Not long ago, I talked about creating flow rooms as a result of reading Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way by Dan Buettner. A flow room is one in which family members can come together and delve into activities that promote a state of well-being or happiness. Buettner describes flow as that unique state in which a person finds him or herself when they are fully and happily immersed in what they are doing – whether that be fixing cars or creating a masterful painting.

What could be better than creating flow at home?

Finding work that promotes flow.

Since we spend so much of our time working, wouldn’t it be wonderful if our work brought us to the shores of flow? Buettner notes that Denmark is one of the places in the world where this seems to be the reality.

In the United States, many people choose a job based on how much it pays or how much it will impress their friends. In Denmark, where taxes consume most of people’s wages, and ambition is frowned upon, there’s no upside to taking a job for pay or status. So people take jobs that interest them, which gives them a better chance to feel satisfaction and flow in their careers. Danes specialize in furniture design, niche technology, art, and architecture – creative, challenging careers that stimulate the kind of engaged happiness that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentimilhalyi calls “flow.”

The issue of taxes aside, the idea of taking a job just because it interests you is intriguing.

When I look at my own work history, my decisions have been based on a combination of things – like money, relative interest, and commute time – but, flow has not really been on my radar screen. Intuitively I knew that is what I was seeking but didn’t really have a name for it. Now, I do.

What if our decisions on how we earned our livelihood were based on a “flow” rating?

Maximum flow would be on par with a geyser – full force, hot and steamy. Minimum flow would be represented by the drips and drops produced by a leaky faucet. Imagine.

Gilding picture frames with gold leaf? Like a geyser.

Managing a department for a company manufacturing widgets? The velocity of a garden hose.

Answering telephones with prescribed potty breaks? A leaky faucet.

Lest you think I’m saying we all need to become artists or entrepreneurs or some such thing, I’m not. Everyone has a different flow meter. Flow can be found in delivering the most amazing customer service in the check out line at the grocery store. Flow can be found sorting out thorny computer issues. It just has to be your particular brand of flow.

If we were making work decisions based on what truly interests us, I wonder what might shift for us – not only personally, but as a society as a whole. Might we be more engaged? Creative? Making bigger contributions?

I’ve changed my work a number of times striving to find the perfect fit for the particular time and place I found myself at in my life (if you’d like to know more, check out my new ebook, How to Change Your Livelihood: An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Experiencing a Multitude of Good Things.)

Money has almost never been the primary motivator. Finding the geyser has.

What’s your geyser look like?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Vanessa@Luxuria June 6, 2011 at

As you know Andrea, finding the geyser has been a passion of mine too.
Funnily enough I am reading another Dan Buettner book called The Blue Zones (Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest).
Going back to your post (sorry I digressed!!), the Danes certainly seem to have it just right, and when you go to Denmark you can feel the energy of the place is so different; possibly for the very reason you mention. They are all happy with their chosen fields. A lesson to be learnt I am sure;-)
p.s made a note of the book you mentioned also ;-)


Andrea June 6, 2011 at

We are definitely on the same wave length. :) I’m going to have to get to Denmark and check things out. Here’s to longevity and happiness!


Shingyo Shelley June 6, 2011 at

Thanks so much for writing this, Andrea. I love this idea especially the range from drip to geyser…you know about the fascination I have with visual maps, and this made me want to create a life map of All the Geysers I Have Known & Loved. Rich images and just one more reason to travel to Europe.


Andrea June 6, 2011 at

I can only imagine what a gorgeous, colorful map you could create given the richness of flow you have experienced. Thanks, Shelley!


sandra June 6, 2011 at

Hmm Flow….When I’m engaged in activity, be it my form of employment or play….I know I’m in the “flow” because things come naturally. I loose track of time, I don’t want to shift my attention to another place because I’m here now in the moment….in the flow. I’m blessed to be in the flow at my chosen field of employment and I’ve been in that place where I was just working for a paycheck. I won’t ever….EVER go back. My geyser is sharing those gifts that I have acquired in creative, innovative, unusual ways. I gush with excitement because I’m full of passion. Another example….meeting up with a few girlfriends and sparking one another’s hearts into action. Gushing here again. Thanks for posting.


Andrea June 7, 2011 at

Great way to describe flow, Sandra. I’m glad you’ve found so much of it. You are on the right track!!


Ronna June 6, 2011 at

Messages, forces, and now geysers continue to converge. This movement toward work of passion continually calls to me. The resistance does nothing to slow the flow. The question is whether or not I can get out of my own way enough to let the tide carry me!

Thanks, Andrea. Always so grateful for your laser-sharp vision and voice.
Ronna recently posted..high-school- world domination- and other messed-up stories


Andrea June 7, 2011 at

Thank you, Ronna! Keep moving towards your passion … resistance doesn’t stand a chance. :)


Rita June 6, 2011 at

Your post reminded me of a book once recommended to me, which I Googled, which led to this post:

Which leaves me saying hmmm….

What puts me in a flow state? Creating a beautiful, functional document. Dinking around with a blog post, finding the right images and words. Reading certain kinds of books. Memoir usually, about people living much different lives from mine. Sifting through data to see what it can tell me, especially if I’m doing it to solve a problem or make things better in some way. Finding information to meet a specific purpose. Organizing stuff–objects and systems.

I can see that the work I’ve done for most of my adult life is the opposite of everything that creates flow for me: It requires lots of face-to-face with people. That’s not me. Hmmm….

As always, thank you for the nudge.
Rita recently posted..Anticipation…


Andrea June 7, 2011 at

That is the tricky thing, isn’t it … money. How do we reconcile money with passion? Are both possible? Maybe. Maybe not. Apparently, the issue isn’t such a big one in Denmark where the social infrastructure supports people enough to allow them to choose. Even if we are after the money, I think we have to ensure that our spirits, our creative selves are somehow bolstered or fed by our work – otherwise, no one benefits. I think. Thanks, as always Rita, for your insightful perspectives.


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