Flow mentality


We usually want to go the fastest way possible to our destination, yet we continually meet obstacles. It is the nature of the territory. We have a choice, either we cling to our plans and risk getting derailed or we learn to adapt our course continuously and risk meandering.

When I look back at the many projects that I have started and never finished, they have one thing in common: derailment. Part of me loves order, and when I map out a project, I usually build in my head a sort of railroad and imagine myself going from A to B with no disruptions. This mentality is a recipe for disappointment, in truth the way ahead is very rarely straight forward, and life inevitably throws challenges

This way of operating works ok on established pathways and short tasks, but it is limited when one is handling anything more significant. It is a bit like a toy miniature electric train, as soon as it meets something in its way, it stops or gets derailed. One can, of course, remove the obstacle and get back on the tracks, but there always seem to be more obstructions. One can learn to persevere, however, sooner or later, this rigid stop-and-go approach leads to frustration and failure.

There is another approach I revert to which is quite the opposite. I just go with the flow and let circumstances decide what I do next. It is quite laissez-faire: no plans, I get carried away by the current and trust that it will lead me to new grounds. It is useful for exploring, the problem is that it is quite scattering, and one can easily get lost.

Is there a middle path? Yes, I call it flow mentality. To work with a flow mentality, one needs to start with a clear intention – a direction in mind – a form of internal compass but one must also remain flexible and meet the territory. It is like navigating a fast moving river, where every movement is responsive to the present moment and involve changing one’s course. It is about being adaptable and avoiding disruptions while remaining in motion.

People give up on their resolutions, goals or projects often because of their approach. If we are too focused on the results, we can easily get frustrated and stuck along the way. If we are too laid back, we can quickly lose sight of where we are going and go astray. Flow mentality is a balance between staying on course and going round obstacles. Like a river that always moves on the path of least resistance, we can meet all sorts of obstacles and flow around them. This approach may seem long-winded and time-consuming but in the end, may be more effective.


One sentence journal – day 16:
“With a disproportionate amount of time spent to plan my class, I ended up doing very little else, thankfully I had a co-listening session where we could touch on the long view, the timeless and the urgency of change. ”

This blog is part of a renewed 42-day writing challenge inspired by Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits Book.
Photo: Chris Gill