What if you could spend the majority of your working time connected to your heart, in the zone, doing the work you know really matters?
What if this could be the default space that you create from?
I think it can. Over the last several years I’ve been experimenting and testing different techniques for getting into this heart-centered, community-reaching, deep-creativity space.
I’ve been avidly pursuing it mostly because for so long I’ve not been in that state as consistently as I’d like.
At first, you get a taste or a flicker. Little satori, as the zen monks say. A glimpse of what it’s like to simply flow, to create from the heart and to create something that truly matters.
This flicker is a view of what’s possible. A blip that quickly fades.
But over time, this momentary experience can become the reality you wake up to. After lots of hard work and continuous cultivation of course.
The paradox of greatness and ease
Have you ever created or built something that just came to you on the fly and you thought almost nothing of it? It may have seemed insignificant, or it was so effortless that you thought it couldn’t possibly matter very much.
But then, by some stroke of serendipity it received more of a response and ovation than anything you’d previously slaved over.
Why is this? Why does our best work almost seem like happenstance, like some kind of random luck?
I believe it’s because during those moments that seem like “whatever” we’ve gotten out of the way.
We’re not trying desperately to force something. We’re not trying to slave something into perfection. We’re not using brute force to make something happen.
We’re tapping into a source of power and creativity much deeper than ourselves. You can call this Source, divine inspiration, or whatever you like.
Making the Great Work State your stage
But this begs the question: can creating from this place transition from being a state experienced fleetingly and scarcely to an experience that is the stage we work from?
I want that state to become my stage. That’s what I’m interested in.
In this article I’m going to share with you the process I’ve refined over the last six years for getting myself in this place.
And let me just be clear, by no means is this perfect. It’s a living breathing process for me. And for a long time it was in such a state of amorphousness that I didn’t feel it would be useful to share with anyone, or that it could be made sense of.
Without further ado, this is my practice for getting into the Great Work Flow. I’m tentatively calling this the Great Work Commencement Exercise. (Hat tip to Michael for his book Great Work and giving us that frame to work with.)
Step 1: Get Centered
First, get centered in your body. Breathe deeply. Feel your heart.
Say a prayer, make an intention: “Help me get out of the way.” (It’s not important whether you’re secular or otherwise, the important part is that you acknowledge that to do great work something bigger must come through you.)
Step 2: Get Clear
Have you defined the one mission that’s most important to your heart today?
– Is it a clear, doable action?
– Is it something that will have an impact long-term (over the next 1-3 years at least)?
– Does it align with your heart?
If not, figure out what that mission is that meets these criteria now.
Step 3: Remember Why
Still in a state of inner stillness, ask yourself “Why am I doing it?” Really feel why you’re doing it. Allow it to expand like a chord resonating through the amphitheater of your heart.
Now, imagine what you secretly want to have happen as a result of your action. What’s the highest good that could result from you doing this?
Let the chord resonate further, through your body, through the room you’re in now.
Let it resonate through your city and beyond. Let your Why expand and resonate throughout the world, the solar system, the galaxy and Universe.
Step 4: Use your imagination
Imagine the highest good of all coming to pass as the result of your commitment and depth. The highest good of those you’re serving. The highest good of yourself and your family. The highest good of the world.
Step 5: Starting is success
Now, breathe in that why and start. Remember it may be hard, daunting or scary.
For that reason, don’t try to finish. Just take one step and remember that starting is success.
An alive work in progress
I should say right now, I don’t always do this entire process. Sometimes I just get settled in my heart and try to identify the one thing I can do now that will make a long-term difference. Sometime that’s enough.
At other times, maybe in a monthly review, or quarterly planning session, you might want to go through the whole process. It can be particularly helpful when you’re planning a major project that feels exciting and scary as hell.
This should be something you feel into in the moment.
The highest wisdom I’ve found is the ability to feel into the moment and simply do whatever is needed. Don’t be rigid when you feel like you need less or more. Got it?
My humble request to you:
Now, I have two questions for you that I would greatly appreciate you answer in the comments:
1. What processes help you for getting into the right state for doing your best work?
2. Would you be potentially interested in a guided meditation or worksheet for getting into Great Work Flow to listen to before beginning your work for the day? I’m seriously considering producing something like this.
Looking forward to learning from you.
Thanks for this Jonathan. I love the analogy of the flow state being a stage.
I’d say that prayer, stillness, or walks in nature help me ease into the right state for doing my best work. And of course — a good breakfast with a side of tea. This year I’ve also been taking a few minutes each day before starting a new task to refocus and recenter. It’s helped immensely.
Always up for a great worksheet. Let me know if you need any help with it.
Brenda Knowles says
My best work often comes through when I’ve had a good amount of solitude. New music to listen to also helps. Stephen King said to always start with a scene or situation. I often fall back on that when beginning a post. I choose a snippet of a scene or experience that had a powerful effect on me emotionally and let the words/typing flow — no stopping, no judgment.
If you feel very strongly about the effectiveness of a guided meditation you could offer then yes, I’d be interested.
Agata LunAzul says
THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE.
IT REALLY MADE SOMETHING CLICK INSIDE OF ME.
A MILLION THANKS :)
I also listen to mantras when I want to focus deeper into any task I am doing, be it creative or administrative. It helps me connect :)
Jason Spencer says
My experience with “the zone” usually stems out of 3 things in addition to the 5 steps you outlined so well (thank-you for that!).
1. Deep, wholehearted, vulnerable connection with others
2. Connection with the natural beauty of the planet, nature, outdoors
A guided meditation sounds really cool! I would encourage you to produce it. :)
Nice. I’ve really been enjoying Flying Lotus for getting in a creative space in the mornings. Also, one of my long term goals is a daily hike in the morning, up to twice a week now. :)
Alex Ivanovs says
There is no place like ‘the zone’. I’ve spent a fair amount of time there when I was still only a teenager, and I’ve finally gotten myself back into it.
Time has never flied as fast as it is right now, and to look back on how it affects the changes in my life – it goes beyond comprehension.
Thank you, Jonathan.
You’re welcome Alex. Glad I could be of service.
This is something that I’ve found to be an interesting energy that I tap into when writing or sketching. Intention and Prayer are things that are vital for me. It may not seem like much to others who write for subject headlines etc but this is a big deal and something that I’d like to dive deeper into. Great post.
Sarah Marshall says
For me the biggest thing that gets me connected is connecting to the people who will be impacted by my work – imaging and dreaming about what will be possible when their lives have transformed, who they will impact, what will then be created out into the world. I get connected to the HUGE ripple effect of the work and how we are all connected and ultimate want the same things. Then my fear of failure or criticism disappears and all there is for me is my love and dedication to people being healthy and free.
PS – this was EXACTLY the message I needed to hear this morning…. thank you for sending me this gift today. Your writing of this post, into my inbox, will transform a families health today and countless others as the ripples go out from there.
Tracy Chapman says
I was recently reading an article from the author of a book called “Choose Yourself” (which I have yet to read), and the main point I got from it that seemed to really resonate with me is that life is created moment by moment. If you know what your ultimate dreams are, you can choose in each moment to act and think in line with those dreams. Even if you are working on something that you don’t really want to be doing, if you can tie it to this higher purpose and choose to act with that mindset in the moment, you can fully engage and know why you are doing so.
I then tied this to a previous workshop with Danielle LaPorte where she asked, “How do you want to feel?” and suggested living toward those feelings. My top four feelings are: connected, creative, desire/d, and generous. Each of these has a rather broad meaning to me – for instance, connected means not only engaging with other people, but also connecting to my soul, connecting to nature, connecting my thoughts to my actions, etc. The feelings often overlap as well – if I’m connected with my community, I am often also being generous with my friends & neighbors, and likely being creative in how I do so.
With those feelings in mind, you can then decide how you want to spend each moment. Keep your highest goal in mind (for instance, mine is “feel good and smile everyday”) and apply the feelings you want to have, and then act towards that in the now. Life will unfold in the direction you wanted it to go if you get started in the moment with the right focus and frame of mind that brings about your highest good.
I think your meditation/s would be fantastic! I’ve wanted to incorporate regular meditation into my life but so far I just do it here and there. Would love to have another great option for encouraging me to make it happen. :)
Hope you’re doing great!
Kevin Wood says
I love that you outlined your process, gonna give it a go, once I’m done here.
My usual flow inducing routine is as follows:
1. Open up the project I want to begin working on. Feel the fear that usually arises.
2. Take a few deep breaths and send the energy through my feet and into the floor. Feel my rootedness extend into the core of the earth.
3. Invoke the muse with a statement like, “My dear muse, please use me as a vessel for your art.” Something that calls to a higher purpose, allows my mind to take the bake seat, and allows the creative force to flow through me.
4. Thank the muse and let gratitude flow through my body.
The guided meditation would be very badass and useful. Please do it!
I dig it. Sounds pretty similar, just a bit different style.
Great article! Thank you for content that is whole hearted and advice that actually does help. Choosing mindful focus is important to me. I’ve started allowing myself to begin with a planning session (including what tasks are must haves, and how much time I’m going to allot for them), and to make it fun, I use colored markers to write them out (so that I can cross them out later). I call this “setting the stage.” Then, is the action phase. Fill it with music, and only one, mindful task at a time that gets my whole focus. Avoid rabbitholes (email, facebook, researching articles). If I get lost, I take a break, and go mediate on that client: feel gratitude for them, ask to do my best work. Create an environment that makes the task fun: music, tea, best time of day.
For me its similar but also different:
I learned that for me in order to get into flow most important is to forget about the result and engage in the here and now. Because thinking about the end point does not help me engage in the now. I totally agree with you that knowing the why is important but then after knowing the why I get out of the way by not thinking about the result (the why can be realized in different ways), focus on the step in front of me and also letting go (the Sedona Method) is helpful for me.
Also I think the most overlooked part for me in the book “Flow” is that you engage in the activity and not think about yourself. That the action is not ego-driven.
Mmmm yes. This is so good, and very similar to my own practices pre-creation. The only thing I add in is going upside down to get into a meditative state of mind- pre-step 1, if you will. Nothing like a handstand or even just a forward fold to connect me to my breath and my body. I have a few meditations I’ve recorded for clients around this– happy to send them your way for inspiration for creating something! People need it :) Thank you for posting this!
That’s a cool idea Kate. I’ll play around with standing on my head for a bit. Always a good way to wake up the nervous system!
Paige Burkes says
I use yoga and meditation to create a similar practice. If I have a general idea of the topic of an article or the gist of a project but don’t know where to start or where to take it, I’ll take a moment to review the ideas I have. Then I’ll start my yoga practice, setting the intention for creating a knowing for the questions I have. Moving my body, centering my mind and getting in touch with my heart helps to open up the creative juices/flow that tends to get blocked in everyday life.
For my why, I tend not to think of lots of people or broad strokes. Things tend to turn out better when I focus on helping one person. The more I do that, the more I can help many people.
I meditate at the end of my yoga practice to pull together all the thoughts, ideas, feelings and anything else that came up during the asana. At that point, the next steps and direction flow from me.
Thank you for this article. I find what usually helps me get into the flow of things is to listen to motivational podcasts by Tony Robbins, and reviewing my notes of what I did right with each client and what I can work on for the next time. It allows me to set goals of what I want to achieve this day regardless of outside influences and attitudes. I am always up for a worksheet! -best regards, Jaz
Thank You Jonathan for the post. I work for a Pharmaceutical Company (a corporation) with good boss and good people. I use Step 3 (Still in a state of inner stillness, ask yourself “Why am I doing it?” Really feel why you’re doing it) and Step 4 (Imagine the highest good..those serving,kids, the world) you listed above frequently. At times, thoughts come up about whether I am a slave to the system,but then meditating on Step 3 and Step 4 changes my perception and attitude towards work. So to me, it comes down to right intentions followed by right effort.
A meditation to get someone in the right state of mind before starting work will be beautiful! : )
Thanks for the encouragement Simi. Much appreciated.
Great blog post, as usual. You are an inspiration and I cannot thank you enough for the help that your course has given me to date. I’m only on month 2, and I’m super excited about the rest of my journey and where it will lead. It has been enlightening and my purpose and goal continue to grow in new and surprising ways each day. The Law of Attraction is at work in earnest.
I love the idea of a meditation. I do between 20 minutes to 1hr 1/2 of self-hypnosis a day on various things, like confidence, forgiveness, anxiety, stress relief, procrastination and I find it incredibly useful. A guided meditation on something similar would be great.
Terry Dunn says
I am a morning person, so do my best work before midday. I get up early and complete my practice, which is meditation, chi-kung and short-form yoga. All told, between 60 and 90 minutes. And by the time I’ve finished , I feel great. After that, getting into the zone for writing or just about any kind of work is easy. I also have a home office, where I can shut the door and not be disturbed. That helps.
Rob Lee says
reading through the comments in sounds like most people are already positively engaged in the process of entering the zone to facilitate creativity, I guess that’s why they have found your site Johnathan, and I would give yourself credit for contributing to the mission in the way you do. As for a guided meditation, I think it would useful to those who haven’t already found their own methods, perhaps a distillation of other practices which the user could gradually expand upon, or just nit-pick the bits that work for him or her.
Thanks so much for this, you’re right, sometimes you can be busy trying to make things happen that you forget the simple things. Like the fact that you’re doing what you love.
Thank you for this article. I am new to Paid to Exist and call tell that you care and know what you’re talking about. I’ll definitely be subscribing and checking back often.
1) I write in my journal and meditate in the mornings, drink tea and watch or read something inspirational and then sit down and just start writing and do the work.
2) This could definitely be a useful tool so I would be interested for sure.
Thanks again, Jonathan
Chuck Freeman says
Great article! I like your blog!
To answer your first question, I would say:
1- I have to define the objective clearly, usually in writing.
2- I break up the task in maximum 7 sub tasks.
3- I take a small break to clear my mind.
4- I just trust myself and let it go… I just do it!