Research shows that the best moments of our lives do not come from leisure or pleasure. They come when you are immersed in a great task that challenges you, yet matches up well to your highest abilities.
In those moments you are so caught up in an activity, that time seems to be altered; your attention is fully focused without your having to work at it.
You are duly aware, without being self-conscious; you are being stretched and challenged, but without a sense of stress or worry. You have a sense of engagement or oneness with what you are doing.
The condition is called “flow,” because people experiencing it often use the metaphor of feeling swept up by something outside themselves.
Studies have been done over decades with thousands of subjects to explore this phenomenon of flow. Ironically, you experience it more in your work than you do in your leisure time.
In fact, your flow is at its lowest ebb when you have nothing to do. Sitting around doesn’t produce flow.
This picture of flow is actually a description of what the exercise of dominion was intended to look like.
God says in Genesis that we were to rule over the earth or exercise dominion over it (Gen. 1: 26, 28). We often think of these words, in terms of dominating or bossing around. But the truth behind them is that you are to invest your abilities to create value on earth; to plant and build and write and organise; heal and invent ways that bless people and cause Jehovah’s kingdom on earth to flourish.
Also, you will experience a new level of fulfillment when you begin to see what you do for a living as an important part of God’s will for your life.
“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord, giving thanks to God the Father through Jesus the Christ (Col. 3. 17).
Notice two words here: One, Word, which covers skills, of communication, information and technology. Two, Deed, which covers skills, such as creativity, repairing and building.
Whatever you do, you are supposed to do it with a thankful heart, as though Jehovah were your boss, because He really is.
When you work with that attitude, you came alive. A person comes alive when he picks up a musical instrument, another when he leads a team, yet another when he is looking at the financial spreadsheet.
When each of us is doing what Jehovah designed and called us to do, the world is enriched. All skill or talent is God-given and you are invited to live in conscious interaction with the Holy Spirit as you work, so that you can develop the skills He endows you.
Work is prayer; you cannot be fully human without adding value to others.
“Unless Jehovah builds the house, those who build it labour in vain (Psalm 127:1).
When skill level is high, but the task isn’t challenging, you experience boredom. When your skill level is low and the challenge of the task is too high, you experience frustration.
However, when the level of the challenge matches your skills, then you are in the flow. We don’t work only for money, recognition or fame; we work for flow, live for flow, hunger for flow and when it is present, our experience is uplifted as we connect with a reality beyond ourselves. We partner with God.
Which is why the Psalmist says: “Unless Jehovah builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.”
Flow is part of what we experience in our divine partnership and that God in turn uses flow to shape us. Bezalel experienced flow when he carved wood; David when he played the harp; Samson when he used his strength; Paul when he wrote a brilliant letter; Daniel when he administered a government; and Adam when he tended the garden.