Evolution of The Lifeflow Cycle

I decided to take a short break from book writing to make a post about “The Lifeflow Cycle” to record the day it was born because before today it didn’t exist in the googleverse.

Wait… should I be saying “The Lifeflow Cycle™? 😂

Before I dive into the events from the last couple days I should provide a backdrop for where the idea came from. Enter the world of…

The Lean Startup

I think I read this book close to when it was released. That Zen circle (ensō 円相) very elegantly captures the essence of the Lean Startup methodology both in terms of it being circular and with the fact that mastering the essence of the Enso would require thousands of practice strokes.

Here’s the diagram for the Lean Startup methodology.

A lot of the ideas I got from the book stuck, but I was always thinking about them through the lens of business so things never really crossed over into applying these principles to my way of life.

Project Management, Agile, and Scrum Sprints

I, for an ever so brief period of time, became a project manager. It was for an extremely small team that grew as I helped build a business. I didn’t need to read “everything” about project management as I grew into the position but, me being me, I read everything I could read about project management. I got two specific ideas from this period of time.

Agile is basically the process of taking something from an idea to a product or service. A problem that regularly occurs is a person will spend months or years working on something only to discover that nobody wants it. I might be mixing methodologies, but the basic idea is to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP, the simplest version of what you’re trying to create), getting that into the hands of as many people as you can, getting feedback from those people, and then releasing an updated version of the software, product or service.

Agile also includes the idea of “pivoting”. You pivot when you realize that you’ve been going in the wrong direction or chasing something that isn’t viable. There are many examples of pivoting from the world of tech. An excellent example of a pivot from the world of tech is Twitter starting out as a service for downloading podcasts. When applied to life you are your customer!

Agile, as the name implies, is about being flexible and being able to quickly adapt.

Scrum is a way for teams of people to collaboratively get shit done. They basically start with a to-do list and try to knock out everything on the list in a fixed period of time. There’s a daily check-in and then there’s a more robust check-in at the end of the sprint where they assess what got done and make plans for the next cycle.

When you lay these two ideas out in a series it looks something like this…

Even after digesting all of that stuff things didn’t really creep into my way of life…

Antifragile Planning

I’m always on the lookout for new ideas, systems, or principles for being able to “life” better. That means reading personal development books, articles online, watching videos… you know how it goes. While clicking around the web looking for new ideas I ran into “Antifragile Planning: Optimizing for Optionality (Without Chasing Shiny Objects)” by Taylor Pearson (I had recently finished his book “The End of Jobs”). He has a very detailed system laid out. I actually gave it a test run for 90 days. The biggest idea I got from his system was this:

Before seeing this I had been assessing my goals and planning on a yearly basis. Things clicked immediately. I had been doing it all wrong for 10 years! Why had no one told me! The parallels between this image, Lean, Agile, and Scrum all clicked.

  • I should be continuously and systematically refining my goals and processes, and pivoting when necessary like with agile/lean methodology
  • I should have a smaller “sprints” like with Scrum
  • I needed to dedicate a specific amount of time for reflecting, planning, and acting like with “Antifragile Planning”

Work the System

As I’m writing this I’m realizing I have to give honorable mention to the book “Work the System”. I could actually give a shoutout to “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It”.

I’m not going to talk about turning the Plan, Act, Reflect cycle into a system right now, but it’s worth mentioning. The image of The Lifeflow Cycle doesn’t really touch on the fact that you want to systematize it. At the end of the day, everyone is doing The Lifeflow Cycle in a systematic way. The problem is that it’s oftentimes not a system of their own design or it’s a system that’s serving them poorly. Actually… odds are it’s both. Getting detailed about the system is another post for another day.

I will say this though… process > goals. If you threw out goals and only focused on refining your process (systems) you’d get where you wanted to go. I think I pulled that idea from Work the System.

Plan, Act, Reflect

First version of “The Lifeflow Cycle”

While writing my book and messing with Canva I came up with this. I didn’t have a name for it yet. It actually has all of the elements that a person needs to come up with a system of their own. You need to make a plan, you need to act on that plan, and then you need to reflect on your actions and adjust your goals and then… make a new plan. Simple!

When I went to share the diagram on Instagram… I got stuck. I wanted to break down the diagram briefly in a post and… it was hard for me to articulate. I realized that reflection was actually two parts. One part was learning and the second part was making adjustments to your goals. “Plan” was good, but I realized “Act” was pretty boring and didn’t really provide any useful information. Back to the drawing board!

Flowism 101

Version 2
Version 2.1

I never posted version 1. I immediately got to work on version 2 and posted that instead. It felt way better. I separated the “Learn” out of “Reflect”. I changed “Act” to “Experiment” and added a little “Fail” underneath to stress the importance of failure for learning. This felt way better! I was pretty happy with it.

Then I got on the phone with my wife and started explaining it to her. As I was explaining it I realized that it was still missing ideas. I wanted the idea of adjusting to be expressed in the diagram so I added that under “Reflect”. I felt like adaptation was important as well so I squeezed that in there as well.

I never posted the version 2.1 of this photo. I went to sleep knowing there was still some work left to do.

The Lifeflow Cycle

When I woke up the next day… today! and started working on my book again I ran into another problem. I wanted to give the diagram a name but I hadn’t named it yet. Here were the ideas I started with…

  • The Flowist Life Cycle
  • The Flowist Growth Cycle
  • The Flowism Cycle
  • The Flowism Life Cycle
From “Hacking the Flow Cycle” on DIYGenius.com

I eventually landed on “The Flow Cycle”, but I discovered that it was already being used by the Flow Research Collective community. To them, the Flow Cycle are the requirements for achieving the flow state broken into four stages. Now… I’m all about the flow state. It’s a big part of the philosophy of Flowism, but the diagram I was trying to make was bigger than just the flow state. The diagram I was am trying to make is about the Flowist way of life.

I decided to go with “The Lifeflow Cycle” because lifeflow is the word I use to mean the “workflow for life”. Companies have the creation of workflows down to a science when it comes to extracting profit. Unfortunately that same level of scientific rigor doesn’t exist in the “world of (wo)man”. We’re all bumbling through life trying to figure out how to achieve the mythical “work-life balance”. I’m going off on a tangent, but the problem with “work-life balance” is that it makes the mistake of defining work as something that’s outside of life. There is no such thing as “work-life balance” and trying to achieve it is a fool’s errand. There is only “life balance” and “The Lifeflow Cycle” charts the path for achieving it.

OK… back on track… after I came up with the name I was still planning on using the Flowism 101 diagram (version 2) until I scribbled something into my journal.

That little Dream, Flow, Story circle in the upper-left was some straight up mindless doodling. When I finished and took it in I realized I could actually use that to represent the cycle. I made one minor adjustment and threw “Learn” into the Flow column.

I think I’m getting close to a “final” version. It’s close enough to share here. I’ll keep working on it. 🙂

Story – Where you’ve been. You gotta look at that to understand not just where you’re going but, more importantly, why you’re going there.

Dream – This is where you’re going. After I started thinking about it I realized a plan is a dream too. It only becomes real in the moments you’re executing.

Flow – This is where you always find yourself unless you’re thinking about the past or dreaming about the future. 🙂

I spent way more time on this than I originally planned. Now it’s time to get back to working on the book!

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