When I was working on my undergrad I had a class called motivation. In it we talked about something called “flow theory.” Flow theory talks about this thing that happens that people refer to as flow. Basically, you ask people why they like doing the things they like doing and what’s different about the things they like the most. People typically respond with whatever it is that they like the most, and state that “It just flows” for them.
This was a concept I immediately understand. I had always had things that just flowed for me. When I was younger it was sports. Particularly basketball and softball. For some reason, it just flowed when I played them. I had a natural talent for them. So playing them just made sense to me. I also had that flow with writing. There is a connection that happens when I write. And it just flows. It was nice when I was in school, because I could write papers the night before or in the morning when they were due. And well, procrastination flows for me as well!
But I’ve also found that we can use those things that flow for us to focus our minds. I am one of those people (which I honestly think is at least half of all people) whose mind is constantly going. Thousands of thoughts all going in all directions at one time. Spurred on by stressed. Making decisions nearly impossible. And finding a goal or a path in life nearly impossible. Clinically, it’s probably considered a low grade form of ADHD sans hyperactivity (except this morning when I had some coffee for the first time in a year and It was amazing!). When we can’t slow our minds down and we can’t stop the thoughts and focus we have an attention deficit. But like I said, I have found that I can use those things that flow for me to calm my mind. And if I can pay attention to the fact that my mind is calm, I can use that time to work to find a focus. I can prioritize my problems. I can make a list. I can organize my thoughts in a way that seems impossible otherwise.
It’s important that we pay attention to what we are doing with our time. It’s important that we utilize the tools that we do have at our disposal. We all have something (multiple things) that flow for us. If we pay attention and utilize these things, then we can use them to find our focus. We can use them as tools to guide our lives. We can calm our minds. We can find respite. We can search for the right next move. When we need to know where to go, because we can’t see any doors open for us we can use what flows for us. Let it calm us. Let it move us. Think about what flows for you, then try to see if you can use it to organize your thoughts and figure out different roads you can take. Use it to find a way to get to where you want to be. It may take some practice, but the payoff is worth it. And so are you! 🙂
“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott
Today I am writing, and I’m writing rather quickly because there are a set of storms that will be coming through in about 30 minutes. The storms have already produced a small tornado. And I started to realize all of the things that I needed to do before the storms came in case the power goes out, I decided that what was I needed to write about as well. One of the things that you learn living through lots of storms, especially if you live on a coastline like I do where there are lots of hurricanes, is that there are things that you can do to prepare for the storms and things that you can do during the storm in order to survive. So today, since I’m preparing for the storms, I thought I would share my tips for surviving storms the storms of life. As it turns out those for surviving the weather, apply just as well to surviving the storms that mark our lives.
- Prepare. The reason this is the first step, is because no matter what is going on in our lives if we take the time to prepare ourselves, we are better able to face the storms. During hurricane season we have preparedness kits so that if things go wrong (like they did with Katrina) we can have the supplies we need to be able to survive both the storm and the aftermath. We need the essentials. Food, water, medical kits, money, routes to shelters. Things of that nature. And in life we have to do the same. We have to prepare ourselves for what we will face. Part of this comes from learning from the things that have happened in the past. If we reflect on the difficult times we’ve faced before we can take things away from those situations that will help us in the future. We can utilize the strength and the knowledge we have gained. These are some of our essentials. We can make it a point to put ourselves mentally in a place where we are growing and confident in ourselves and our abilities to weather these storms. We can build a shelter. We can supply it with the materials we need if we take the time to reflect on ourselves and our lives, and to use that information to make a path to where we need to be. We have to organize ourselves – make lists (that’s why I’m writing this in list form now), figure out what we plan to do, because if we have those plans and they are tangible, they are our routes to safety during the storms we weather.
- Focus. Once the storm hits we have to stay focused. We have to take the time to be still and listen, especially when the winds pick up. In elementary school during tornado warnings we used to have to move to the hallway and sit in silence listening for the wind to start to sound like a freight train, and if it did, we knew to cover ourselves. This is what we have to do during the storms in our lives as well. We have to stop and pay attention. We have to focus. We have to look to see if what we are doing is the right thing to do. We go back to our list that tells us where we are going. We see if our current situation is a part of it. If it is, then we look around and figure out the supplies we need to utilize while this storm passes. It can be that we just need patience and a look back at the list so we remember that the storm will always pass. Or we may need the confidence to remember that we are accomplishing what we have set out to, despite the storm – because there will always be difficulties on our journey. If our current situation isn’t part of our path, or we’ve come to a crossroads we have to decide if we are going to leave the path behind to stay where we are (if so, refer back to the previous statements) or if we are going to leave our situation behind so that we can continue on to where we planned to go. And leaving a situation, especially an emotion-filled situation can be hard. It can create a whole new storm. But as long as we are paying attention and focusing on where we need to go, and what is best for ourselves and those we care about, then we can know that we are going to weather this storm and turn out all right in the end.
- Find joy. This third step may seem a little bit strange, so let me explain. Whenever there were hurricane warnings and we had to stay home from school, I always got a little excited. I knew that I would get to see at home, maybe with just flashlights and candles. I knew we’d make a tent. I knew we’d play games. And those weren’t things that happened all the time. Even though I was scared. And sometimes we had to stop playing to hide in the hall, we always had fun distractions from the storm at hand. Sometimes when we get into the day to day of life, we forget to have fun. We forget to have those moments of escape from the storm. It’s important to remember that sometimes we need a distraction or two. We need an adventure, even if it’s in the tent in the living room, to remind us of why we are in the storm to begin with. And to remind us that even in the storms, we can prosper. We can grow stronger. We can find happiness. We can share love. Even when the world outside is spinning and crashing and shaking the door. We can still know that there is something worth surviving for. We can find joy and let it guide us. There can be a rainbow on the other side.