FLOW: Your Path To Peak Performance
Flow: The state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter, the experience is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it. – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Most often in life, we are somewhat lost in our actions. Even when we have the concentration to take proper action, we tend to be distracted the next moment.
With burst of focus followed by distractions, our actions become inconsistent and naturally we lose the tension necessary to keep our mental muscles active.
To have a better understanding of this phenomenon, we need to look at consciousness. Human consciousness is made up of two main parts.
Lower consciousness, where our ancestor’s genetic and psychological make up resides and higher consciousness, where strategic self actualization and growth occurs.
We jump back and forth between higher and lower consciousness while making decisions. Our chimp lower consciousness and divine higher consciousness is in constant battle throughout our lives.
The lower consciousness is governed by primitive needs and wants. It moves fast but also falls often. The higher consciousness, however, understands the power of compounding effect and delayed gratification. It is slow but steady.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that promotes and rewards the lower consciousness. Video game industry, Technology industry and Marketing industry as a whole are designed to exploit our chimp mind.
They manipluate us into thinking that we need that product or this service. After all, what is unreachable is always preffered to what is within our reach. The ads that we see online and offline appeals to our subconscious mind.
Why exercise and eat well when there are drugs and experts to turn to?
Why start a business when there is a comfortable 9-to-5 job and a monthly salary waiting for you now?
Why take the difficult path when the easy path lies right around the corner? Why listen to the higher consciousness instead of the lower?
The answer is flow.
Flow is a state where we are so concentrated and focused on an activity that time slows down for us.
Our brains are firing chemicals called dopamine which gives us intense joy and pleasure. Our movements, actions, thoughts start to coordinate in a rhytimical way.
We no longer think about the past or the future, but are completely absorbed in the present moment.
The flow state is when the writer is writing for hours on ends and when the basketball player is shooting free-throws over and over again.
The repetitiveness of the task that would normally drive the average human insane is giving the person in flow a sense of improvement.
Flow is the optimal experince that leads to happiness and creativity. In this article, I’ll teach you everything that you need to do to make the flow lifestyle a habit as an entrepreneur and a creative thinker.
In a nutshell, there are four requirements to flow.
1 – Clear Goals
2 – Immediate Feedback
3 – Focused Attention
4 – Perfect balance of difficulty
1- Clear Goals
Humans can only focus on one thing at a time. If you want to be in flow, you need to focus on a clear goal.
You need to begin every venture with an end in mind. If your goal is 1 video on YouTube and 3 articles per week, then your mental muscles will focus on creating that outcome.
Don’t tell yourself “I’ll become rich” instead start telling yourself how you’ll actually accomplish that goal, the exact steps you’ll take.
The rest is easy. As I’ve explained in my productivity article, trust the process. Do the next important thing and then the next. You’ll get there eventually as long as you do the work.
2- Immediate Feedback
When we play a note on the piano, we hear the note right away. Now we can easily assess whether it is the right or wrong note.
After we shoot the ball, we can see right away whether it is basket or not.
But when it is time to write, what specific rules govern the principle of immediate feedback.
Writing does not have clear cut activities that results in “success” and “failure” as there are in playing piano and basketball.
Here is my 2 bulletpoint checklist method to make sure that we get the immediate feedback necessary to get into flow.
- Reference your writing style with a blogger or a writer that you look up to. When we compare ourselves with people 10-20 years ahead of us, our brains instictively imitate these people as accurately as possible. Your assessment will be the master’s writing. Before you write your article, read your favourite author’s book or article. This will prime your brain into writing in a similar manner.
Here is a writing tip from me: When writing, your professionalism comes from simplicity. Don’t try to write big and complex words but instead use simple words. Make it elegant but effective.
- To make sure that we get immediate gratification, we need to exploit our brain’s reward system. After the writing session is over, we’ll do something pleasurable immediately – video games, going out with friends, movies or TV shows. This will condition our brain into thinking that writing is a pleasurable activity. If something is pleasurable, we’ll be drawn to it. By doing the pleasurable activity only after our writing session, we condition our brain into thinking that writing is something we need to do every single day – writing is the way we get to the pleasurable activity.
If you apply these 2 checkpoints into your regular writing sessions, you’ll be able to get into flow much easier as a writer, blogger and an entrepreneur.
3 – Focused Attention
Most often in life, we tend to go about our lives mindlessly. It feels as if we are living life in a zombie state. We stop putting conscious thought into our actions and certain habits form the structure of our lives.
Most of us have attention deficit disorder and our work suffers from it. The worst thing is, we can’t get into flow because of it.
What differentiates successful people from others is their god-like level of focus. When it is time to do their work, these people can concentrate intensely on the work at hand.
This is not the time to weep over the past and worry about the future, but to focus on the present moment. When our mental faculties are fully occupied with what we are doing, it is easier to push past the feelings of boredom, frustration and annoyances that everyone faces on the path to flow and mastery.
I talk about this more on my producutivity guide, but here is a simple thing you can do right away to be more mindful.
- Get rid of all the distractions. Getting a relaxing jazz music in the background while doing work can be okay in some circumstances but if you have a phone beside you, facebook on the side tab and someone coming in your room every 10 minutes; it is time to get rid of all these. One cannot be focused if potential distractions are present. Period.
4- The Perfect Balance of Difficulty
When we attempt to do a task, its difficulty level is crucial if we want to reach the state of flow. If the task is too difficult, we get discouraged and eventually give up. If the task is too easy, boredom sets in and we no longer have the motivation to persist.
The perfect balance of difficulty: the task at hand is neither too difficult nor too easy, the challenge pushes us to our limits while enabling us to see the prize right around the corner – making us believe that it is within our reach.
After we reach this balance of difficulty, we’ll create a state in which we can get into flow easily. This does not mean that we’ll value breadth over depth.
Rudimentaries and basics are the foundation to success. If you lack sufficient vocabulary and proper grammer, your writing will suffer from it. These basics and rudimentaries of any given skill needs to be practiced over and over again – in a repetitive cycle.
This repetition is in general somewhat tedious and annoying. Sitting down everyday to practice your scales on piano, practicing your dribbles on basketball field and using proper grammer while writing will be boring.
I want you to realize the reason why you are doing this: agility, accuracy and mastery.
These frustrating and tedious moments are what differentiates a pianist from a music teacher, expert from an amateur.
If you want to become the best at what you do (you should), then it is time for you to go back and practice the basics of your craft until you master it.
After you master the basics, it is time to find the perfect balance in terms of difficulty.
If you practice these 4 principles of flow every time you do your craft, you’ll be light years ahead of everyone.
You’ll be at the peak performance, crushing your goals, improving everyday and most importantly enjoying life doing it.
I’ve talked about more extensively on mindfulness and other inter-related concepts to flow on my productivity article. I suggest that you continue your reading and education with that.
Tell me your thoughts on flow in the comments below. If you still have not, enter your email address down below to become a member of my tribe.