Finding Your Life’s Flow

  • July 6, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 52 Comments

Each of us has the potential to do magnificent things.

The problem is, we spend most of our lives trying to control how we act, what we do and what other people think of us.

All those attempts to control keep us from the amazing potential inside.

There’s something dangerous and inhibiting about that word: control.

Control comes with related thoughts and emotions like perfectionism, suppression, fear, worry, jealousy, ego and restraint.

A life of attempted control is a life bottled up, restrained and held back.

You don’t control your magnificent side, you let it flow.

Flow is the opposite of control. Flow is the art of letting things happen. You don’t control your way to achieving flow, it happens when you stop controlling and start encouraging.

The field of psychology has one definition of flow that applies narrowly to a single activity:

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

But flow can also apply to your entire life, and when that happens, you’ve found your way.

Finding your life’s flow starts with embracing your unique gifts and talents and admitting your hopes and dreams with sincerity.

At first you have to stop controlling the person you are.

Accept full responsibility for who you are right now (and the choices you’ve made), and admit that you haven’t given yourself complete permission to pursue the things you really want to do with your life.

Then, you have to listen to the creative dimensions of yourself you’ve been suppressing. For me, this wasn’t really possible until I hit the reset button and took a long sabbatical away from my regular influences.

When you find glimpses of your best self underneath all the layers of expectations and conformity, you have to encourage that better self waiting inside you. Nurture your best self and let it grow.

You know there is a magnificent side of you just beneath the surface, waiting to come out and flourish and change the world in your unique positive way, whether big or small.

Your job is to find that side of yourself and embrace it.

Welcome your life’s flow and start living your potential.

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who actually do. – Steve Jobs

I’ve been in a state of flow lately.

Two weeks ago, I quietly launched a new design and direction for this site (if you’re reading this in email and haven’t seen the changes yet, pop over and tell me what you think).

This new direction is the result of embracing my flow and letting it be. I’ve realized I love encouraging people, and I’m letting go of trying to surpress that drive.

Part of living your flow also means getting comfortable with things that aren’t happening due to new opportunities and interests.

For example, I sometimes don’t have the time to post here as often as I would like. I would love to post more often because writing here makes me feel alive. But at the moment I’m flowing with other efforts like Traffic School, which opens again next week (if you have a website or blog, please check it out), because that’s where a big opportunity to help people and solve problems is right now.

Welcoming my flow has led me on an unbelievable journey over the past two and a half years. None of it would have been possible if I had continued trying to control my life externally instead of encouraging the life within.

If you had told me three years ago that I’d be running a business I love and growing it so fast I need help, or that I would be living in Mexico every winter, or that I would be traveling this summer for two months to Europe (Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague and Croatia), I wouldn’t have believed you.

Now I know better because flow takes you places you can’t imagine.

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Ivan July 6, 2011 at 6:08 am

Great post, Corbett!

And I definitely like the new direction of the site (and the design) :)

Corbett July 6, 2011 at 9:24 am

Thanks Ivan!

Joe Hearn July 6, 2011 at 6:37 am

Well said Corbett! Good encouragement for the day.

Denise July 6, 2011 at 6:39 am

I love this post. It made my day.

Thanks for this.

(and I’m a new reader, so I don’t know what your site looked like before, but it has a nice, clean, simple look right now. It “flows” well.)

Corbett July 6, 2011 at 9:23 am

Thanks Denise, and welcome to the site.

Sarah Russell July 6, 2011 at 6:53 am

For me, the key to figuring out when I’m in a flow state is how tired I feel after a major work day. If I’m working on projects I love, or projects that satisfy or fulfill me in some way, I don’t feel tired – I feel energized, no matter how long I’ve been working. If I feel exhausted after a long day of work, I know it’s because I wasn’t dedicating my time to the projects that matter most to me.

Granted, I probably need a better system for encouraging a flow state instead of waiting until after I’m done working to determine whether or not I achieved it… :)

Corbett July 6, 2011 at 9:25 am

Haha, yeah, you might try a more proactive approach ;) But I like the measurement, on a day-to-day basis. What would an equivalent measure be for longer-term flow?

Sarah July 6, 2011 at 7:23 am

Really like the new look for the site! Maybe I’ll try to use this “flow” model when trying to prioritize all the multiple projects I need to work on. Thanks Corbett!

Sandi Amorim July 6, 2011 at 7:54 am

Love the new look Corbett and really appreciate this post. That experience of flow is like no other! It’s so easy to become addicted to the energy of ‘making things happen’ we forget that there’s an easier, more effective way to be.

Corbett July 6, 2011 at 9:27 am

Absolutely. Flow is sometimes more about “letting things happen” than making them.

Matt July 6, 2011 at 8:36 am

Love the design. Don’t be offended if you see something very similar on my site in the future ;-)

Corbett July 6, 2011 at 9:26 am

No offense taken! Borrow whatever you like.

David Masters July 6, 2011 at 8:53 am

For those who don’t have time for a sabbatical – another way to get in touch with your inner self and deepest desires (what you really want) is through meditation – give yourself to silence (or give silence to yourself) for twenty minutes each morning.

I like the new design too, Corbett.

Corbett July 6, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Cheers, David, thanks for the suggestion. I agree, daily meditation or quiet contemplation definitely helps me keep things in perspective. But even with that, it can be hard to really hear yourself above all the normal influences. That’s why I advocate actually getting away for anyone who can.

Rhina July 6, 2011 at 10:13 am

Letting go and allowing the flow to guide life is the art of living. I created my first vlog on the idea of flow. You’re right. It was in letting go of the control that I was able to capture the beauty of the moment.

Cathy | Treatment Talk July 6, 2011 at 11:04 am

You’ve made some good points on letting go of control and letting things just happen when you are in your creative state. Our fear of being judged by others often holds us back. It is exciting to just see where something that you enjoy doing will take you.

Your site seems to be a big hit. I like it too, especially your header design, very clever.

Corbett July 6, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Thanks Cathy! This site has been around for almost 2.5 years. Recently I’ve given in to my desire to let it morph more fluidly as I change interests and embrace my flow. I’m glad you like the direction.

Kayla July 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm

love the new look! great post!

Corbett July 6, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Cheers!

wilson July 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Oh man, when I read post like these makes me think we are in the same thought frequency. I just read “Drive” by Daniel Pink and he talked about flow also. I’ve been just running with the flow and letting things just happen and I feel so much better.

When I was forcing myself to work on my blog or my niche sites I didn’t feel like I was as creative as I believe I am.

Good point Rhina – “Letting go and allowing the flow to guide life is the art of living”

Corbett July 6, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Hey Wilson, I haven’t heard of “Drive” before. Is it worth a read?

Elana Miller July 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm

It’s awesome to see a new post from you here. I love this concept of flow. For me it also means letting things happen at a healthy pace and not trying to force things to happen faster because I’m impatient and want results immediately. It’s easier said than done though :-) .

Corbett July 6, 2011 at 5:35 pm

That’s an excellent point, Elana. I’m definitely guilty of being impatient about progress. It takes some confidence to relax and put faith in the process.

Caz Makepeace July 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I’m always amazed at how much I irritate others because I always go with the flow. They are constantly harrassing me about when things are going to get done and Have I done this yet…. blah blah blah. I have my mother in law bugging me at the moment for a Christmas list for my daugher. It’s six months away, how do I know what she wants now or where we might even be? Life is always changing, you have to go with the flow of it otherwise you end up highly anxious and stressed when it doesn’t go to your plans.
It was travel that taught me the best thing to do is jump in the raft and let the river take you and enjoy the ride. It will get you to the ocean eventually!
Great post

Corbett July 6, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Haha, I love the analogy Caz. And yeah, people tend to get annoyed when you don’t fit the mold ;)

Eden Rudin July 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Love the new look of the site Corbett and thanks for a very motivating and inspiring post. Thanks for putting me in a great mindset to kick off this week!

Corbett July 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Anytime, Eden, thanks for stopping by.

Brianne July 6, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I love this post and would love to hear more from you about flow. I want to get to that place so badly. This post really spoke to me. What was it about going away that opened you up? And when you felt the flow beginning, how did you keep it going? I would love to hear what other people have to say, as well. thanks, Corbett!

Corbett July 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Hey Brianne,

When we left on the sabbatical, I actually didn’t have a plan for changing my life’s direction so dramatically. I initially thought we’d take a nice relaxing break, then I’d jump back into what I was doing previously (venture-funded startups in Silicon Valley).

After a month away, I started recognizing strong feelings and interests I hadn’t felt since my youth. It seemed that all the influence and pressure of the status quo had suppressed my real self to some degree. Getting away let that reemerge.

Luckily I had six months off to really let the flow take hold. One of the ways I stoked the flames early on was starting this blog, and being honest with the world about what matters to me. Public accountability is a powerful motivator.

Momekh July 6, 2011 at 11:23 pm

I keep wondering how your current plan with this site relates to the original Chris Garret’s review of Free Pursuits (which was this blog initially)?

Is this still a lifestyle design blog? It is obviously more about ‘you’ now, which is cool — but I struggle with finding a ‘defined’ niche for my blog. I have only recently started growing the blog (the 21 actions I took being a testament to that I guess), but I like the blog to be about ‘me’, not in a narcissist sort of way, but in a ‘my take on lifestyle, on entrepreneurship’…I guess that’s a narcissist sorta way.

But I primarily ask this question because I want to perhaps benchmark your way of doing this against mine; how have your thinking evolved since then, with respect to corbettbarr.com/thinktraffic.net?

Rock on man.

Corbett July 7, 2011 at 10:12 am

Hey Momekh, the site design + tagline has changed a lot over the past two years, but the focus on “living the life you want to know, without being rich or retired” has remained. I’ve also incorporated more about the psychology of entrepreneurship and my own experiences.

The fact that you might be having trouble “categorizing” this blog is a good thing in my mind. Differentiation and problem solving are two cornerstones of effective blog marketing. I’m currently running with the theme of “encouragement and know-how for adventurous entrepreneurs” because people like to be encouraged, it’s different from what other sites are doing, and because I enjoy the flexibility that gives me to write about different topics.

In the end, your site can’t ever really be about “you” if you want it to succeed. It has to be about your readers, even if you’re the mirror through which they see themselves.

Neil July 7, 2011 at 8:02 am

I realized something from this post. I enjoy teaching, but never wanted to be a teacher. For the last nine months, I’ve been mentoring people as a means to an end ( I had to tell myself). I’m a marketer and a would-be lifestyle design, info business publisher. Currently, I have a day job and make great money, but I don’t have the freedom I want. From this post, I realized my love of leading and teaching others should not be seen as a means to an end, but an end in-and-of itself. I love to see others succeed. Initially I was using it as an opportunity to package and practice what I know about Internet Marketing, but my mentor program has lead me to teach others not only about IM, but also entrepreneurship, spiritual practices (Law of Attraction, etc), and just motivating mindsets for getting a better career. Thanks Corbett.

Corbett July 7, 2011 at 10:14 am

Sometimes the answer is right under our noses ;) Awesome Neil, best of luck with the new breakthrough. And remember, it’s OK to change your mind later. Don’t feel like these decisions have to define you forever.

Satya July 7, 2011 at 8:56 am

Love your take on Flow, Corbett — super grounded and smart as usual! Also, the honesty with which you share your process. Totally adds another dimension to the work I’ve been doing lately. Site’s looking/feeling really great too. Cheers — :)

Corbett July 7, 2011 at 10:14 am

Thanks Satya! How’s your new project coming along? You mentioned something in Portland about a new adventure.

Corey July 7, 2011 at 10:37 am

The original book published in the 70′s on this subject (simply called FLOW) was required reading for a college course in my major at SDSU in the mid nineties. (Recreation Systems Management) I have since tried picking up the book again to re-read but found it to be much “dryer” than I remember in college. Still, the premise and philosophy behind this simple word is amazingly powerful yet at times so difficult to actually achieve.

marianney | CityVids.tv Denver July 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Ooh flow being the opposite of control. I LIKE THAT! I have always been one to try and control my surroundings and I never have seemed to have much success with it either lol. A few things have happened in my life recently that have made me feel like things are spinning out of control. Reading your post today makes me think that maybe I just need to go with the flow of it all and the flow might take me down paths I never considered.

I am going to try and be more open and in tune with what’s happening around me in the next few days to see what I can discover.

Btw, great new look! I really do like it, it’s very clean and open. And the header is great. Did you design it yourself?

Annabel Candy, Successful Blogging July 8, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Hi Corbett, great to see you’re still at it and still raising the bar:) Love the new design and slogan! Keep up the good work:)

Ana | Traffic Generation July 9, 2011 at 12:37 am

Great post as always, Corbett. I think we all need a kick in the backside from time to time to remind us that we are not living to our full potential. You do a great job of that!

Charles July 14, 2011 at 7:13 am

Excellent article. It’s a concept i believe many people think about often but few live it. Good on you!

Charles July 14, 2011 at 7:16 am

I forgot to mention. I too like your new design. Nice and clean. Well done.

Rogier July 17, 2011 at 11:33 pm

I really love the new and clean design. Reading your blogs most of the time in the reader though.

Started to get more in the flow a few months back. Me and my girlfriend sold our apartments, we are living at our parents now. But leave 1 August for a unlimited digital nomad trip.. first stop Croatia! Any tips there btw? saw you where there a few weeks back?

Corbett July 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Hey Rogier, I haven’t been to Croatia yet, we’re heading there in September. Let me know what you discover! Congrats on the big trip.

Sean Cox July 19, 2011 at 11:11 am

Thanks Corbett. This is my first time here. I appreciate what you’re saying. this whole “flow” thing is a very interesting phenomenon. Hooray for you recent state of flow. And I agree, control seems to choke that flow.

Taking responsibility for our lives, or “controlling” what we need to control, is another use of the word control that I would consider as healthy. I know it’s semantics, and not what you’re talking about here.

Good stuff.

Andrew Rowley January 10, 2012 at 7:36 am

Another great post in the books, man!

lisa January 26, 2013 at 10:09 am

i only just came across this blog and not sure what has happened in the 18 months since it was originally written, but i am very glad to read it and in agreement totally with it! i recently stopped controlling so much in a few areas of life, and you’re right it is better. if you are ever venturing to the costa blanca area of spain, let me know….
thanks

Wilson July 6, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Oh for sure, I think you’ll like it. Here’s a video that’s pretty cool about it…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

Brianne July 6, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Thanks, Corbett!

Momekh July 14, 2011 at 4:34 am

Of course, people read about ‘you’ to do exactly what you said i.e. a mirror though which they see themselves, and I meant it like that. Thanks for clearing it up.

I wish I could have been in a position right now to join your ThinkTraffic Traffic School. You’ve really come up with an awesome line up and the course ‘teaser’ content is very valuable in itself.

I am already benchmarking it against my blog, and hope to double my traffic in the next 3 months, God willing.

Thank you for the inspiration man.

Corbett July 14, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Thanks Charles!

Rogier July 19, 2011 at 12:05 am

I will mail you some nice spots when I come across them!

We are blogging our adventures and discoveries on a dutch blog but with english workspot reviews. We will travel the most in Europe the
first year, check it out: http://allyouneedis.nl

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