Whether you call it “getting in the zone” or flow, we’ve all been there. And we should all try to be there as much as possible.
Being in a state of flow is when we do our best work and achieve peak performance. First discussed in scientific terms by psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi in his book of the same name, flow is what powers optimal human experience.
Csíkszentmihályi describes flow as “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.”
Alas, it would seem that our modern technological world is a committed enemy of flow. Rather than otherworldly focus, we live in a state of constant distraction punctuated with futile attempts at multi-tasking.
You want flow, you’re going to have to fight back. In fact, purposefully eliminating distraction may be the best thing you can do for yourself even without the benefits of the zone. But why not go all the way?
The first key to achieving flow is a challenging task that you’re already good at. Flow happens when the subconscious takes over from the conscious mind. You’re not going to get there learning a new task, because you’re consciously thinking about what you’re doing. Flow requires effortless action, or in the parlance of the Nike tagline, just doing it.
The next essential aspect is a complete lack of distraction, coupled with intense focus. Unplug completely by turning off your phone and go offline if possible to avoid interruption. To prime your focus, remember that various forms of meditation are all about creating and maintaining singular focus.
These two essential elements of achieving our zone seem simple, because they are. But they’re not easy for most of us, thanks to our self-imposed lives of distraction. So, before you start looking at flow-inducing tricks such as visualization, make sure you’ve created the necessary foundational conditions.
Jedi Diet Trick
Can you trick yourself into thinking you don’t like the foods that negatively impact your nutrition and weight? That’s the idea behind the false memory diet, pioneered by Elizabeth Loftus and her colleague Daniel Bernstein.
The Ultimate Paradox
“An average wine drinker takes in the same amount of calories as 141 ice cream cones every year. So when it comes to relieving stress, would you rather eat ice cream or drink wine?”
Long-time Further readers have seen these discussed right here, last year. New around here? Make sure to read this piece.
Flow By Any Other Name …
We know exercise benefits your brain. Can brain exercises help your business or career? This sounds very much like a specific meditation practice designed to spark flow. See what you think.
“Some turn to material perks (bonuses, game rooms, free food) in the hopes of making employees happier. However, research suggests that these efforts, while appreciated, do not address more effective drivers of long-term well-being.”
“Brains? Grit? Luck? Nope, science says the most likely sign that you’re going to succeed big time is something else.”
It’s Not That Complicated
This may seem like a backlash piece to the meditation hype of last year, but it’s not. Mindfulness and meditation are wonderfully beneficial. It’s just not something you need to go spend a lot of money on, and you don’t need a “guru” to make it work for you.
“In light of the upcoming presidential race and the increase in narcissism amongst our youth, I think it’s safe to say that, as a society, we could use a little more humility.”
One of the truly beneficial aspects of meditation is identifying certain destructive though patters, and then realizing that they are only intangibles that float in and then out. See if you recognize any of these in your own life.
Wow, Bowie last week, Glenn Frey this week. Throw in Lemmy from Motörhead and you might be tempted to say 2016 has been a terrible year for rock icons so far. But the simple truth is that many of our rock icons are getting to the age when more people start dying. Better than 27, I suppose.
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