The Habit of Ease and Flow

All year I’ve been doing the Positive Intelligence app program. Every day there’s a focus (not always different, they rotate) with multiple prompts spaced through the day to meditate on. Some days it’s the exact thing I need, and others it’s not, but the one that always, always, lands is the one about “choose the way of ease and flow”.

It’s infuriating in the same way yoga is infuriating. It seems like trite nothingness and then is shockingly effective. (I took a yoga class this morning and felt fantastic the rest of the day. Damn it.)

Essentially the prompt asks you: what are you making harder than it needs to be? What could be easier if you approached it differently?

This is the counterpoint to the habit of suffering. Of thinking things should be hard, should be difficult. Of expecting stress and misery and then making it so.

It’s a very tempting habit in this timeline. A consistent question in my 1:1s and coaching call is, “how are you suffering?”, and helping people see that with some attention and action they can just… not. They can have the conversation they’ve been avoiding, let go of the worry that is weighing on them, schedule the break that they need.

Type-A people, insecure-overachievers, whatever you want to call it, we often have a habit of making things harder for ourselves than they have to be. We don’t trust the things that come easily. The alternative habit – the habit of ease and flow – is to make things easier on ourselves. Not to achieve less (although sometimes that’s fine), but to get to the same, or better result, without the useless overhead, the friction we put on ourselves that makes it harder than it has to be.

In Rotterdam, it’s been much nicer (ease and flow!) to go to the gym. A huge part of this is that I don’t have to book a specific time. I have more flexibility to fit it into my day, no need to rush, time to linger. But also, because we arrived with almost nothing, I bought a new gym bag. It is quite dinky, and has a separate compartment for my sneakers (tidy!). Since I didn’t have a bunch of tiny hotel toiletries, I added a mid-range shampoo and conditioner, a face wash I was a little bored of, and a basic eye cream / serum / face cream (a balance of things I am happy to use but wouldn’t cry if I left them in the shower by accident) also in their own little compartment. I paid for towel service so I don’t have to carry a towel about (not sure it would fit anyway).

My organized little gym bag with everything I need in it makes me so happy each time I use it. Like bizarrely happy. It has come to epitomize ease and flow to me. I didn’t realize my more chaotic system in Cork was bothering me, but it turns out my trips to the gym can be vastly improved with a very minimal amount of time and euro.

As I come to the end of the year of habit, my thinking about habits has shifted. I started the year beating myself up for not being “better” at certain habits, but having proven to myself – repeatedly – that the habits I care about are attainable and enjoyable when prioritized and integrated, now I’m back to the habits of thinking that hold me back from that enjoyment. Consistently, the thing that has worked has been making things easier on myself. Consistently, I’ve found that when I’ve struggled, it’s been because I’ve been making things harder than they needed to be. The habit of suffering, versus the habit of ease and flow.

I’m looking for more such gym bags, and starting with this one. When looking at a big project, I have a tendency to look at it like an engineer, try and find the optimum path through. Instead, I’m asking myself a different question.

What would be the easiest thing I could do to make progress on this thing?