07/10/2008 11:21 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Discipline versus Flow in Your Small Business

It's Wednesday morning, and a stack of to-do's in your business await you. You need to get on your marketing, you need to deal with the bookkeeping, and those pesky clients keep needing things from you.

And you don't feel like doing any of it. Instead, you want to just read a book.

So, what do you do? Is it better to apply discipline and push through, or do you 'go with the flow' and go settle in with that book and a hot cuppa?

For clarity's sake, I think we need to dig a little deeper into what we're actually talking about.

What is 'discipline'?

Well, the Oxford American Dictionary says, among other things, that discipline comes from the Latin root meaning "instruction, knowledge." And, our modern meaning states "an activity or experience that provides mental or physical training."

Think of the word 'disciple.' Broadly speaking, it's an attempt to follow what's true, through learning.

Okay, so what is 'Flow'?

One definition of flow is to 'circulate continuously within a particular system.' When we say "go with the flow" we general mean: "accept the situation as is, rather than trying to alter or control it."

The state of flow is often flung about as an ideal place to be in business. That you should feel an continuous feeling of ease and movement from one thing to the next.

That's nothing to complain about. However, it does require a certain level of discernment.

Professional Wrestling: Novel and Tea versus the To-Do Army.

You've still got that bunch of stuff to do, and you still want to just flop out on the couch. And after reading a bunch a word origins from the Latin you're no closer to choosing. The couch feels shnuggly, but a cop-out, and the tasks feel oppressive.

Sounds like it's time for a little discipline.

The Sufi Teaching on Discipline

The spiritual path is hard work. It just is. But, not in the way you might think.

The hard work comes in being vigilant about the ego. The ego is a crafty sucker, always trying to get control, impersonating God, and a variety of other slippery things.

Discipline is required, but not blind, unthinking discipline. It's the discipline related to learning, to being a disciple. And this learning is about being able to discern between the voice of the ego and the voice of your heart.

Because, you see, there are no hard-and-fast-rules. The ego could be telling you to push through your to-do's, and your heart could be guiding to relax with a novel and tea. Or vice-versa.

The outer circumstances will give you absolutely zero clues on which way to go. It's unfortunate, but true.

And, the inner landscape can be a little tricky. As a client asked in the Opening the Moneyflow course: "Whenever I ask in my heart, I hear something like: 'that's a lesson for you.' Is that really a message of the Divine?"

After I asked I few more questions, nope, it sure wasn't. So how do you discern? And, you don't have all day to do this- the minutes are ticking by alarmingly fast, and you still haven't decided: tea or tasks?

Well, quick! Let's take a look.

Keys to Discerning Heart from Ego

• First, take the time to ask.

The fact that you're even wondering whether you should work or flop on the couch is a great first indicator of becoming conscious. There are many times when one might make that decision without any consciousness whatsoever.

So, take some time to really ask about the decision. Only, I wouldn't ask: "Which should I do." I would take a few breaths, put both alternatives aside, and rest into my heart.

Then, I might ask something like this:"What is my heart's relationship to each of these options?"

• Second, when you ask, then listen.

How many times, when you ask for guidance, do you take the time to really listen for a response?

I was talking with someone recently, and just as they were saying something, a lawnmower started up, and a loud truck went past. And I'm all like: "What? Huh?" She had to repeat herself.

The Divine is patient, and knows you might have trouble hearing that 'still, quiet voice' in your heart. Take time. Ask two or three times, taking the time in your heart to listen.

So what if it takes five or ten minutes to get clarity? It's better than doing something for an hour or more, and feeling rotten about it.

• Thirdly... And how do you listen?

The Divine is not a Magic Eight Ball, that will give you a "Yes" "No" or "Ask again later" response. If you can bring a sincere willingness to be surprised, you may get something different.

For instance, when I ask the question "What's my heart's relationship to reading a novel and drinking tea, and what's my heart's relationship to getting work done?" This is what I get right now:

"My heart is longing for a certain spaciousness that the novel and tea are reaching for, but what would work even better, is to take 15 minutes and go out into the backyard, and breathe in the air. Listen to the birds. And on my way out, set the tea water to boiling.

Then, my heart is longing is to show up and do the work in front of me. I can take my cup of tea, and pick the three most alive tasks, and get to work on them this morning."

You see- the answer was neither a novel nor piling through tasks. Instead, my heart guided me to access spaciousness, and to connect with what's alive in the work.

The real discipline came in being willing to stop the train, taking the time to ask and listen in my heart. And my heart put me into a completely different system of circulation, beyond the choices my ego was contemplating.

This does take time, effort, and discipline to achieve. But, it's far less exhausting, and far more satisfying than the alternative: letting the whims of the ego run the show.

And, you just may find yourself being a lot more effective in your business.

So- how do you handle discipline versus flow in your business?