Finding your Flow - Get More of it in Your Daily Life
What if you could instantly “flip a switch” and be in a state-of-mind where everything seems to come together, you adapt flawlessly and are completely enjoying every moment - regardless of the situation? Wouldn’t it be worth training your brain 5-10 minutes a day to feel that way on-demand?
What I love about being in Flow:
The enjoyment of being completely present when running, lifting weights, playing a sport, writing, hiking, exercising, or doing most physical activities, are prime opportunities for flow. For me running, dancing, cycling, yoga, playing field hockey and tennis are all activities I can easy get into flow and it feels amazing! What a great intrinsic motivation to get outside or go to a gym and exercise.
The aftereffects of flow bring its own benefits. The brain is less reactive to stress, starts producing new insights and creative solutions to overcome past challenges. Let’s say you want to solve a problem or create something new, one of the best things you can do is go for a run or do a semi-challenging activity to, literally, get those creative juices flowing. The more often you engage in flow the greater chances you’ll achieve and even surpass whatever goal you set for yourself.
Beware of the thinking mind’s attempt to creep in and block flow. You can’t think yourself into flow; overthinking, judging and doubting are all barriers to reaching flow.
What does it take?
On a recent podcast, “Think Fit, Be Fit” I discuss the key ingredients to reaching, a flow state with hostess Jenn Schwartz from Impact Fitness in Alexandria, VA. Specifically, it requires:
a moderately challenging activity,
mastering a set of skills,
directing attention - at will - towards realistic goals,
ignoring external distractions while on-task,
suspending internal judgement and doubts
Ask yourself this: What are fun activities you can do more often that matches your skill level or is a little more challenging to help you stretch and grow?
Take for example Johnny, who just learned how to snowboard in the winter of 2017. He took an hour of snowboarding lessons and tumbled slowly down the bunny slope as he learned new moves. After he mastered the basics - skidded turns, carving and stopping, he moved onto the bigger trails. Johnny got off the chair lift and rode down the next-level trail with more ease, but started at a slow pace to get his skills grooved into his muscle memory. Here is Johnny’s flow opportunity – on the next run, he picked up speed and set his intention on his free riding skills. As he picked up speed, he tapped into his embedded muscle memory and completely focused on freeriding down the trail. He told me it was an exhilarating and accomplished feeling!
For more background on this extraordinary psychological phenomenon, I recommend you read the book Flow – The Psychology of Optimum Experience by a brilliant psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He pioneered today’s positive psychology movement and has been researching this phenomenon for decades.
He put it's so nicely when we says,
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
– Mihaly Csikszentmihaly
What you can do:
Nowadays, with the multitude of distractions in our lives, it can take many hours of deliberate practice to direct our energy and be in flow for long periods of time. It’s not just enough to understand what the flow state is, we also must practice it often.
Here are 3 ways you can start to expand your attention and awareness in your daily activities.
Choose a daily activity (e.g., brushing your teeth, washing dishes, drinking coffee, etc.) and pay full attention to what you are doing - try this every day for one week.
Deliberately set a mini-goal and go after it!
Choose one person and practice active listening – suspend judgments or preparing a response while they are talking.
Although often overlooked, learning how to quiet the mind and direct full attention towards an activity is one of the most important skills you can have and need to get to this feel-good, optimal state. I highly recommend you try out one of these exercises and become more aware of how the mind and body responds.
Whether you are an athlete, coach, administrator, musician, writer, coder, artist, teacher, student, or diplomat everyone can arrive at a place where everything seems to come together, you adapt flawlessly and are completely enjoying every moment - regardless of the situation.
Need some one-on-one coaching? Contact me anytime for a free 20-minute consultation.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 2008. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. HarperCollins.