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Ep. 64 – Heather Ingram – Flow, Confidence and Cadence

Mich Bondesio chats to Heather Ingram, author of “Applied Flow: Stop Burnout. Be Awesome” about flow states, creating confidence, managing change and the challenges we face in doing this.

In this conversation, we talk about the connection between flow and cadence, and ways to create optimal states for self-leadership and focus. Heather also shares a wonderful framework she uses in her work helping people to combat challenges and build confidence, plus so much more.

Links & Resources for Heather Ingram

Resources mentioned in the Episode

Heather C Ingram, Author of Applied Flow, standing in front of a bookcase.

Creating Cadence Podcast Transcript – Episode 64

Published 17 July 2024

Mich Bondesio:

Hi, and welcome to creating cadence, a podcast for life and work in motion. I’m your host Mich Bondesio, a writer, speaker, coach, and solo entrepreneur. I’m also the author of The Cadence Effect.

I help high achievers stuck on the toxic treadmill of overwork to transform your approach to life work and business. So we can all activate more of our potential. Improve our wellbeing and performance and find joy in every part of our life. At a cadence that’s more suitable to us. Despite this fast-paced world we live in.

This is episode 64, the fourth of season 10 recorded in May, but published in June, 2024.

In today’s interview, I’m chatting with Heather C. Ingram. A consultant, coach and author of the book Applied Flow. Stop Burnout. Be Awesome.

This is such an interesting and cerebral conversation. And we cover so many topics, including flow states and building confidence. Self-leadership and managing change. As well as the challenges we face in being able to do so.

But before we get there, here’s a quick news update.

So my coaching programme finished last week, and I just wanted to say a very big thank you to my participants who may be listening.

It’s been such a delight to get to know you, to work with you all. And I’m so grateful to have met you. I can’t wait to see how your intentional productivity journeys continue in coming months.

The masterclasses connected to this programme will be available for public sale and consumption by the end of summer. I’ll share more news about those launch dates in my August, 2024 newsletter as the next season of the podcast only starts in September. So, if you want to take advantage of special discounts that are only available to newsletter subscribers, then sign up at

I also have something exciting to share. In the past, you may have heard me reference B Corp sustainability certification as a way to implement business for good. B Corp is an option that I talk about often in my work with clients. I mention it in my book, The Cadence Effect. And I’ve also referenced it quite a few times on this podcast in the past.

B Corp is a way for businesses to commit seriously to supporting their people and the planet. Not just profit. And it’s a small, but growing movement around the world.

So after attending a local B Corp Festival a few weeks ago, and getting to know the people behind the brand and meeting some really lovely B Corp business owners, who shared more about their journey, I have made the decision to start on the path of getting my own B-Corp certification for my business.

Now, this can be a lengthy and complex process. It definitely doesn’t happen overnight, but it feels like exactly the right thing for me to be doing, as part of me having a mission-led business, with the purpose-driven focus of the work that I do. So I’ll be sharing more about this journey as things progress in coming months.

But now let’s get onto the interview segment of this episode.

Heather Ingram is a consultant, creative coach, and the author of Applied Flow. Stop Burnout. Be Awesome.

She is a process and change consultant with 20 years of divergent experience in corporate worlds, doing everything from data analysis and strategy, marketing, leadership, and education, to events, operations, business development, reporting, consulting, change management and innovation. She has also spent several years working in the non-profit world.

Heather mostly helps high achievers and those who are first-generation to college and corporate worlds, to understand how flow works and to navigate invisible systems, with a focus on security and integrity. She also works with teams and leaders to define the rules and aspirational agreements of just cultural containers.

Heather is currently working on a new book about game theory, tentatively expected to be out by December, 2024. And she also writes on Substack under the handle generous confidence. And all of those links will be available for you in the show notes.

Now as you’ll hear, Heather is an incredibly smart, multi-passionate personality who seeks to find and create flow and joy in her life and work and helps others to do the same, despite all of the challenges that we face.

In this conversation, we talk about the connection between flow and cadence. And ways to create optimal states for self leadership and focus. Heather also shares a wonderful framework that she uses in her work, helping people to combat challenges and build confidence. And the conversation goes to some interesting places, too.

Please be aware that Heather also uses some terminology that might not be familiar to you. I will explain some of those terms as part of my review summary at the end of the episode. So don’t forget to stick around for that.

Now if you’re ready, let’s dive in.

So welcome to the show, Heather.

Heather Ingram:

[00:04:45] Hi, thanks for having me.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:04:46] You’re welcome. It’s nice to have you on. So a little bit of context. We don’t actually know each other, but you and your work came highly recommended by a friend in my network who will be on the show in the next season, but I won’t mention any names at this point, because I like to keep guests a surprise.

But when I started researching you and your work, I was really excited to see what you’d covered in your book, as there are a lot of similarities in how you’ve approached the topic of dealing with burnout and how I’ve approached it in my book, The Cadence Effect, even though we’ve looked at it through different lenses.

And your book came out in 2020, and I wish I’d known it existed before I wrote mine, because I would definitely have referenced your work in the chapter that I wrote on flow. But aside from being an author, I know that your background includes working in both private and corporate sectors. And before injury stopped play, you also had a career as a professional frisbee player, which I think is really cool, but let’s get to what you’re up to today.

Heather Ingram:

[00:05:38] Where are you on your career path and what’s your current life and work context? Well currently I’m based in Washington, DC, where I’m a consultant for a government agency focusing on process and change and design. I’m focusing also on data and I manage a team. And as you said, I’m a coach, author, creator, a lot of slashes. I’ve noticed a lot of the folks on your podcast are slashes.

So I would also say I’m just a generalist and I also focus on high achievers with a particular focus on first generation to college in the corporate world, because those folks need sort of scaffolding and structure in order to kind of find their flow.

And no problem that I love that you’re, I’m reading your book right now. I love that you come from a slightly different, but there’s so much confluence. I’m super excited for this conversation, based on that.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:06:30] Oh, fantastic. Well, thanks for explaining a bit about what you’re doing now. It really sounds super interesting.

So how does your context impact on your wellbeing and productivity? What are the challenges that you’re experiencing in your particular situation?

Heather Ingram:

[00:06:43] You know, one of the challenges I see is, especially I think we’re about the same age, we’re both Gen Xers, I believe. And it’s so interesting being at both this point in our lives around, you know, 40 something where we’ve shifted you know, we’ve gotten to certain peaks, right, with this extrinsic motivation. But I also think that there’s a confluence with where we are at this point of history and time.

So I think, you know, you’re probably seeing certain similarities. There’s increased stress, increased tension, tightening that I see both with Boomers and sort of that role that we’ve played for Boomers for most of our career, as well as managing younger folks and also seeing how they’re dealing with stressors.

And you know, media and everyone is feeling stressed and insecure and not really necessarily creating that spaciousness. And so I think that’s probably you know, one of the biggest challenges I see for myself, creating that space so that I can ebb and flow and also managing both my team and my clients, managing their security to help them have the confidence to ebb and flow.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:07:55] I agree with you on so many levels. I mean, we very much are living in a VUCA world and there’s a lot of complexity and uncertainty far more than in the past. And so that does add an extra level of stress and friction to everything that we’re doing.

So in your personal situation, how do you support yourself in terms of wellbeing and productivity?

What do you do to overcome those challenges? Do you have daily or weekly habits and routines that you engage in?

Heather Ingram:

[00:08:23] Currently well, I think everyone has different buckets for what they need in terms of security. I like a good framework. So I think of it in five F’s for my personal security to help me combat challenges and have confidence.

So friends, facts, faith, and funds and fitness. And so for fitness as I’ve gotten older, you know, I’ve, I’ve I loved your podcasts on knees because I’ve tore my ACL three times. Twice on the right, once on the left, everyone asks me that. So I need to exercise basically physical therapy for the rest of my life.

I still do yoga as well. As that physical wellbeing, I need to make sure I sleep, hydrate, nourish, breathe. I mean, the basics, the foundations need to be solid. And then mentally for both mental and also emotional, spiritual, right? Facts and faith. I meditate every morning if I can do it in the evening, so much the better.

I don’t always manage to do that, but I also, for part of my mindfulness I journal if I, you know, every day, if I can do it I do it both in handwriting and also using a notion journal. Okay. And that helps me reflect. And so I get some longitudinal, psychological distance perspective, which really helps.

And then I invest and cultivate in communities. So that’s friends you know, really think of my social interactions as investments and belonging. And then obviously I’m very intentional about my financial wellbeing and sort of, you know, like to watch the uptick and those various sort of containers.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:09:54] I love your five F’s for creating security. Those are fantastic. Thank you so much. And it’s so interesting that you’ve mentioned financial security at the end, because the episode that I’m launching this season with is all about wealth creation and how it connects with cadence and ties in with our values and beliefs.

So very interesting. And so important. And you know, you mentioned journaling in particular there and how you engage in both a paper based productivity exercise as well as a digital exercise with your journaling. You’ve found two different ways to do that. And as you said they create a spaciousness for you and it’s an example of the different ways that you can create space, which is an important element creating cadence.

Heather Ingram:

[00:10:37] Yeah, I love the friction of a pen on paper and they’re different. Sometimes you need, sometimes you can exist, the digital world is so expansive and, you know, as a creator, as a artist, right. Sometimes though, I just have to get off of the digital and just get back to pen and paper and just, there’s there’s a rhythm that your pen scratches on, I know that’s a little off topic, but there’s, there’s literally a cadence and a rhythm to just drawing and art.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:11:06] Absolutely. And I wouldn’t say it’s off topic at all because one of my episodes, I did interview somebody who focuses a lot on stationery and on journaling and the benefits that it has. And there is a whole link between our hands and our brain and how we synthesise information and it’s, it’s a textural thing, as well. So as you say the sound and the feel of the pen on the paper all play a role in the experience.

Heather Ingram:

[00:11:29] And I can feel the hum, the hum between my system one, system two. The flow is at that hum. It’s that hum and that friction, the cadence between those. Okay. But, I’ll hold off.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:11:39] We’ll, we’ll, we’ll get to that point in a minute. All right. So we’ve spoken a bit about what it is you do personally. This podcast is all about how we as individuals create cadence in our life and work, and that can mean different things for different people. So personally, what does the concept mean for you?

How does it resonate?

Heather Ingram:

[00:11:57] I’m gonna try to focus because there’s a lot of overlap between flow and I think you see you see me moving my hand like a wave.

Flow really is like a wave and I think of it as like cadence. Is that rhythm and you can feel it. That’s one of the things I sort of coach and move people into is that embodied physical sense of getting into peak performance and, you know, knowing that you can find flow in so many different areas.

I found it in sports. I find it in working, you know, coding, you get into the zone, right? You know, that cyclicality, but that’s also throughout, you know, physics and metaphysics, you see the, the cycles, the ebbs and flows of life. It’s the gravity that’s coming off of, of planets. And you know, the way it sort of shows up in, my life is you know, really thinking about this is not mine. This is going to be your future guest’s.

She’s turned me onto that concept of moving from force to flow. When I was researching my book she was talking about that and hopefully she’s trademarked it because it’s such a great concept is that shift.

Being here based in Washington, DC, one of the things, you know, there’s something about getting to that peak and then, and then having the confidence to, to stay at that peak, as opposed to what a lot of people do is they get to the peak, but they keep doing, they keep forcing it and they, you know, start getting diminishing returns.

And it’s interesting being in the political centre of the U. S. This is a little off topic. But people, you know, sort of bear down and like they’re squeezing on that that hose of, you know, flow and they’re starting to cut it off. So they, they’re still forcing controlling conserving, if you will.

And a lot of them, a lot of folks don’t know what is enough and flow is,a balance, not between scarcity or abundance, but it’s having the confidence to do both to balance. And there’s just so much insecurity. And so that connection between control and I see it for myself, especially as a manager of folks, is that in order to be a great manager, I need to let go.

I need to let other people control, have autonomy. And so many times I want to lean in and control as a overachiever, as a high performer. I want to lean in and control and I have to back off, especially when someone’s a lot younger and I need to let them fail and practice.

And, you can kind of feel it. I’m sort of making that gesture with my hands is you need to kind of sense into that. And, I think it’s an embodied sort of thing.

It’s like telling somebody how to surf. I’ve read a lot of books to do my research for the book, as you know. And the reason why people will tell you everything this way or that way, it’s balanced.

Like if you’re on one side of the curve, you need to back up. And if you’re on the other, you need to go forward. Or if you’re even coming from totally different directions, you know, what works for you won’t work for someone else.

And so that’s what I play with, a lot, in both, you know, my job as a manager and also me coaching folks is, you need to develop and cultivate your own confidence and you need to learn how to surf how you’re going to surf.

And also your wave is going to be your opportunities. What you’re seeing is going to be different than my wave, you know? And so giving people not necessarily the recipe, although recipes are helpful also they have to have that internal compass to figure out how to surf, you know, the abundance of the ocean of, of everything or anything.

I’m getting excited.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:15:38] I can see and hear and I love that you are because it’s an important topic. And I think that we don’t realise how powerful this is when we embrace things like cadence and creating flow until we experience the outcomes and results of doing it. And one of the things that I wanted to touch on there is you were speaking about how we were all becoming far too controlled.

We’re trying to control everything because there’s so much uncertainty. And I suppose there’s a lack of psychological safety and that’s one of the important elements you said is required for us to be able to flow. And in my book, I talk about elasticity a lot and being able to expand and contract to fit the demands of the situation that we’re in.

But very often we can’t do that when we’re being too rigid in how we’re approaching the world and life. And so there’s, you know, very strong connections between flow and cadence and how you speak about it there. And it is a very personal experience. We can, we can have the guidance, but we have to experience it ourselves.

We have to experiment and practice and then find the right combination that works in our own way.

Heather Ingram:

[00:16:38] And to your point about flexibility you know, when you, you have leaders who are also very scared, a lot of times flexibility reads differently. It can seem provocative or scary to people who maybe aren’t even aware of their emotional state. And so, you know, offering a flexible or you know, creative solution to somebody who is expecting conformity can create challenges, too.

And so having that emotional awareness of what maybe is going on. And, you know, the expectation is the leader knows everything, but our leaders are so scared and they don’t have necessarily these tools. So managing upwards and having that capacious flexibility, if they haven’t created those containers.

And I know you talk a lot about culture as well. Or if they don’t have those foundational elements, right. So, it’s so important, now more than ever, I think.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:17:33] You’re right, I agree. And that’s one of the things that I cover a lot in my coaching work as well, is around developing self-leadership skills, because we are past the stage of only relying on other people to guide us. We have to develop responsibility for ourselves in the way that we look at the world and approach the world and build that strength of character.

So important based on what you’ve said as well. So, In its simplest terms, you describe flow as a generative and creative state that yields energy and also as a feeling of being our most human, powerful and awesome selves, which I absolutely love. But you’ve also written that after leaving corporate America, you were burnt out by a culture that was designed to block flow and control individuals, power and agency.

And this is so important as part of the cultural element that I spoke about, but why is flow so important in the modern workplace?

Heather Ingram:

[00:18:24] So I should sort of pause because I thinkI think it’s important for a healthy workplace. I think there’s a lot of people who are functioning without flow. And I think that’s a shame. I think a lot of people are burning out and they’re disengaged. And I think that’s leading to chronic conditions.

So you know, in the past people were kind of treated like cogs. So that is a possibility and a reality that some people are living. I mean, I’ve consulted to people and I can tell like, some people are just really skeptical and sometimes even almost angry.

Like is, is flow a luxury? Is that just a function of your privilege?

Like people have really come at me. And so there are other ways of being and, and actually when I, you know, survey people, on my list, gardeners are slow, steady. They don’t even want flow. They just want to do the job and that’s valid. I think flow is so wonderful for the people who can flow to be creative and innovative because there’s just so many natural returns on that.

And I, but if somebody is in a place where say they’ve just had a baby and they just want to do the job and get out, that’s something you also should respect. And so what I would argue is. is, is, is understanding that people, it shocked me. People just, people feel differently. That’s not so surprising, but they want to feel differently.

but I think it’s important to bring emotional literacy and trust probably even more so than flow, but then, you know, if you have trust, 100%, you get performance.

And part of that is you have to be able to say how you really feel. And so that you can find that natural alignment and centre. As a leader, it’s really hard when people are all over the place. Or at least emotionally intuitive leader. So I’ve really seen results when I’ve managed to get alignment. You know, people can go to their own corners and that’s operating like cogs, which, and that’s to me the bare minimum.

But if you have trust, you have both, diverging and converging. And that’s when the team starts to take off and really starts to build and grow. And you can feel that momentum sort of taking off. And so that’s where I think the joy is and the opportunity is.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:20:35] Oh, that’s fantastic. And I really appreciate you making those distinctions because it is important to realise that we’re all different in the way that we approach work. And there are different things that light us up and fill us up. And we have different expectations about what we want from work and what we want to put into work.

And I suppose creating environments where we can accommodate all of those different needs, so we can still be our best in the way that we work, even though it’s very different. And for some, that involves more flow and for others, less. So, for people who are new to creating flow states who are interested in exploring this more, how would you recommend they get started?

Heather Ingram:

[00:21:08] I would say maybe see if you naturally catch yourself in the flow. I think that’s maybe the first place. Or going back to your childhood and maybe think through where did you just a simple way to think of flow. I have my nine principles of flow that how to create the container.

But, one way to think of it as selfless, timeless, rich, and ego less. And it’s a really absorptive state. So look for those places where you’re kind of engaged in active play and you just like lose all sense of time. That’s to me, the key indication. Like when I’m coding, it’s like, okay, I come back to my body when I have to go to the bathroom, you know?

And that makes work not feel like work and you could you could do that all day and that’s I think what we want. So I think try to catch yourself in that and then… we don’t have time to kind of go through navigating that flow compass, but I’ll try to go through it really quickly if you don’t mind Think of it as flow is that connection between your container and energy you know, like a garden hose.

So if you find yourself, you know, a lot of times if we have low energy, we’ll sort of squeeze that garden hose and like get it out. But or sometimes we find ourselves bored. And you know, a need to sort of amp up the energy or maybe, you know, we tend to just contract our container for various ways.

We like force ourselves, we maybe do a sprint. We, you know, take some coffee or sometimes you want to like open up and contract. So you can start thinking of, you know, flow is when the container that’s your body or your life or time matches. It has the right amount of back and forth, like shaking a jar of, I was about to say fireflies, but that sounds horrible, but it’s kind of like, you know, there’s a nice sort of balance between the container and your energy and everything starts thrumming and you can physically feel into that.

You can do physiological things as well as metaphysical things. So that’s kind of like next level. is if you catch yourself in doing it, you can start thinking about creating the container and the context. Maybe do a Pomodoro. Right.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:23:12] That’s right. Yeah. Well, there’s different ways that you can kind of set up your environment to help you get into that flow state if you’re serious about it. And I do talk about that in my book and you talk about lots of steps in your book. So we’ll obviously be sharing the link to that as well so that people can dive deeper, but thank you very much for that suggestion.

I think documenting those moments of play from your childhood and in your adulthood, the places where you feel joy, the things that light you up, but also stretch you a little bit, because flow is also supposed to take you to that edge and create a little bit of challenge, I think is, that’s important.

Heather Ingram:

[00:23:48] That’s a really good point, because I think sometimes you think you can just keep doing the same thing. And yeah, you need to up the challenge and that’s a great point.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:23:58] Cool. So going back to cadence a bit and building momentum. Obviously you’ve spoken a lot about how you do it in your personal life and a little bit about how it applies in work, but let’s talk a little bit more about how it applies in the business activities that you’re involved in. How does what you do help your customers to build momentum in their businesses and lives?

Heather Ingram:

[00:24:17] You know, what’s really funny is so much of what I do, especially when it comes to change, my first instinct is to, there’s so much that we do that blocks momentum and noticing that. And sometimes you, ironically, you have to slow down to remove some of those barriers. Or sometimes, what’s really some things I notice is there’s, there’s tensions, so removing obstacles and also noticing I call it the process, you know, cadence is this up and down you know, rhythm, but I noticed that sometimes people intentionally, it’s like going up the down escalator or vice versa.

And then so, so much of what I do when launching a change initiative is noticing where those things happen.

And I have to laugh because it happens so much and how we do it in our own lives and how we get stuck you know, what, why people resist change. And a lot of times it has to do with those emotional things that we talk about those blockers like fear or, you know, guilt or those extrinsic things that often push us in one direction, but there’s other people coming at it from another.

So yeah, I think right now we’re wired to see the stuckness. And so there’s that. But I do think that when you do find those people who are allies, it’s exciting. And, again, I think it’s going slow to go fast, because we’re building up the tolerance to handle you know, grow our capacity for joy. And joy can be threatening, even when you’re expecting it and longing for it and wanting it.

And it’s I don’t ski because I’m not like a thrill seeker because I can find joy in so many places. But I imagine it’s like being a really good ski skier. You have to build up that capacity. And again, when you really start like getting it in the gears with the clients, it’s a buildup.

You remove the obstacles, because that friction makes people feel safe. Which is why, and I guess I’m, I’m. used to that now. And then also part of the reason is because we’re so scared to really make change happen because it’s like skiing downhill. If you’re scared of it, I, you might probably be very good at skiing downhill and think that’s crazy.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:26:30] Well, I have a little story to share about that actually. But before I get there, you’ve made great points around how we tend to complicate things instead of simplify them and we create more obstacles instead of creating ease. And I’d love that you’ve raised the point of slowing down and creating space.

Cause that’s very much what we do. What cadence relates to as well. And with regards to the skiing years ago, I did a ski season in Austria, learned to ski and snowboard for the first time. And we were in a ski resort, which was very, very high up. And the first time I took the lift up, I realised I had a fear of heights and I crapped myself and thought , how am I going to work a whole season here when I’m terrified I’m going to fall off the mountain.

And I had to force myself to learn to love skiing, and by the end of the season it was awesome. But really at the beginning, I was absolutely terrified. So there are ways to overcome.

Heather Ingram:

[00:27:23] Yes, that sounds incredible.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:27:26] All right. So Heather, as we’re coming to the end, do you have any words of advice or key takeaways that you want to share with listeners based on your experience of life and work to date?

Heather Ingram:

[00:27:36] Well, one of the things I’m really sort of trying to live into right now is the idea of giving what I want recognising that as I’ve grown and, you know, reflect on everything giving people the attention, appreciation, acceptance you know, all of those things those things that I long for.

I’m already at a place that was just came as a complete shock to me that I have so much more credibility than I realised, but I probably did all along and for much longer than I actually sort of owned that power. And I’m finding so much joy and giving. Giving, you know, as a leader, right? Giving all those things as a Gen X leader, you and I know what it was like, you know, the Boomers didn’t do this touchy feely crap, right?

And we always suspected it would work. And now that, you know, I’m leaning into that in giving that trust, that confidence, that coaching. Giving everything that developmental sort of focus, giving what I want is healing. And amazing. So that’s probably my takeaway.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:28:44] That’s beautiful. I love that you’ve raised that point. And yeah, I mean, I think I find the same being altruistic and sharing your knowledge and experience and supporting others and trying to uplift them in that way is incredibly freeing and it brings a lot more joy than people may realise. So the benefit is reciprocated, I think.

So that’s lovely. Thank you so much for sharing that. So please tell everyone where they can find you online.

Heather Ingram:

[00:29:08] Well, I’m working on a new book and so I would be delighted if people either found me on LinkedIn. I think you’ll have the links and alsoright now I’m actually just publishing a lot of things, I, I didn’t have the courage or confidence to write in my first book. But now that I’ve tested it I don’t know if it’ll fit in the second book, but I’ll be launching ideas.

The second book is really more about that container and that context and game theory. But it’s also about trust and generosity. So a lot of the themes we talked about, plus some of the physiology, the mindfulness and the, you know, there’s a fair bit of woo woo. And touchy feely crap, just be forewarned if that’s not your jam.

But that’ll be on Substack Heather C. Ingram, or I think Generous Confidence. That’s where they can find me.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:29:51] Fantastic. And we’ll share the links to all of that. Well, Heather, good luck for the writing of your next book. I can’t wait to see it when it comes out. And thank you so much for being on the show. I’ve enjoyed this conversation.

Heather Ingram:

[00:30:01] Thank you. I’ve enjoyed it as well.

Mich Bondesio:

[00:30:03] So a big thanks to Heather for that conversation. There were so many interesting points raised by her, too many for me to actually pick three specifics, like I usually do. So I want to talk in general terms about the key theme of this episode, which essentially boils down to developing the skills to successfully manage change and build our self-leadership skills.

Learning how to manage ourselves and to manage upwards is an essential and critical skill. Because as Heather pointed out, in many circumstances, our leaders are failing us.

Like us, they are human and they don’t necessarily have the skills to lead us in these incredibly uncertain and overwhelming circumstances that we find ourselves in. So it’s up to each of us to develop our self-leadership skills. So that we can take charge of our own lives instead of leaving our outcomes in the hands of others.

We spoke about how developing our confidence, supporting our wellbeing, and building our self awareness skills can help us make change in a more expensive, frictionless way. And how stress and restricted thinking can force us to either push in the wrong direction. Or get stuck, preventing us from being in flow and preventing us from being able to make change easily.

The antidote to the friction is often about creating spaciousness or slowing down to help us become more effective. As well as realising when our thinking or actions are not in alignment with what we really need.

Heather also spoke about learning how to make decisions using our whole brain, which we’re more able to do when we’re in flow. That said, she also raised the point, the flow isn’t always the right thing for everyone all the time. It does depend on context and container.

Now, this idea of being in flow can be seen in different ways. Technically flow states, our focus states of attention for deep work and productivity, which were first identified and named by the late psychologist and professor, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

But there’s also this notion of flow in general. Where we create movement and momentum in our lives, through our thoughts and actions that help us function in a way that is more aligned across the different parts of our lives.

In this context of flow is something that applies in every part of our life. And creating a more unified brain states is an important part of being in flow in this way. As well as for developing our self-leadership skills and for building our resilience to thrive in a world rife with uncertainty.

We have a rational mind and an emotional mind, and they don’t always work together in a way that helps us. And at one point, Heather refers to how being in flow creates an energetic connection, a rhythm, a thrumming between these two parts of our minds.

She refers to the terms systems one and two. These terms systems one and two were used by Daniel Kahneman in his book, Thinking Fast & Slow. And similar terms of reference for this differentiation in mind states, that might make more sense or be more relatable, are the terms the automatic brain and the reflective brain, which was referenced by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein and their book Nudge.

Now in chapters four and five of Heather’s book Applied Flow, she describes how getting these two states, the automatic brain and the reflective brain to connect and align is beneficial for helping us to find our truth, reduce friction and create more meaning in what we do.

So I’ll read a few excerpts from these chapters to help you understand more about this connection of brain states that she speaks of. And to see how getting them to work together is beneficial for us. And if this is of interest, then I highly recommend you dive deeper into her book, which I found to be a very enjoyable read.

So quoting from chapters four and five:

“Listening to my elephant. Moral psychologist and researcher, Jonathan Haidt, in The Happiness Hypothesis, wrote about my favourite metaphor for our divided mind. He describes our unconscious automatic, intuitive brain as the elephant. And our conscious, reflective brain as the rider.

Our elephant brain does not speak in words. It communicates through emotions and feelings. If you’ve ever trained a dog, it may help to think of that part of the brain similarly. We train our inner animal with encouragement, associating what we want – a long-term, good behaviour – with a good feeling.

We want to train our elephant to be in sync with our rider. To do that, it helps if our unconscious elephant, feels like doing what our conscious rider wants. To expedite that process, we have to get cozy with our feelings.

This process begins with us as individuals. We can go through life, fighting our elephant, or we can figure out how to ride her. When our conscious and unconscious are in sync, we can use our full body wisdom, and trust that our unconscious elephant isn’t going to sabotage our long-term goals.”

“This is consistent with what I know from corporate change management consulting”, says Heather. She continues,

“Change is simple. People change when they feel like it. I use the word feel intentionally. Change that aligns our thoughts with our needs and desires creates a physical spark and the impulse to act. That is the kind of change that sticks. Understanding, aligning and working with our elephant brain can help us find our truth.”

And that’s where I end quoting.

So there’s a lot of power in those sentences that I’ve just read.

As Heather says, change is simple when we feel like it. And when things we do are in alignment with the things that we feel.

During our conversation, heather also used a lovely analogy to explain the connection between flow and cadence. She said flow is the wave and cadence is the rhythm of that wave. So flow is about movement, but it’s natural for the pace of that movement to change based on a host of factors.

And we’re not built to maintain an intensity of pace over a lengthy period. We’re built to benefit from a rhythm that ebbs and flows.

Think about the right space, pace and rhythm that works for you at different times. And how you can help connect your emotions with your rational mind to support your ability to create a better flow in your life and work.

A few ways to get started, perhaps? Well, think about building those wellbeing foundations. Heather mentioned her wonderful Five F framework. And things like meditation, journaling, leaving a bit of white space in your calendar for reflection or creative thinking. Maybe doing more of the activities that enable you to be in flow, whatever flow looks like for you.

Getting to know ourselves sits at the heart of being able to lead ourselves, build our confidence, and build our resilience. And when we do this, we can create better cadence and better flow in our days.

So I challenge you. Dare to lead yourself. Pick your wave and find your rhythm.


Thanks for listening. A few things before you go.

You can find out more about my book at And helpful reviews are always welcome to help the book get found by those who need it.

If you liked the show, please share the love by rating it, where you listen to it. (Apple, Spotify, Google Play, or Amazon Music.)

And you can also support the making of Creating Cadence on Patreon or Buy Me A Coffee.

And if you have a product that aligns with the ethos of creating cadence and you want to sponsor the show, then please drop us a line at

Until next time, keep moving forwards with courage, curiosity, and cadence. Bye for now.

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