(Excerpt from the TRP Participant Workbook, Appendix T)
Reversing the Flow is about consciously choosing to change our perspective from “me” to “we,” from negativity to joy, from taking to giving, from selfishness to selflessness—all expressed in service to others. Most of us would agree that we spend the bulk of our time thinking about ourselves—our personal growth, our salary, our reputation, our looks, our health, our happiness and so on. This self-focus limits our growth and effectiveness. Reversing the Flow greatly benefits our professional, personal, psychological and spiritual lives. Indeed, its benefits have been recognized throughout the ages and expressed in many ways.
HOW TO DO IT
Reversing the Flow requires the use of our minds and will power—
To move from selfishness to selflessness, from focusing on oneself to focusing on service.
- To redirect our thoughts from personal agendas, desires and negative emotions to an out-flowing, service-oriented activity.
- To constantly ask oneself—especially during times of emotional distress and strong desires—“How can I serve?” and then act on the answer.
- To choose to express our inner “best” in service to others, even when we do not feel like it.
- To substitute positive, character-based behavior for negative, self-centered behavior.
- To consistently and persistently do all the above until it becomes a habitual and spontaneous expression of our inner goodness—our “natural” response.
The result of Reversing the Flow is like lifting a weight from our shoulders. When we shift attention from ourselves to others, it “lightens” and transforms us. If we are honest, we realize that most if not all our negative emotions result from too much self-focus; either not getting what we want or getting something we don’t want. It all has to do with us. But by reversing the flow outward, toward others, we discover the beauty of a transformed life. This is true no matter what we may be facing. Recall how Victor Frankl reversed the flow—even in a Nazi concentration camp, and made life more bearable by serving others.
Therefore, when we find ourselves in an emotional funk, or any difficult circumstance, we can simply choose to engage in an act of service; for example: help a neighbor with their lawn work; take food to a co-worker’s family during a time of sorrow; volunteer to clean the animal shelter at the local humane society; mentor a younger co-worker; arrive to work early to help finish a major project; or volunteer with hospice or another service organization.
Each of us has talents, gifts and strengths. When we use these in service to our workplaces, communities and families, we develop a clearer sense of life’s purpose and meaning. Moreover, as we serve without expectation of anything in return, we actually “want” to do a good job rather than “having” to do a good job. Doing a good job becomes a part of who we are rather than what we do. It becomes the outer expression of our inner character.
For example, we may view our work as an IT professional to be “aggravating,” “meaningless” or “trivial.” However, we can begin to see it as an important service to our co-workers, who need their computers to make their jobs easier and more productive. In this way, our enthusiasm and commitment to our work is strengthened.
An oft-cited example is that of the bagger lady at a grocery store who was bored with her job. But as she began to use her substantial people-skills to interact with and bring a little happiness to customers going through the line, she became much happier and more satisfied with her job. In other words, she used one of her strengths as a service to the customers and it transformed her work.
Other examples include the mother, who, after an unsettling discussion with her husband, resolved to cook her family the best Saturday lunch they had ever had. She reported that the moment she made this decision, her whole demeanor changed from irritation to joy.