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FLOW…And The Art of Non-Doing

When was the last time you were so deeply engrossed in something that everything around you faded away? We call this FLOW!



Flow, a term first recognized in the 1970s by psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi (pronounced Chick-Sent-Me-High-Ee) described as the following:

“Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”


If you’ve ever experienced a state of flow, concentrating deeply on the activity in you are emersed in, the results of the activity dissolves.


FLOW is described as an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best”, as discussed by peak-performance expert Steven Kotler.



Can you relate to having those moments of total absorption when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that everything else vanishes?


During a FLOW state, one’s motivation, productivity, innovation, and creativity is amplified. Learning, empathy, environmental awareness (your ability to perceive the natural world), and collaboration with others is intensified.



Did you know you can achieve a FLOW state individually or as a group collaborating on a task, project, or though sport.

 

Is FLOW state hard to achieve?


FLOW state cannot be forced, it just happens, and therefore you must be aware of what initially brings you into this state. Often our mind drifts to what we are interested in.


One of the best ways to naturally achieve flow is to make sure the thing you are trying to focus on is aligned with who you are or who you want to become.



How do you know when you’re In a FLOW state?


Csíkszentmihályi identified 10 factors of being in FLOW. The last 4 are described by Steven Kotler as “flow triggers” or pre-conditions that may lead to the experience of FLOW.

 



10 Factors of FLOW


  1. Action and Awareness Unite. The doer and the doing become one. Our actions feel automatic and require little to zero resources.

  2. Selflessness. Our inner critic becomes silenced and our sense of self-consciousness disappears.

  3. Timelessness. Past and future fade away, and we enter a deeper now, experiencing an altered perception of time.

  4. Effortlessness. Our sense of struggle vanishes. The experience becomes intrinsically-rewarding.

  5. Paradox of Control. We hold a powerful sense of control during this time. Again, the doer/doing becomes one. We become the captain of our own ship.

  6. Intrinsic Motivation. The experience is intrinsically motivating. We are doing it without any apparent external rewards vs extrinsic motivation (behavior driven by external rewards like money, fame, or grades). We do it because the activity itself is so capturing that it’s its own reward.

  7. Deep Concentration. Total focus on the right here, right now. Complete absorption in the present moment.

  8. Challenge/Skills Balance. The challenge of the task at hand slightly surpasses our skill set so we have to push ourselves outside our comfort zone. The idea is that you pay the most attention to the task at hand. When the challenge of the task slightly exceeds our skillset, you want to stretch, not snap, by being slightly out of your comfort zone. You’re constantly pushing forward.

  9. Clear Goals. To know what we’re doing now so attention can stay focused on the present moment. Have clear goals and precise plans.

  10. Immediate Feedback. This can be feedback from others or simply being aware that you’re making progress with the task. The point is, you must have live feedback so that you can make changes accordingly and improve your performance as you’re going.


It is also important to know that flow is not an all-or-nothing experience; rather it’s a spectrum experience this, as Fredrik Ullen reported “degree of flow is a continuous variable that can be used to characterize the experiential quality of an everyday activity.”

 

As mentioned by Kotler,

You can be in a state of micro-flow (a lighter version of the state ) — like what happens when you fall into a great conversation at work or you can experience a state of macro-flow, where all of those core characteristics show up so strongly that the experience itself takes on otherworldly, quasi-mystical qualities — for example, time slows to a crawl and you feel one with the universe.”

 

Athletes call Flow being in “the zone.” When athletes are in the zone, they engage in action without trying and move through time and space effortlessly.



Tap into the FLOW state


  • Work in 90-minute blocks of uninterrupted concentration. To put it shortly, do things you enjoy/are passionate about and they will drive you to flow.

  • Have confidence. When we’re unsure of ourselves, we can’t perform to our fullest abilities and achieve flow.

  • Practice distraction management. Turn your devices off and unplug. Maximize potential by setting uninterrupted concentration blocks.

  • Realize that sometimes you can’t fight attention: If you’ve ever experienced a state of flow, there’s one thing that disappears: the focus on results. This is great, as it allows you to focus on the task at hand.


No matter if you’re immersed in writing, a certain sport, a photoshoot, or a dance; when you’re in a flow state, you naturally forget the anxiety and pressure about results, the future, or the failings of the past. It’s just You and the task, together.


Hope you can get into the FlOW this summer!

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