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How to tap into the source of inspiration

By: BridgeTower Media Newswires//August 3, 2022

How to tap into the source of inspiration

By: BridgeTower Media Newswires//August 3, 2022

By Karen Natzel 

BridgeTower Media Newswires 

I have had clients tell me, “Karen, it’s work. It’s not supposed to be fun.”  

I have heard employees lament, “Work is a 4-letter word.”  

And we have all heard the refrain “TGIF!”  

When I speak of fun in the context of work, I am not talking about happy hours or team-building activities (although, for the record, I have nothing against either of those). I am speaking to our relationship to our work — how it nourishes or drains us and how it inspires or deflates us. Joy can be found when our work brings us a deep sense of satisfaction — from learning, achieving, contributing, or connecting. 

For those of us who have followed organizing consultant Marie Kondo’s guidance on tidying up, “discovering what sparks joy for you” may already resonate with you. If so, you can think of it as Marie Kondo-ing your work life! 

When I sat down to write this column, I asked myself, “What are my clients facing?” I scribbled “Overwhelmed. Overextended. Overcommitted. Overstimulated. Overloaded.” No doubt, generally over it! What contributes to this and, more importantly, how can we regain some sense of balance, equanimity, or even enthusiasm? 

A good place to begin is examination of what gives us energy and what depletes us. I know I am energized by free thinking, the exploration of new places or ideas, opportunities for creative expression and a challenge. My energy dips when something feels overanalyzed, too detail-oriented or bogged down in process. 

I am also energized when I leverage my strengths and tap into my values — as living in alignment with them creates a sense of ease. Knowing that I value learning and am energized by discovery, I make sure to build in ways I experience that in my work. I have said “yes” to projects that stretched my comfort zone, I have researched ideas in my domain of organizational development to continue sharpening my knowledge, and I have attended workshops to build my skills. Knowing that I get stoked when a client flourishes in his/her leadership capacity tells me that cultivating the potential in others is a source of joy for me. 

Equally important is recognizing what kind of work or environment that is not conducive to helping you shine. You might find there are seemingly contradictory forces at play. For example, I can simultaneously value autonomy and collaboration, making it important to understand the ingredients that are my unique recipe for joy. Knowing our specific motivators is a start in creating a work world that satisfies those needs. 

When I’m asked about training on time management, I like to dig deeper to discover the problems we are trying to solve. Often, we unearth challenges around managing the plethora of priorities we have (or our organization has) committed to; we struggle to focus — whether that’s a result of working from home or being swept up by the gravitational pull of electronic notifications; we struggle to delegate — whether that’s our need for control or lack of resources to whom to share the work; and we struggle to maintain healthy boundaries — whether that’s our desire to feel valued for our contribution, an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, or an unhealthy organizational cultural expectation. 

Finding flow 

In listening to a recent TED talk on “how to stop languishing and start finding flow,” I was riveted by Adam Grant’s spot-on explanation of a condition so many are experiencing. Grant tells us that the best prediction of well-being is not optimism (darn it, that’s my go-to!), but flow. In the zone. Total absorption in an activity. It’s where we build momentum. It is as if we are transported to another place. 

Generation of peak flow requires our active participation. Grant maps out three criteria for manifesting that experience: 

  • Mastery: One of the strongest factors in daily motivation is a sense of progress – even small wins build momentum. 
  • Mindfulness: Focusing our full attention on a single task. 
  • Mattering: Knowing that you make a difference. 

In his talk, Grant notes that people check their email 74 times a day and switch tasks every 10 minutes! He coins the term “time confetti” — taking what could be meaningful moments of our lives and shredding them into useless, tiny pieces. He calls this the “enemy of energy and excellence.” 

Finding purpose in your work can also contribute to “mattering.” It’s knowing that what you do matters; that you are contributing to something greater than yourself. 

Finding flow requires creating space for it. That might mean securing blocks of time on your calendar that are sacred, uninterrupted, quality and focused. That requires clarity of what’s important, what feeds you and the courage and discipline to maintain that boundary. 

When our GPS waypoints are dialed in to what brings us joy, to what is aligned with our strengths and values, then our true north will guide us in creating flow — and peak performance. 


What brings you joy? You don’t have to confine your definition to your work; find what ignites your spirit, no matter how simple or small. 

Where/when do you experience flow? (Clue: you lose track of time, you feel energized, creative, engaged) 

What traits/strengths do you possess that add value? 

What nourishes you? What drains you? 

How can you grow in your craft? 

Block time on your calendar to give space and attention to a project, a task, a person. Try changing venues (I’m finishing this column at a local coffee shop!) 

Identify your motivators and purpose. See how and where you show up makes a difference. 

Have a bias for action. Don’t make it hard; make it happen. Reclaim your agency. 

Name the barriers that block your joy. Find the courage to create boundaries that break through the languishing and generate flow. 

If you can be deliberate about creating the conditions and criteria necessary in your work to thrive, you might just find the joy in your work. 


Karen Natzel is a business therapist who helps leaders create healthy, vibrant and high-performing organizations. Contact her at 503-806-4361 or [email protected]. 

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