Alignment Before Action

Walking the beach as a source of alignment.

Walking the beach as a source of alignment.

Again and again in the works of people I admire I’ve come across this concept of alignment before action. It was something I first heard Jess Lively talk about on her podcast The Lively Show and to be perfectly honest it seemed a little “woo woo” to me. Again and again though I came across the concept in books and speakers I was listening to and I realised it’s a lot like the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of Flow. For me I think that finding alignment more quickly helps me to access a flow state.

So what are flow and alignment?

Csikszentmihalyi talks about the flow experience or the flow state as being one wherein you are so involved in doing a task that you become almost lost in it. You’re not aware of time passing, of physical needs or any other worries going on around you. Instead your task is at a challenging enough level that it absorbs all your focus and you have enough skill to achieve the task but you’re being stretched a little as well. Usually it involves doing an activity that you really love. You’ve probably been in the situation where you were so involved in a task and enjoying it so much that you suddenly realise you haven’t eaten or taken a bathroom break for hours. That’s flow.

Jess Lively also talks about flow but a little differently. Flow in the way that Jess describes it is like achieving a state of high motivation where you instinctively know what task or activity to undertake next. You work on the task in such a way that the work just flows from you, almost as if you’re just a vessel that has been holding the capacity to complete the activity but now the physical process of completing the work almost feels as if it’s being done by some other being. There’s a great sense of ease and knowing that this is the best way for the work to get done.

I feel like both Csikszentmihalyi and Jess Lively’s take on flow work really well together. I’d always loved being in the flow state that Csikszentmihalyi described but I had never known how to achieve it in all aspects of my life. I’d only felt it when I was making things and even then not consistently. I found though that listening to Jess talk about alignment she described a path to access that flow state almost on demand.

The way Jess talks about getting into flow is through alignment. Alignment is essentially getting yourself into a mood where you feel highly motivated and positive, or as she refers to it, as being in a high vibrational frequency.

But how do you get into alignment?

It’s deceptively easy and yet at the same time so challenging because it goes against everything our hustle loving society defines as the norm. Alignment is different for everyone but essentially what it boils down to is doing activities that make you feel really good and positive.

List making

For me that alignment comes in the form of going for a long walk, where possible in nature, especially the beach, first thing in the morning. It’s having a breakfast that is super healthy and that I feel good about eating or drinking. It’s listening to really upbeat music and putting together a list of what I want to achieve for the day. Sometimes it’s watching some YouTube videos of a topic I’m interested in, listening to a book or podcast or even watching an episode of an anime I love. Sometimes it’s taking a nap, eating chocolate and having a herbal tea. It’s taking a yoga class or making something for the sake of making. It’s getting out in the garden and doing something active.

Sometimes I only need to do one or two of these things and I am in alignment and ready to “work” be that writing, making, assignments or house work and I can enter that flow state and power through whatever it is I need to do. Usually the work won’t take me very long, a fraction of the time it takes me without alignment, and often the work itself becomes aligning for me and I can flow from task to task for the day. Sometimes though I fall out of that alignment or external circumstances pull me out. Rather than keep trying to force the work I find it better to stop and focus on getting back into alignment.

The biggest challenge I find in getting into alignment is that it’s fun or relaxing and sometimes my brain protests against that so strongly when it feels there’s “real work” to get done. It can be challenging too if you’re worried about what other people are thinking about your priorities. But when you can put all that negative chatter aside, be it your own or someone else’s, finding alignment and entering a flow state really is a far more rewarding, enjoyable and productive way to get your work done.