Since the start of the pandemic – many of us have a struggled to find our flow. At times, all of us have felt somewhat aimless, less joyful, perhaps questioning our purpose amongst a tsunami of other emotions which leds us to traverse from “acute anguish to chronic languish”.
Languishing, a term coined by sociologist Corey Keyes, is characterised as a sense of emptiness, stagnation and listlessness. Languish has been a shared universal experience impacting all generations across various countries and cultures during the pandemic.
Leading organisational psychologist Adam Grant in this TED Talk publicly declares he found his peak flow playing Mario Kart during the pandemic. This probably does not align with our general perception of ‘being in flow’, a term coined by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, which is a state of total absorption in an activity. We have all experienced flow at various times in our lives which is characterised by a feeling of mastery, undivided attention to a task and knowing that you/your work matters.
Below are my insights on finding flow:
- To get back a sense of mastery in my work – I signed up for a couple of micro-credentials/short courses which I had put off for a while as I was too busy with work or, to be completely honest, prioritising social commitments on the weekends. Completing these short online courses and receiving a certificate of completion or badge gave me a sense of mastery. I still find time for my social commitments, perhaps even discovering greater enjoyment in these activities having first taken the time out to achieve a new sense of mastery in my work.
- To stop me from continuously refreshing my news feed to read more doomsday stories and conspiracy theories, I disconnected my home internet for a few hours each day to ensure I was providing undivided attention to the task at hand. It wasn’t necessarily during my normal working hours – sometimes it was during meals which meant I was completely present in the moment with my family, with no urge to check my phone every two minutes!
- Finally, as leaders in the aged care industry we know that our work matters. However, there were times during the pandemic when I did question this belief. Did my work really matter when so much was beyond my control? And when so much of that human element of my work, which I enjoyed the most, had now become another Zoom meeting? My antidote to this was to regularly review any positive feedback I received to remind myself of how MUCH my work and leadership mattered. Previously, I wouldn’t have dwelled much on positive feedback as I felt I was simply doing my job but regularly reviewing positive feedback when I found myself languishing helped me get through my days and weeks of lockdown knowing my work mattered.
Adam Grant found his flow through Mario Kart and I found mine through taking these small steps.
Aadil Abbas is a LASA Next Gen Ambassador and Director at Third Horizon Advice