, not just your work, but producing your best work. Since most of us spend much of our time working, enjoying it because it puts you in a state of flow will make you so much happier.

According to this article from USC Dornsife, “People who enjoy their jobs are more likely to be optimistic, motivated, learn faster, make fewer mistakes, and better business decisions.”

Going with the flow increases levels of self-actualization and satisfaction

Oxford dictionary defines self-actualization as, “the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone.” It is also the peak at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs because self-actualized people are considered the exception to the rule. It is rare that people get here because they are focused on the more basic needs of the pyramid, like food and shelter.

A person who can achieve and maintain a state of flow will reach self-actualization and live their life full of acceptance. They accept themselves and others for who they are while enjoying their life with no guilt. 

Maslow explains that people who reach self-actualization have more peak experiences. He defines these experiences as, “Feelings of limitless horizons opening up to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling of ecstasy and wonder and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences.”

These peak experiences increase your happiness level because they enhance your life in many ways. I think back to when I got my first big writing client, and it felt like one of the happiest days of my entire life.

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Going with the flow and developing a writing career led to me leaving behind a job that didn’t satisfy me. The amount of happiness I feel every time I publish something hasn’t diminished and the frequency of things I published has only increased. That feeling carries over into the rest of my life, and more peak experiences happen.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t have a bad day, or that there aren’t challenges, but those challenges give me something to overcome and end up making me even happier. Achieving goals and feeling like life is going in the direction it should, increases the overall satisfaction I feel with my life.

What activities make you feel that way? Can they be developed and done more? Go with the flow and find out!

Going with the flow puts you on the right path

Another meaning for ‘go with the flow’ refers to life’s energies and the efforts we put in. Have you noticed how sometimes it seems like everything falls into place and deciding something seems easier because everything is aligned?

My therapist is always telling me that when there seem to be so many roadblocks to something, or nothing works out, then it is a sign that is not the path you are meant to be on. This might even be something that you really want to work, so you keep trying harder.

However, your enjoyment level diminishes, and sometimes, even if you successfully complete the goal, it doesn’t bring you the joy that you thought it would. That can be a bitter pill to swallow sometimes because it feels like you put so much blood, sweat, and tears into it.

Going with the flow means that you know it is ok to let go of things that do not serve you. That might be a relationship, a goal, or an idea. That doesn’t mean you won’t face a single setback, but when life is trying to steer you one way, and you are applying all this effort to go the wrong way, it causes stress. Stress is the opposite of happiness. Going toward your life’s direction eliminates this stress and gives you back your joy.

I had been writing for a little over six months when I first contemplated leaving my job and making a career of it. I let the fear of not having benefits, the guilt I felt about leaving my coworkers, and the idea that other people would judge me keep me there much longer than I should have. Every day seemed to get worse. The customer’s got crankier, and I found less and less happiness in the daily task. It was one thing after another that just went wrong.

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Then COVID happened and my company furloughed me and many of my staff. It upset some of my coworkers, but I was happy. I looked at this as the opportunity to give my freelance career a trial run. I even qualified for unemployment, so I had a safety net. It only lasted six weeks, but when it was time to go back, I had zero desire to do so.

I could take as many clients as I needed and make more money than I did at my stable job. I got to do something that I love and puts me in a state of flow. I was helping people, and not just making money for a company. Those six weeks were the best six weeks I had experienced in years. I ended up going back for a few weeks to help find a replacement, and while I enjoyed seeing my coworkers, every day there was a reminder that this was not where I belonged.

Going with the flow doesn’t mean you won’t do things that challenge you or make you feel uncomfortable. Quitting a good job was scary, but trusting in the flow led to something that has brought me a sense of purpose and fulfillment. You can do it too! You deserve to be happy and fulfilled.

Share your go with the flow moments with us in the comment section below.

“Whatever it is, take it as it comes. This is surely never easy. But when you understand that you can’t win fighting Life, you will realize that this is the only option. So, going with the flow is not quite a spiritual or romantic, feel-good, concept as it is made out to be. It is an intelligent choice, driven by plain common sense, of doing what you possibly can in a given situation. When you awaken to this truth, you will be happy despite your circumstances.” ― AVIS Viswanathan

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