There is a massive body of work on “getting rich”. Whether quickly or slowly, automatically or with great effort, alone or as a company, scientifically or mystically. Just take your pick.
There is also a lot written about “productivity”, most of which is actually about efficiency. Todo lists, sticky notes, ABCD priorities, Eisenhower matrices, Getting Things Done, Autofocus method, and on and on.
But what is the aim of all of this work?
I think both of them address a core human need:
To do more of what we love,
and less of what we don’t.
However, both the “getting rich” literature and the “productivity” literature place emphasis on the wrong things…
Wealth can allow you more freedoms, but the reverse is also true: focusing on what you love doing can yield a greater flow of income. Productivity can allow you to do more of what you love, but it also can lead to doing more of what you hate.
What we need is a third category. One that focuses not on wealth as accumulation, but on the steady flow of income as a means of achieving freedom. One that focuses not on rapidly doing more and more of less and less until we’re doing absolutely nothing at breakneck speed, but on doing only what we love and experiencing flow more often.
I want to experience flow every day, throughout the day. I want to be completely present when I’m writing or programming, drawing or thinking, playing with my son or on an evening walk with my wife, exploring a new city or having deep conversations with good friends. All of these can be flow states, or “optimal experiences”.
I also want a steady flow of income, that I can then redirect to the people, actions, objects, and movements I value. I want to flow forward in life, creating more value for myself and others. I want to have only one of three things on my mind at all times:
- The present moment.
- Where that moment flows to in my very next action.
- My life as part of the greater flow, of which I am and will have been only a small part, soon to be blended again into the whole.
There is still a great deal that obstructs my flow, and yours. Our lives are peppered with distractions, frictions, and vicious cycles. Our tools are cumbersome, our careers aimless and Sisyphean. Much of what we do yields our personal flow to others. Our social constructs, our governments, schools, nations, and corporations are not structured for even flow.
But we can choose to change that.
We can avoid the churning whirlpool of distractions, and divert our focus to what matters. We can tear down the self-serving machinery in the world that sucks us into vicious cycles, and replace it with sources that generate and increase flow for everyone. We can design better tools, and invent better social constructs.
It seems an overwhelming challenge. But we have already succeeded. We have been succeeding at this for millennia. Haltingly, unconsciously, but consistently moving forward. Change, movement, evolution and flow; that is the very definition of life.
We forget this often. We focus on the means (money and time), and confuse them for ends. In everything we do, whether we realize it or not, our true goal is simple:
We want our lives to flow…
6 thoughts on “An Even Flow”
It’s amazing how even productivity can clog up our flow. Been happening to me a bit recently… however, I keep coming back to the Eisenhower Matrix you mentioned in that assortment 😉
Our lists can truly become Sisyphean if we let them. Time to do some culling… or pruning (whichever image you prefer!)
You’re right. Maybe I didn’t emphasize enough that all productivity tools are useful. As is a steady flow of income.
But if they’re not in the service of something greater, it stops becoming flow and becomes turbulence.
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