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flow 550 px

Kathy’s Bloom and Flourish Model

  1. Peaceful Base
  2. Physical Health
  3. Positivity Spiral
  4. Flow/Accomplishment/Meaning
  5. Positive Relationships
  6. Spiritual Connectedness
  7. Financial Stability

To bloom and flourish, we want to spend as much of our time as possible doing things that create flow for us. “Flow” is a term defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and you are in flow when you are doing something and lose your sense of time. You are so engrossed in this activity that you don’t think about anything else.

Activities that create a sense of flow generally have three components. First, you are good at the activity; you have the necessary skills to accomplish the task. Second, the task has meaning for you; it’s in alignment with your values, priorities, and goals. Lastly, you enjoy the activity; it is a challenge that you want to accomplish. Flow activities are in the sweet spot of the diagram below.

Flow Venn Diagram

It’s important to be able to identify the characteristics of each circle. If you are unsure of what you are good at or what you like to do, revisit my March blogs on uncovering your authentic self. At the end of that series, we could each list these things about ourselves:

  1. Things I enjoy doing
  2. Things I do not like to do
  3. My superpowers
  4. Characteristics I want to minimize
  5. Values my ideal self holds dear
  6. My ideal self’s priorities right now
  7. Beliefs that support my ideal self
  8. Beliefs that I hold now for which my ideal self has no use
  9. Possible careers/jobs that my ideal self would love

If you haven’t caught on yet, all of the pillars of Kathy’s Bloom and Flourish Model require some effort to achieve. Almost everything worth having requires some work. Finding your flow activities is no different. Even knowing the things in the list above, it’s going to take some trial and error.

Our ideal situation looks like this:

Flow one arrow



For the most part we intentionally spend our time on fun challenges that have meaning for us and that we have the required skills to achieve.




However, this is what represents most of our lives:

Flow scattered arrows

We are scattered and without purpose.

If you are like most people, you aren’t 100% sure of the things that put you in flow, and you don’t spend your time intentionally. However, we want to be in flow as much as we can be.

Csikszentmihalyi discovered this about participants in his studies: “When challenges and skills were both high, they felt happiness, more cheerful, stronger, more active; they concentrated more; they felt more creative and satisfied.” Wow! I want more of that!

The key is to be willing to experiment. I don’t think we go from scattered to focused in one fell swoop. It’s more of progression that looks like this:

Flow arrow transition complete

We learn the types of activities that create flow, and we incorporate more of those into our lives. For example, I might find that scrapbooking is completely engrossing for me. It challenges my creativity and drawing skills in a fun way. Leaving a legacy of family fun that is beautiful to look at has meaning for me. I won’t know if I like scrapbooking, making kombucha, writing short stories, or building a shed until I try.

Now, there is no need to try things that sound like an awful idea to you. In fact, we want to get rid of as many activities as possible that we don’t want to do. Of course, the laundry and dishes will always be there. If you like doing laundry and dishes, that’s great! If you don’t, know that our goal is to be as intentional with our time as we can. We want to decline to do activities like being treasurer for the scout troop if they don’t appeal to us. We want to set healthy boundaries and say yes only to things that move us forward and create flow.

A part of creating flow is our mindset. Csikszentmihalyi made some fascinating discoveries during his research. Participants wore a beeper that went off at random times. When it beeped, the participants immediately wrote down what they were doing and how they felt about it.

People were in flow more often at work; they were absorbed in what they were doing, and their skills matched the challenge. However, even though they were in a state that makes people feel happy, cheerful, and strong, they said that they’d rather be doing something else. We have a negativity bias towards things that we do at work even if they are things that we like to do!

I can only guess as to why this is true. In general, we have a societal attitude towards work that is not great. Many times that negative attitude has been earned by businesses and organizations. However, we are only hurting ourselves if we don’t embrace and fully enjoy the moments at work when we are in flow.

Csikszentmihalyi’s other interesting finding is that although we say we prefer leisure time, we don’t actually do much with our leisure time that creates flow. People with hobbies are the exception. Building model train layouts, knitting, and working with wood can all create a sense of flow and accomplishment.

Here’s a summary of how to strengthen the pillar of Flow/Meaning/Accomplishment in Kathy’s Bloom and Flourish Model:

  1. Know yourself, your superpowers, your likes, your dislikes, and what actions have meaning for you.
  2. Experiment. Try different things! If you aren’t sure if you’d like to do something, give it a shot!
  3. Say no to things that don’t move you forward or create a sense of flow. It’s okay to set healthy boundaries. When you say yes to something that doesn’t interest you, you are saying no to something that would. Time is a limited resource.
  4. Create a more positive mindset about moments of flow at work so that you can reap the benefits of happiness and strength.
  5. Intentionally create moments of flow during your leisure time. We all love a fun challenge and the sense of accomplishment that we get when we are done.

Life is a journey! Along the way we want to create more of what we want and less of what we don’t want. It takes some intentional choice and action, but it is totally worth it.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.