Someone, somewhere, is posting right this minute about a side hustle that can make me rich. Somebody else is describing the next best way to generate a passive income stream I can retire on now. The internet is full of career change advice.
A changing vocation might not have been on the cards before 2020 for many, but the effects of the current pandemic on the global workforce is changing minds. In the US, nearly 20% of people working in non-office based jobs intend to leave their employment for greater job security and benefits due to the effects of Covid-19. Around half of the UK’s workforce would like to change their career — 5 million of these are looking to turn a hobby into a way to make money.The problem is that we start with the end in mind too often when it comes to switching careers or setting up new income streams. It’s easier for me to say, ‘I want to be a property investor’ and then to try and piece together the steps and resources I need to get there than it is to identify what I’m already doing well and build up from that. Stephen R. Covey said:
“You can’t talk your way out of a problem you behaved your way into”.
I can push that logic further: I can behave my way into the life I want to lead. I do this by accessing the power of flow states.
Do it and do it again.
There’s a lot of free advice available out there on how to make the switch from a J-O-B to a dream vocation. On every platform, there are examples of people who have walked away from unsatisfying careers to make 6 figure sums. These are people making work work for them.
The mistake most of us mere mortals make is to straight-up copy their models exactly. That’s why so many email courses and eBooks are sold. People end up fixating on a particular platform, or specific medium, to build their success on because — well — it’s worked for others. However, there’s a key message obvious within most success stories that’s often repeated but rarely implemented well:
“Consistency is the key to success”
Success boils down to showing up every day. The what is not as important as the how.
We need to spend more time on the how — being consistent in something we are passionate about — than we do the what — searching for the next great income-generating idea.
To be successful, motivation has to be about more than financial gain or public acclaim. I know from experience that I have to love doing what I do, otherwise, there’s just no way I can be consistent in doing it.
So how did I find the work ventures that motivate me to show up every day?
Finding my flow.
The idea of flow comes from the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. You enter a flow state when you perform a highly challenging activity with a high level of skill. The activity should be difficult but not impossible. If it’s too challenging it will produce anxiety; if it’s too easy, it will cause boredom.
Csikszentmihalyi described the flow state as an intense focus that brings clarity, during which time seems to disappear. You lose sense of yourself in the moment because of the intense concentration that you bring to what you are doing.
When I identify areas in my life where I enter into a flow state, I can work up from there to create a service or a product that will be both meaningful for me and valuable to others.
Instead of looking for the job or the side-hustle that will change my life, I look at what I’m already doing or have done in the past that changes me in the moment. I pinpoint the times when I enter a state of flow.
I enter a state of flow when I’m running. I also find myself in flow when I’m engaged in thought-provoking conversation, or when I’m writing. Knowing this, I retrained as a physiotherapist specialising in running biomechanics. Now I get to enter into flow states as part of my work when I am researching running biomechanics and when I am talking about my work with clients and colleagues.
Additionally, I work as a narrative designer for immersive games and as a freelance writer, generating separate income streams. I enter flow states when working with words and I now I get paid for it.
The important point is that I didn’t start by trying to monetise my interests. That would have been backwards thinking and would’ve only pushed me in a direction that I thought would be financially rewarding rather that one that truly motivated me.
Csikszentmihalyi says that, during flow, ‘what you’re doing becomes worth doing for its own sake’. This tells us how flow states can work for you. If you can find that thing that you do for its own sake, that brings you intense focus, that you lose yourself in, then congratulations! You’ve found your flow. You won’t have to force yourself to show up every day to do it — you’ll want to show up.
Once you’ve identified your flow states, then you can start thinking about how might help you change your vocation. Turn your passion outwards — will the performance of your chosen activity entertain others? Can you teach it? Can you create something of value out of it?
Do you have more than one distinct type of flow state brought on by different activities? Bring them together and create a niche that you are authentically passionate about, not just one that you are going through the motions with.
If you’re looking for a new venture or side-hustle, start by identifying flow states in the things you’re already doing. Work upwards from these and figure out how you can create something of value for others from what you love to do. You might end up with a product or service that can truly change your life, one that you enjoy showing up every day to create.
Here’s the best thing about flow states — even if you don’t end up making a pile of money or retiring early off the back of what you choose to do, it won’t matter.
Remember, ‘what you’re doing becomes worth doing for its own sake’.
Spending time in flow will always add value to your life.
Why not give it a try?