When most of us think of ideal workflow, we may think of charts, project plans and deadlines. But there is another kind of ideal workflow that is incredibly important, especially for entrepreneurs.
Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi popularized the concept of “flow” in the early 1990’s. According to his theory, flow signify itself when a person’s natural skills align with the challenges they face.
When people operate outside of their flow, problems arise. For example, if an individual works in a highly challenging environment in which their natural skills are outclassed, they tend to experience high stress and terrible anxiety.
Conversely, if an individual’s advanced skills are wasted in an industry that is not challenging, boredom and apathy quickly set in.
In the world of business, this situation occurs when an individual’s natural skills are simply not a fit for the career they chose.
That’s why I believe that finding the right fit, both in terms of natural skills and interest, is the most important component when it comes to success.
Finding your ideal workflow incredibly challenging. Fortunately, there are a few key lessons I’ve learned over the years that can help you find your place in the workplace, so you can reach your true potential.
Know your strengths and weaknesses
One of my friends began her career in consulting, because that’s what most of the young business school graduates do. She wanted to do something more creative and entrepreneurial, but she was afraid to take on the risk at the time.
These were tough years for her, because no matter how hard she worked it just didn’t feel right. She tried so hard to conform to the ideal of what a hot shot consultant should be, even though she knew that wasn’t who she was. As a result, she was constantly anxious about her performance relative to her peers and stressed out over everything.
Finally, she took the time to be honest about who she really was, and then things started to improve. She grew to understand that her natural strengths were found at the intersection of finance and the humanities instead of analytics.
Once she began to see herself as someone with the soul of an artist trapped inside of a finance girl’s body, things started to make sense. She realized that she’d never be successful or happy as a consultant and that her ideal state of flow would be found elsewhere.
This ultimately sent her down the path of entrepreneurship and ultimately led to the founding of her company.
Don’t let yourself get too comfortable
Now, the thing about financial consulting is that it generally pays pretty well. The personal comfort that came along with the job that my friend hated was the one thing that gave her pause when it came time to quit.
She found that she could put up with a lot of short-term pain as long as she was well compensated. Of course, this was an utterly miserable way to live her life, but I’d be lying if I said that money wasn’t a consideration about her.
Ultimately, her desire to make a dent in the universe outweighed her desire for a comfortable lifestyle, but that isn’t the case for everyone I know.
For too many, the attraction of comfort and the fear of financial hardship prevents them from ever making a positive change. My advice is to avoid getting too comfortable in your career that you know isn’t right for you. Once you pass the metaphorical point of no return, you’ve committed yourself to a path that is both unfulfilling and stifling.
Learn to take risks
Many people aren’t able to take a risk and make a jump, and as a result, miss out on opportunities when they present themselves.
Life is difficult, messy and complicated. Nothing ever comes easy, and timing is rarely on our side. If you find yourself waiting for the perfect circumstances or time to make a change, you’ll never be able to move forward.
You have to get comfortable taking risks, both small and big if you want to find your ideal workflow. This can be both difficult and scary, but risk and reward go hand in hand.
Finding your personal flow is important not just for finding success in your career, but happiness and balance in your life.
Life is too short to live it in quiet desperation, so be honest with yourself, don’t get too comfortable, and learn to take risks. You’ll be happy that you did.