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How the Flywheel Replaced My Actualization Escalator

Learn how the Flywheel became essential to the actualization experience for myself and my clients.

I was upset when I first realized that actualization doesn't just happen after "doing enough" or "having enough"—what I now refer to as the Actualization Escalator—and in practice, I would have to work on it constantly.

I loved the Actualization Escalator. I used it for so much of my life and my work. Its focus on delayed gratification provided the rationalization I often needed to push through difficult life experiences and command colleagues and clients through challenging projects. 

Why the Flywheel Framework Matters

So, are we just debating a kind of jargon here? No — you make different decisions when considering your actualization experience as a flywheel instead of an escalator. 

For me, shifting to the flywheel help me change in the following ways: 

  1. Flywheels represent continuous, repeatable processes where experiences of dissonance, anxiety, and stress feed my growth instead of inhibiting me. I've invested more in sharpening my self-awareness through journaling and life-logging, more in learning widely—in psychology and personality development and expanding my perspective of the driving forces of the world over time—and more in activating myself to facilitate the ambitious change I want to make in the world through advancing my productivity practice.
  2. Friction kills flywheels. I've made investments that systematically target my most prominent points of friction: building personal and home automation that keeps me focused on what's essential while staying flexible, creating custom and tailored systems—templates, frameworks, study tools, etc—that get me into the flow of deep cognitive and emotional work, developing cognitive products—models, frameworks, presentations, guides, etc—that help me share and get others onboard to my thinking, and building community with others who face similar challenges and desire to fulfill themselves. 

Using Your Flywheel as a Personal Growth Tool

Three factors dictate how much momentum your flywheel contains: 

  1. How fast you spin it
  2. How much friction there is
  3. How it's composed – how big it is and how much it weighs

The more actualized people will have strategies for all three.

Let's start with how fast you spin it. The speed of your flywheel increases when you add force to areas with the most significant effect. In the escalator model, most forces are applied to your basic needs first, followed by your psychological needs, and there's little force or energy left over for your actualization. In a flywheel model, you simultaneously apply force to all three of these kinds of needs.

Since you're applying forces to every part of your flywheel, ensure that none oppose each other. For instance, a lack of alignment between your self-awareness (what you know of yourself) and focus (what intentions you set) can inspire dissonance and disappointment in your experience and slow your flywheel when you give up hope in the areas you want to invest in. Misalignment between your focus and your action is another area where your flywheel can slow. Alignment is critical.

You can reduce friction by identifying which domains of your life or aspects of your growth you feel like you are losing momentum and then improving them. Stacking habits, critical thinking, and addressing issues that cause you to dissociate or lose energy increase the speed of your flywheel. The other vital area to consider when thinking about friction is how the various domains of your life are attended to and organized. Compartmentalization, denial, and procrastination all create friction.

Increasing speed and decreasing friction will give you more growth-oriented, authentic, and fulfilling experiences. More growth, authenticity, and fulfillment make your wheel "heavier"—one that produces more energy when spun. Said another way, your flywheel produces more growth as the count of your integral experiences increases. Adding "density" to these experiences by injecting more meaning, intention, and dimension will help you achieve additional momentum and growth.

How to Flywheel-ize Your Escalator

In an educational post, we've explained the flywheel and why it's so powerful to support personal growth and actualization. Here are a few tips for how to make the most of it as your personal growth tool.

  1. Identify the core flywheel measures of success you track
  2. Identify your actualization forces by flywheel stage
  3. Identify points of friction in your lived experiences and points of compartmentalization that affect your actualization. Then, re-align those points of friction to serve your actualization better. 

To help you build your flywheel and turn it into a personal growth tool, I've completed the homework for Integral Productivity and provided a guide for you to do the same. 

Here's a link to the homework templates:

Assignment 1: Measuring the Flyhweel

Our first task is understanding the current state of your flywheel.

At each stage depicted below, I have different priorities and commitments that I've made to myself. 

Actualization Flywheel

Here's how I think about each phase: 

Sense: Sensing is about becoming more attuned to your evolving relationship with yourself and the world by developing and using your physical senses and intuition to broaden and deepen your awareness of potential influences on your being. 

Frame: Framing is about deeply understanding your model of the world, including how it has developed over time, and continuing to accommodate new potential by deliberately processing the signals you pick up from sensing. 

Focus: Focusing brings purpose and intentionality to your lived experience by connecting with your authentic vision, mission, and action for a better world so that it guides and drives you no matter the circumstance. 

Stride: Striding is about spending your time, energy, and resources wisely and efficiently to create a sustainable pace for yourself and achieve the impact you want to make by deliberately practicing your intended behavior and developing and evolving your supporting products and systems. 

Find: Finding is about transcending your previous sense of self into a new level of meaning-making by making paradigm shifts in your focus and connecting with the world in novel ways.

To determine the health of my flywheel, I asked myself two questions: 

  1. What investments have I made or am I making at each flywheel phase? 
  2. How am I measuring the success or failure of those investments?

Part 1: Mapping your actualization strategy

In this step, identify the core activity, effort, or system you have invested in upholding your Sense, Frame, Focus, Stride, and Find commitments. Fill out each activity according to its flywheel stage.

You may find that one flywheel isn't enough to encompass all you do or experience. That's perfectly okay — you probably play multiple roles in life. This exercise aims to distill the core parts of your actualization, so focus on the more important elements at each stage.

Here's some insight into just a few parts of my personal actualization strategy at the moment: 

Sense: I use Adaptive Actualization principles to get my flywheel spinning. I also use journaling and book summary apps, record my plans versus actual outcomes, and keep new psychology and critical theory books handy to stay aware of my state of mind and stay on top of new thinking and ways of seeing the world.

Frame: To capture and shape my model of the world, I use the Zettlekasten method in Obsidian to take and make notes, reflect on my journal entries and media highlights, build personal timelines and histories, map my belief systems, and explore new ideas through real-time dialog with trusted friends, blogging, and talking with my therapist.

Focus: I regularly engage in what I call "meta work," where I create personal statements to define the purpose and principles, visions and mission, goals and objectives, and resulting actions for my work projects and personal endeavors. I also regularly review this content.

Stride: When I work on complicated tasks, I use timers, note templates, and session-oriented work patterns, and for my digital interactions, I have created a custom solution that reminds me of my principles and intended actions. 

Find: To support my transcendental work, I have been practicing Buddhist teachings, meditation, and the use of plant medicine, and I continuously expand my knowledge and practice of vertical development for my personal growth and leadership abilities.

Flywheel Phase Adaptive Actualization Methodology My Approach
Sense Get to know yourself and the world better Persistent reflection, journaling, and learning
Frame Make it easy to understand and adapt your thinking Structured note-taking and dialogue
Focus Collective actualization is your actualization; bring purpose and intentionality to life "Meta work" and personal reviews that push me to elevate my intention
Stride Set yourself up for sustainable, outsized impact Working in sessions and using custom templates and automation
Find Engage multiple identities; make new kinds of meaning from lived experience Meditation, journeying, and vertical development


Part 2: Measuring success

In this step, identify the most important metric for each activity. Note conversion rates between each stage here as well — this measures the friction in your flywheel.

Then, record how much you added or lost in that bucket and your total number. 

Sense: My topline metrics here are split across three significant factors.

First, I'm focused on the frequency and variation in how often I check in with myself through journal entries and emotional states. The more often I check-in, the better I'm able to handle stress because I've been able to "name it to tame it."

Second, I assess my workflow and results by looking at my task and goal managers. Workflow captures my kinetic momentum: how many things I started anew, how much work I have active versus stalled versus on hold, and how much I have finished at the time expected. The less I have in progress and stalled, and the more I have deliberately put on hold and completed, the more effective I am in making decisions about my time. This also means that I'm more likely to see a higher correlation between the planned versus actual impact I want from the work I set out to do. To that end, I review how closely I've attained the results I wanted to achieve, both by qualitative principles and by more quantifiable value.  

Third, I look at how many highlights with notes I've made compared to resources that I've read or listened to. The more highlights I have, the more insights and connections I've found from what I've consumed (as opposed to just getting through content). 

Frame: My flywheel moves my actualization through the "Frame" stage regarding how many new notes I've written, existing notes I edited in a period, and how many connections I have between notes. Similar to sensing, this is mostly a sign of how attentive I've been to capturing what's rattled around, with the bonus of understanding how much my understanding has changed. A secondary metric is how many conversations I've had with different people about an idea or topic to test the framing. 

Focus: I check my overall portfolio of meta work at least quarterly. Depending on where I am with a project, I might even check it as often as daily. What really matters for me is the percentage of complicated or complex work with the meta work attached. I found that the more I have these aspects defined, the better I stay focused and engaged in the work. As someone with ADHD, this is essential to keeping my interest and attention captured.

Stride: My metrics for actualization in the "Stride" phase come in three flavors.

First, because I perform my more complicated and complex work in sessions, I look at how much of my day was deliberately scheduled activity time, especially during my workday. With ADHD, I find that I get consumed by decision paralysis easily when an open block of time is in front of me, so it always helps to have a work task or objective planned out for me before I get there. (With the help of a cloud-based scheduling app, I get to practice what I would call "Adaptive Hyperscheduling," which has been a life- and time-saver.)

Second, I look at how much of my routine work is covered by job aids or automation—the templates, tools, automation, and more mentioned earlier. The less I have to think of something, the easier it is to get in the flow of doing it, and the more likely I am to do it right the first time. 

Third, I sense how well I use my energy in more casual digital experiences by reflecting on my intentionality versus the monkey mind within my screen time. While I try to reduce my screen time, using my iPhone, iPad, etc., for non-work is still part of my way of life, so I'm resolved to ensure that the screen time is quality time.  

Find: To know how well I'm making new meaning, the most objective ways I have to assess this are level-based measures that help me understand the scope and complexity of issues I am engaging. These include the Leadership Maturity Framework by Susanne Cook-Greuter and Eliott Jaques's Time Span of Discretion. Meditation and journeying work are more subjective for me at the moment. I express them in terms of my integration work after a given session, often touching on every other phase of the flywheel. 

Assignment 2: Maximizing Authenticity and Potential

When you're just starting to focus on actualization, most of your energy will focus on your flywheel's Sense and Frame phases. Rightly so—it takes a lot of work to understand oneself and drivers to build enough momentum to get your flywheel spinning. But once it is, consider whether your resources could be better spent Focusing, Striding, or Finding.

That's because once your flywheel is spinning, momentum comes from activating yourself to decide what matters most and learn from doing it. 

In this assignment, examine the "forces"—activities, efforts, and systems—that currently move you through your flywheel, and consider whether they are designed to serve your normalization or your actualization. Then, list what changes you'd need to make to those forces in 2024 to help maximize your authenticity and potential.

I go through this exercise regularly. Here's how my forces have evolved across the different phases in the last few years.

Sensing Force In the past... Now...
Journaling Skip over experiencing my feelings to rationalize my experience Connecting my physiological and emotional state with my experience
Workflow reflection Completing work to exact specifications Increasing focus on aligning the context of work—why, when, how, where, and with whom—to my preferred and authentic experience 
Learning Finishing a first read of books Choosing more carefully what I read when and converting gems into practicable insights
Framing Force In the past... Now...
Belief mapping and reframing Cataloging beliefs to develop a "complete" map Exploring fewer beliefs more deeply
Shadow/parts work Controlling the shadow/parts Being in active dialog with the shadow/parts
Positive disintegration Spontaneous breakdowns as a result of unnamed stress Deliberate breakdowns and questioning/challenging of personal history and direction
Ideating Private, sharing ideas when they felt "mature enough" Sharing and starting dialogues about ideas earlier on, in smaller bites
Focusing Force In the past... Now...
Vision Setting Inconsistently defining and unstructured, "happy path" only, self-centered Structured around levels of experience, considering both utopian and dystopian futures, multi-scope, inclusive of perpetual impact 
Mission Orientation Extrapolating from host/dominant collective mission, i.e., employer, relationship Relying on self as the source of truth, me- and we-minded, and interdependently achieved
Action Planning Make detailed iterative plans Design high-level roadmaps or theories of change while leveraging principles and objectives progress to improvise tasks
Striding Force In the past... Now...
Deliberate practice Rely on willpower and memorization Use job aids like checklists, timers, and templates with contextual reminders
Automated systems Building custom solutions using programming languages like AppleScript or JavaScript Building systems with as limited code possible, including Zapier and Apple Shortcuts, and maximizing integrations managed by others
Enabling others Entirely hands-on, "pairing" Thought leadership, training, solutions 
Finding Force In the past... Now...
Professional maturation Holding positions of influence within organizations with perpetually increasing salary Increasing fulfillment from the work I do with adequate means
Transcendent direction Aspiring to join another plane of existence or being a "brain in a jar" Activating my potential and embodiment to create a transformational impact in my present world
Making deliberate exits or pivots away from unsupportive environments, behavior, etc  Diminishing value of self and admonishing experiences as lesser than self today Treating past experiences, affiliations, and relationships as an integral part of my present self

This is not close to an exhaustive list of changes I've made to reorient my focus on my actualization. Still, they are examples of some of the most significant changes I've made in my experience.

Assignment 3: Reducing Friction

There are many ways to reduce the friction in your flywheel. 

One is to smooth out common friction points, like checking in with yourself, getting meta work done, or scheduling your time to match your intention. It's not too difficult to identify these types of friction because you're dealing with metrics mostly isolated from each other. 

What's harder is looking at yourself systemically and examining how the overall structure and priorities of your experience might be contributing to drag and friction. So, in this assignment, we'll focus on one of the more complex sources of friction in yourself: your various life domains. Siloing or compartmentalizing your experience in each domain is one of the biggest contributors of friction in most flywheels, and for me, they are a legacy from my escalator days.

Break this down into four steps: 

  1. What are your points of friction? 
  2. What can be automated?
  3. What can be addressed through realigned, common goals? 
  4. What can be addressed by reorganizing your relationships or life domains? 

We'll go step by step here. 

Step 1: Identify friction

In which aspects of your life are you dragging? 

Regarding your connection to others, think about the feedback you get from the people who support you and the people you serve and support — where do they have difficulty engaging with you?

Looking inward, consider which metrics you struggle to move despite repeated efforts, activities that take longer or more effort than you want, and sources of common problems. 

Here's how I envision this for me (I'll fill in each column as we walk through each step): 

Source of friction Can we fix this with...
...automation? ...a new goal? ...reorganization?
Making time to do everything I need AND want to do      
Losing energy to read or study after heavy work      
Staying attuned to myself      
Making time to digital detox and touch grass      
Long gaps between connecting in real-time with family and friends      
Difficulty adhering to keto diet as a way to manage weight      
Getting to sustainable income while launching my business      
Difficulty sustaining liberation work      

Step 2: Create and automate systems

Consider the work or activities you want to do on your own or with the people important to you, but they're complex for humans to execute. In addition, look for the repetitive, mechanical tasks that fall on your plate. Can you free up your time for efforts and activities that are more valuable to you? In addition, consider which parts of your actualization currently rely purely on you to do but could be supplemented by automation. 

Here are the friction points that I've solved with automation: 

Source of friction Can we fix this with...
...automation? ...a new goal? ...reorganization?
Making time to do everything I need AND want to do Invest in an intelligent scheduling system so I can set habits in my calendar    
Losing energy to read or study after heavy work Schedule reading breaks between heavy work    
Staying attuned to myself Set up reminders and prompts to check in on emotional state    
Making time to digital detox and touch grass Block time for park time and walks     
Long gaps between connecting in real-time with family and friends No    
Difficulty adhering to keto diet as a way to manage weight No    
Getting to sustainable income while launching my business No    
Difficulty sustaining liberation work No    

Step 3: Reset goals to create flow

Friction often exists because two or more parts of our lives move in opposite directions. For example, our financial health is often predicated on saving money while our social health may require investment in transportation, food, and events to bring people together.

Some of your biggest friction points can be smoothed by resetting goals or introducing processes that reorient the parts of your life in the same direction. Here are our remaining points of friction: 

Source of friction Can we fix this with...
...automation? ...a new goal? ...reorganization?
Long gaps between connecting in real-time with family and friends No Establish shared agreements on when and how often how we want to engage each other   
Difficulty adhering to keto diet as a way to manage weight No Reorient goal to consider self-image, relationship with food, and clothing preferences   
Getting to sustainable income while launching my business No    
Difficulty sustaining liberation work No    

Step 4: Restructure your relationships and life domains

Every person's actualization experience consists of problems that cannot be solved by automation or goal realignment. In those cases, reorganization may be necessary. 

Some questions you can use to self-assess here are: 

  • Do you present a different "version" of yourself to people depending on the aspect of your life from which you first met them?
  • Do you have people in your life who you want to engage across multiple life domains?
  • Are your relationships over-compartmentalized?
  • If one of your relationships has a systemic blind spot, do you pause to take time to solve it?

Here are the final points of friction and how I solved them: 

Source of friction Can we fix this with...
...automation? ...a new goal? ...reorganization?
Getting to sustainable income while launching my business No No Engage professional network, friends, and family more openly in building and supporting my new business, conceptually and financially. 
Difficulty sustaining liberation work No No In 2020, I realized I didn't want to go it alone or try to do this work as an afterthought. I made it a first-class problem to solve and sought to find and build community among other folks also doing liberation work inside and outside the professional realm. 

So that's my flywheel. I may have been worried that I was overthinking it, but since I developed and started using this framework to assess the areas I could improve, I believe.

As you step through this exercise, screenshot your flywheel and share it on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #MyActualizationFlywheel. 

I'll be monitoring this hashtag until May 31 at noon Pacific Time. If you share your favorite flywheel, I'll give you a coupon for three free months of personal coaching.

Terms and conditions apply and are included below.

MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Official Rules

ELIGIBILITY: Open only to persons who are 18 years of age or older and U.S. residents. Employees and immediate family members of employees of Integral Productivity LLC are not eligible to enter or win a prize. All applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations apply. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE WILL NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING.

MyActualizationFlywheel Homework GIVEAWAY PERIOD: The MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway entry period begins at 12:00pm PDT on May 1, 2024 and ends at 12:00pm PDT on May 31, 2024 (the "MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway Period"). Winners will be selected from entries properly submitted and timely received during the MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway Period.

HOW TO ENTER: During the MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway Period, enter by using #MyActualizationFlywheel on Twitter and/or Instagram, with picture of flywheel.  Include description as desired in body of message. Multiple messages permitted for descriptions (an “Initial Entry”). Limit one (1) entry per person and per household during the MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway Period via online entry, regardless of whether a person has more than one address or more than one person uses the same address.

ALTERNATIVE MEANS OF ENTRY: In lieu of an online entry, you may enter the MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway by mailing a standard-size postcard with a drawing and description of your flywheel to: Integral Productivity MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway Entries, c/o Kraig Parkinson, Integral Productivity LLC, 100 Van Ness Ave, Ste 2312, San Francisco, CA 94102. Postcard entries must be postmarked during the MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway Period to be included in the winner selection process, and no more than one Flywheel homework may be submitted during the MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway Period.

WINNER SELECTION: One winner will be determined by Integral Productivity's Founder, based on originality and completeness on June 14, 2024. Winner will be selected from entries received during the MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway Period. The potential winner will be notified via email to the email address submitted with the potential winner’s entry within two (2) weeks after the selection]. The selection will be conducted by Integral Productivity LLC, the judge of the MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway, whose decisions on all matters relating to the MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway shall be final. In the event that a potential winner is disqualified for any reason, MyActualizationFlywheel may, in its sole discretion, award the applicable prize to an alternate winner selected by the Founder.

PRIZES/ODDS OF WINNING PRIZE: The winner will receive three (3) months of personal coaching. Approximate Retail Value (ARV) of each prize: $1,497 USD. Overall odds of winning depend on number of entries received during the MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway Period. No prize substitution or cash equivalent of prize. No prize transfer.

CONDITIONS: Integral Productivity LLC reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway (or portion thereof). MyActualizationFlywheel also reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify the entry of any individual. All federal, state and local taxes on prize and any expenses not specified herein are the sole responsibility of winner. Should a dispute arise regarding the identity of the claimant, Integral Productivity LLC reserves the sole right to determine the eligible party. BY ENTERING, ENTRANT WAIVES ALL RIGHTS TO BRING (AND COVENANTS NOT TO BRING) ANY CLAIM AGAINST INTEGRAL PRODUCTIVITY LLC OR ANY OTHERS ASSOCIATED WITH THIS MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway. ENTRANTS FURTHER AGREE TO RELEASE AND HOLD HARMLESS INTEGRAL PRODUCTIVITY LLC FROM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY ARISING FROM THEIR PARTICIPATION IN THE MYACTUALIZATIONFLYWHEEL HOMEWORK GIVEAWAY, OR INTEGRAL PRODUCTIVITY LLC’S USE OF ANY ENTRY INFORMATION. Any disputes that may arise hereunder shall be governed in all respects by the laws of the State of California without regard to the conflicts of laws principles of any jurisdiction. Venue with respect to any such disputes shall be had in the state and federal courts of the State of California.

THIRD PARTY WEBSITES: This MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Twitter or Instagram, or any of their affiliates. YOU RELEASE TWITTER and INSTAGRAM OF ALL LIABILITY RELATED TO THIS MYACTUALIZATIONFLYWHEEL HOMEWORK GIVEAWAY TO THE FULL EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any entrant who creates multiple accounts with Twitter or INSTAGRAM for the purposes of increasing the odds of winning this MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway will be disqualified. All entries via Twitter must comply with Twitter Rules and Instagram Rules. If you have any questions or comments about the MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway, please direct them directly to us, the Sponsor.

PUBLICITY AND RELEASE: As a condition of entry into the Giveaway, except where prohibited by law, each entrant and each winner by accepting a prize grants to Integral Productivity LLC all right, title and interest in, to publicize, broadcast, display and/or otherwise use, the Giveaway entrant’s name, city, state, and biographical material (collectively, “Licensed Rights”) in any media for advertising and publicity purposes, without additional review, compensation, or approval of the winner. As a further condition of entry into the Giveaway, each entrant, and each winner by accepting a prize, grants to Integral Productivity LLC a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual license to display, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, and otherwise use any of the answer text submitted with an entrant’s entry, in any media and for any purpose, without additional review, compensation, or approval by the entrant. Entries must not infringe upon the legal rights, including copyrights, trademarks, contract rights, or any other intellectual property rights of any other person or entity. If Winner does not respond to notification, or is not present when prize delivery is attempted, such prize will be forfeited. By participating, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules and the decisions of the judge, which are final and binding in all respects.

OFFICIAL RULES/WINNERS LIST: For notification of the winners, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Integral Productivity MyActualizationFlywheel Homework Giveaway Entries, c/o Kraig Parkinson, Integral Productivity LLC, 100 Van Ness Ave, Ste 2312, San Francisco, CA 94102.. Requests for winners' lists must be received within one month after the end of the Giveaway Period.

SPONSOR: Integral Productivity LLC, 100 Van Ness Ave, Ste 2312, San Francisco, CA 94102.

Kraig Parkinson

Kraig Parkinson

Kraig is the founder of Integral Productivity LLC. For 25 years, Kraig has been helping enterprises, teams, and individuals to align purpose with performance, enabling transformational changes that create more humane business impacts, environments, and experiences.


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