Have you ever been so utterly absorbed in something that your attachment to the ‘thing’ you’re absorbed in, has a depth of feeling that you can’t explain? That your very spirit is gripped and is a willing captive of that mission?

Photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash

We might overuse this word. To say you were absorbed in a book; an art gallery experience or a sporting event. A piece of music. But then again, it’s a very powerful adjective that there may not be another word suitable for this state of utter immersion, engagement and a word I used today that isn’t really the right one to use — sunken into.

Work with me on this sunken into thought, please.

So sunken into something that the outcome you were aspiring/planning for felt so crucial to you and other people who had entrusted themselves with you, wasn’t the heavy weight of responsibility but one of those moments where you knew it was beyond important and you should rise to the occasion.

What this phrase was made for:

This is why I do what I do with all of my heart and soul.

Being sunken into something so that you were with the depth of significance and not afraid of being pulled into the abyss by it.

Sunken into it so as to be rooted, grounded, unmovable from the position you’d taken to hold a firm, safe and revealing space. It was more than absorbed. Absorbed means you’re focused and immersed sure, but unmovable and anchored? That’s how I felt today.

I haven’t been this sunken-into for years.

I recall my last sunken-into sensation. I was part of a very talent-rich organisation. One that had for some years, stuttered to make use of the next generation of leaders but was emerging into the realisation that helping people develop into more senior roles (many of which were of the manager/specialist/leader mould) was advantageous for a range of reasons.

I hadn’t built — from scratch — a talent development programme like this before but now was my chance. I was so sunken into it, I became one with it. I was immersed, absorbed, committed, determined. I took everything to heart about it. I lived it. I absolutely would not have this be anything other than a roaring success. For others not necessarily for me.

With some very smart help and leadership — and some challenging moments it has to be said — we delivered the best thing I’d ever done in work up to that point. Amazing personal impacts on 36 people. Who have gone onto some fabulous things in their working lives. We were award-nominated but didn’t win.

So that was 11 years ago. And only this week have I had the same depth, sunken, immersed, absorbed and utterly determined feeling. Not that I’ve not taken things seriously in anything to do with my work. It’s too important to me to do anything other than giving it my all.

But today I was sunken into something.

I wanted magic.

As I write this, I’m listening to the disco-house tune that is I Want Magic by Izo FitzRoy. I needed to feel something musical to soothe my soul.

In this song, there’s a block of lyrics I really think summed up my 11 years ago sunken into sensation and today’s version.

A little spark, a little electricity
Starts to burn within the cold depths of me
Tread with caution my dear, don’t let that flame fizzle out
And I’m certain of this person that I become when I’m on high
Conquer mountains, tackle monsters, walk through any fire
Better tiptoe on that line, watch that step, I can’t fall down

Yeah yeah
I want magic, I want red
Show me the danger of the night, don’t make me beg
I want magic, I want gold
I wanna dance all night and feel like I’m ten years old
I want magic, I want black
Show me your wizardry, come and give me what I lack
I want magic, I want it all
Won’t you colour me in before I fall

And if this very demon should take the depths of me
Will I ever see the sunrise again?
Or will I taste the freedom of how it used to be?
And remember the joy I felt within?
I want magic, I want red
Show me the danger of the night, don’t make me beg
I want magic, I want gold
I wanna dance all night and feel like I’m ten years old

Absorbed in what I was doing I wanted magic.

Did I get it? Not entirely as I’d envisaged it being. But there’s a more emotional meaning to this.

Feeling spent. Every ounce of you into the thing. As the footballers would say “everything has been left on the pitch”. Nothing left for me to give.

As Izo sings
Conquer mountains, tackle monsters, walk through any fire
Better tiptoe on that line, watch that step, I can’t fall down

And then it’s over. And then you reflect. And then you really do feel the emotions.

OK, I’ve not done something like a humanitarian rescue mission or something heroic like our key workers have done time and again during the pandemic.

But still, something you were so sunken into.

And then you get a message. What’s App chat is alive with the possibilities. The future suddenly seems like a positive, achievable thing. And that you wanted magic, is ok. Because we’ve got the whiff of at least a little spell.

Then you react. You can’t hold back the feeling in the depth of your throat and the knot in your stomach, and yes, you shed a little tear.

Because you were so sunken into it, so absorbed and whilst your magic didn’t come out in the way you’d planned it, so you doubted your abilities and your sense of realism and that you’d tiptoe too close to that edge and you’d fallen.

And you wrestle with those lives you had in your hands at that moment. OK, not their very being but things that were important to them and their mission in their work. And you were a fleeting architect of 3 hours of immersive pondering on what makes a difference in leading others.

What else could you have done? How else could you have designed it? What else could you have said?

Making a difference is something a lot of us say. And I’m sure we mean it.

But are we so absorbed in it, we’re sunken into it? So much so that we feel it beyond a sense of a piece of applied craft, cleverness and commitment.

It’s this kind of work that is hard to explain to those toiling day-in-day-out in the hope that it makes that difference but not feeling those moments. That sunken into sensation is lacking even after years of that toil.

And yes, it may not be a sustainable state to find yourself in too often because it’s mentally and physically taxing. Being sunken into something is magnificent but also challenging.

It tests your faith in yourself and what you’re capable of. It is a slightly odd sensation to want something to be so impactful, that you've invested so heavily you can barely compute its impact on every element of your existence.

So I guess what’s the learning here? Why is this post spilling out of my consciousness?

  • It defines much of what you ponder in why you’re drawn to the work you do.

If you want magic, really want it, you might just have to feel that sense of an absorbed, sunken into way that only occasionally happens and that you have to be a certain way with it.

It’s also far from euphoria.

You want to be the last person standing. The giver of all you’ve got. And the reflection on who you really are in this game of life. Being so sunken into something, so absorbed, that it became something that shapes you, takes you and teaches you.

Being absorbed comes at a price, but being absorbed is also an incredible moment in life.

So yes, I know now, that when I’m sunken into something, absorbed by, that I want magic.

CEO PTHR |2x TEDx speaker | Author: Transformational HR + The Energized Workplace | HR Most Influential Thinker 2017-2019 | Soulboy + Northampton Town fan