Work, ‘Flow’ and the Biggest Myths about Doing What You Love

In this heady age of successful Internet entrepreneurs, super-bloggers and millionaire start-ups we’re constantly bombarded with hyper-positive motivational messages about taking the leap of faith and following your heart to “do what you love”. But is it always a good idea?

Sure, it’s all very seductive but for many of us, finding our passion and dropping it all to pursue a new career doing what we love just isn’t practical. The realities of mortgages, parenthood and other financial pressures create very real barriers to metaphorically “running off and joining the circus”, and often there are very real consequences that hold us back from making such a rash move.

It’s now widely accepted that dissatisfaction in our work lives can have a huge impact on our relationships, health and overall wellbeing. Quite often, dissatisfaction in our work life comes from not knowing, or not honouring our signature strengths and values. The other thing that eludes a lot of us is: simply knowing what makes us happy.




According to leading researchers in the area of positive psychology, our wellbeing and happiness are at their peak when we’re connected with what’s called “flow”. Flow is what happens when we immerse ourselves in extended moments of effortless concentration and enjoyment. We’re totally absorbed; time seems to stand still and there’s a richness and satisfaction that gives the experience a sense of meaning.

The sad thing is that the majority of us have very few moments of being connected with flow in our day-to-day lives, however a little memory trip back to childhood will give you some clues about how flow feels. Activities such as painting, drawing, writing, swimming, making model aeroplanes or even working out mathematical equations might have given us a taste of flow in our early years. So think back: what did you love getting lost in as a child? What came naturally to you?

If chucking in our career to become an abstract artist isn’t quite on the table, don’t worry – a ‘creative’ bohemian career isn’t your only access to flow. The good news is that it’s actually possible to connect with flow while you’re making a living doing something you don’t particularly love.



Rather than trying to work out specific jobs or career paths, it helps to first think: “What kind of life do I want to set up for myself?” and work your way back from there.

Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a Professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University in California. He is internationally recognised for his work in the study of happiness and creativity, but is best known as the ‘godfather of flow’, thanks to his many years of research and writing on the topic.

According to Professor Csikszentmihalyi, the first step to achieving flow is to get in touch with yourself and find out what makes you happy. “It’s amazing how many people don’t actually know. If it helps, keep a diary or at the end of your day reflect back on what you enjoyed, this can help you work out what influences your moods. Try to see if you can find a way to do that leisure activity in a way that will help you grow”. (source: ABC)



The PERMA model is another school of thought that looks at the different elements that make up happiness. According to founder, positive psychologist Martin Seligman, once you’re aware of the things that wellbeing is built from (instead of focusing on happiness alone), it’s much easier to live a rich, meaningful life.

The PERMA Model identifies five essential elements to wellbeing:
1. Positive Emotions (P).
2. Engagement (E).
3. Positive Relationships (R).
4. Meaning (M).
5. Achievement/Accomplishment (A).
When we break it down like this, it’s quite a good reminder that material possessions have no real place in making us truly happy. In order to attaining that elusive sense of wellbeing and satisfaction in our lives we require a much more solid foundation.

If you haven’t already done so then perhaps consider scheduling a career assessment with one of our psychologists. In many cases, we find that just the simple act of identifying your unique strengths and values can really help to get clear on what’s important to you and what you’re good at. From there, you can take a look at a list of jobs where I would likely succeed based on those strengths and values.



Happiness is flow – ABC Health & Wellbeing

Meaning, Pleasure, Strengths (MPS) Process

Flow – Pilot Fire

PERMA model – Positive Psychology Melbourne

PERMA Model – Mind Tools

Myths about doing what you love – Tiny Buddha


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