Remember that quote: “If you love your work, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Confucius, Mark Antony and Mark Twain have all been given credit for this quote in slightly different forms. I have even quoted it when I am feeling really happy in what I am doing. But REALLY—we all know that even if we LOVE our work, too often it still seems like work, except for those rare special times…
I know you have felt it—that feeling that you have when you are doing something that you love so much that time passes and you don’t even realize it. And while you are in the middle of this project you feel weightless—what would normally feel like work becomes fun, or even play, and when you are finished with the task you are working on, instead of feeling exhausted and drained you feel energized and inspired. Instead of dreading our work, we can look forward to it—this is NOT impossible, but it may be a learned skill rather than just an intermittent or accidental moment we happen into from time to time.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian American psychologist coined, or rather re-coined, the phrase “flow,” for this feeling back in the 1970s. Although the idea has been around for thousands of years, in the recent past it has had a resurgence of interest in books and on a number of TED talks. For athletes, it is commonly called being in “the zone.” In his TED talk, Csikszentmihalyi gives a professorial presentation, stating that there is actual science to support this concept, which I take to mean--if science can tell us how it is created—WE CAN REPLICATE AND REPRODUCE THIS FEELING OVER AND OVER, potentially allowing us to live more of our lives in this happy and productive state.
Most of us in the collaborative divorce profession have had that feeling—in fact, that is probably one thing that attracted us to being in a service profession in the beginning and then later in collaborative practice. But unfortunately, particularly in our non-collaborative practices, and even in our day-to-day work that includes worrying about making our necessary hours of billable time to “keep the doors open,” we get bogged down and often lose touch with our ability to be in the zone. And even if much of our work is collaborative, as our skills have increased, we are taking more challenging cases and more challenging clients. Then, before we know it, we are stressed, tired and have lost our zest for what we do and our ability to get that lovely feeling of fulfillment in our work.
Christine Carter, Ph.D., a sociologist and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at the University California, Berkley, has written a book that reminds us what getting into the “flow” feels like and gives us techniques to not only get it back in our lives but to keep it, all the while doing better and more productive work. The full title of her book is “The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less.” She is not just a sociologist who presents theories from observation—even her introduction explains how, after pushing through those grueling schedules that often come from success, she found herself with yet another illness but this time it was serious enough that she was in the hospital. She quotes a person who said, “You’re burned out, tired, achy, and utterly forgotten by your spouse, kids and dog, but you push on any way because everybody knows that working crazy hours is what it takes to prove that you’re ‘passionate’ and ‘productive…’”
So, this is a book about, as Carter puts it, “How [she] Found [her] Groove.” She teaches us techniques to “unshackle ourselves,” by learning how to find our flow again and keep it. Finding that flow isn’t as arbitrary, random, and accidental a thing as we (or at least as I) have thought. There are actually ways to develop your flow, find your groove, and get into the zone, so that your work is much more productive and fulfilling based on HOW you work rather than how MUCH you work. Why shouldn’t our work be fulfilling and FUN! This is a book that can also serve as a mental exercise manual—she teaches us the way to implement these changes in our lives as we read the book. I really appreciate the way she approaches our reading of her book: even in her Preface, she offers ways to use her book that meets us where we are. She says, you do not need to read the whole book to get a lot out of it, and it is structured so that the reader can go to it for what they need at any given time. For example, she says:
“If you are struggling to ‘have it all,’ begin with the Introduction.”
“If you are exhausted and time-starved, start with Chapter 5: ‘The Overwhelm.’”
“If you are stressed, depressed, and anxious, start with Chapter 2: ‘The Stress Success Tipping Point.’”
Christine Carter teaches us that learning to work “in the flow,” is based in science, and if we are willing to learn about it and incorporate it into our day to day lives, our work and personal lives will be enhanced, and in the end we will also do a better job for our clients. I recommend “The Sweet Spot”: Who Wouldn’t Want to Accomplish More by Doing Less!