Flow is defined as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” It is commonly used to describe situations where an individual is performing above their normal level. Sometimes it’s referred to as “being in the zone.” So let’s see how scientists aspire to achieve flow:
In order to achieve flow, Csikszentmihalyi lays out the following three conditions:
- goals are clear
- feedback is immediate
- a balance between opportunity and capacity
Doing some in-depth reading about the state of Flow, It appears that Flow is scientifically proven, and also related to spirituality. Personally I seem to be “hitting the flow” when I am reading and sometimes when I am writing.
It will be interesting experience to teach you how to extend your attention span and the achieve a state of flow, as it is a prerogative for superior productive behavior. It took me a lot of time to “get it”, but once I got it, I lightly chuckled, as it turns out, we knew this one all along, we just forgot it a long time ago…
One great phrase in this article is:
Doing without doing.
It is related to the fact that when you are a child, and you are exploring the world, it ultimately doesn’t count as work, because it is pleasurable experience. The same goes for flow. Flow is a pleasurable experience, and is the main reason why some people write 5+ books a year, while others can’t write a single one in their lifetime.
Flow is inevitably connected to the productivity world, and as such is a field that needs more studying. Bottom line is that I will be working on extracting the essence of these activities in our future articles, so you don’t have to.
My belief says to me that only the unburdened mind can enter the state of flow. If you have too much on your mind, doing a GTD Style “brain-dump” can feel like such relief, as it relieves mental pressure from your mind onto paper, giving you some false sense of control. But ultimately it does help you feel better about yourself, even if it’s not rational feeling, as nothing really changed before writing things down, and after. (You still have the same amount of tasks in front of you).
Pulling the parallel of Flow between sports and knowledge work
Unburdened mind has significantly higher chances of achieving the flow, that results in extreme productivity gains. This could actually fit into the Alpha Efficiency terminology as “Alpha State”. Now speaking of Alphas…
MMA champion and Karate master Lyoto Machida uses meditation techniques before fights to attain mushin, a concept that, by his description, is in all respects equal to flow.
The last time I consciously practiced the blend of external environment and my mind was when I was playing tennis. My aspiration was to become “ONE” with the turf that I am playing on, relaxing my breathing and absorbing the ball and its reactions as those as if they were the part of my being; I’d try to make the ball a part of my mind.
But also learning some martial arts made me realize how these two can converge. Just in this case you would try to feel the opponent, as a part of yourself, and then you would be in a better position to predict their moves and act accordingly. Bruce Lee would call that:
Mind like water.
When it comes down to knowledge work, the same philosophy can apply. My mind aspires to make you (my reader) and your reading experience, a part of my mental state. This way my mind can shape your mental experience, and my aim is to do so through words, in such a way that reading my words inspires you to a higher mental state, so that you can get more done.
Link between body and mind
This is why I am so hung up on working out and eating clean (even though I am not following it up religiously, as I want to). Because there is an obvious link between mind, external reality and actions that deliver results. Our belief and paradigm are the ultimate determinant of what is happening in our lives, and how we grow.
Feeling in tune with your body through fitness is empowering certain areas of your brain that are connected with higher mental states. Being a “mental warrior” of 21st century has good body as a foundation of productivity. You need to take care of your own body, so it can take care of you.
How to achieve flow?
- Empty your mind, so it can focus
- Go to environment where you feel comfortable with your work
- Make your work challenging and fun
- Build habits in your life that will help you trigger the flow
Back at you
Have you achieved the so called state of flow? What does it mean to you? Share with us your answers on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.