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Flow mode



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Flow state is a state of mind where a person feels that they can be focused on their task and the things around her can not disturb her doing. It is so powerful that most of the time we lose the track of time and appetize. Psychology Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990) describes it that flow as: “A person concentrates with all her capacity on a goal-oriented activity, shutting out everything else from her consciousness”. Trying to reach this state of flow has become popular over the years and sometimes even obsessed. In a world where we have lots of disruption all around us reaching this point of focus can be difficult. But maybe if we can understand what is needed to reach it and know how and what it is, reaching it could become more natural. 

Flow can be the result of a wise way of working. It can be how our brain wires into the state. It can be getting into the right state of working by taking these five steps that lead your thoughts and action. 

Peace, love, and reflection

If a flow is a result of wise work, we can reach it by implementing peace, love, and reflection into our doing. With these three aspects, we are able to work wisely and provide flow to ourselves. But we need to understand that flow is not something we want to reach, it is a by-product of wise working. Because if we see flow as a thing we try to achieve we might end up making poor decisions that we believe to help us reach it.  

Peace

“Relaxation is not an obstacle to peak performance, but a prerequisite” (Jussi Venäläinen, Flow Akatemia). Many times we believe that we need to give our 100 % and fill our calendar to reach our full potential. But it would surprise how wrong that can be.  

World-know athlete Carl Lewis, who has won nine Olympic golds, and eight world championship golds and broke many world records practiced peace in his performances that lead to success. His way of running was researched for a year by scientists to learn what is his key to success. The result there was that when other athletes focus on giving 100 % in the race, he only gave 85 % of himself. Why you may ask. When a person gives 100 % the focus is on giving 100 % on everything. There is tension all over the body, tension in places where it is not needed. But when you focus on giving 85 % on the performance you are able to relax body parts that are not needed for the tension. You have the peace to focus on the doing and not get overwhelmed. We need space for peace and relaxation to perform our best.  

Often times we forget to give ourselves the peace to perform the task we are working on. Either it is giving it time, quiet space or just relaxing our minds into the work. The busier the work is the more important it is to give peace to it. For example, the doctor relaxes her mind to the given task to perform the best. For wise work make peace in your task and mind to work fully. Think is the speed right to the task or work you are doing. 

Love

Love can be seen in the attitude towards the work. Without passion or understanding of the work, we end up making mistakes and bad decisions because we do not see value in the work. To work wisely you need to find love in the work you are doing. It will bring more value to be driven by, empathy to understand, and boundaries to keep you on track.  

There are learnings that should be practiced when loving your work. Because it is a feeling we are working with and they drive our actions. You need to learn to say no to things that are not passionate to you. So there is more time to focus on things that interest you. Learning to prioritize so you are not disturbed by little things and are able to focus on the important work. To learn how to time manage yourself so there is time for relaxation and other things than work. Define what is good enough for you, so you know when to stop and be grateful for the job done. Overachievement or working on a task without determining when it is done doesn’t help to work wisely, instead, it promotes working without bigger meaning. To work wisely love is needed to determine our attitude toward the work and help us use our time wisely on it.   

Reflection

A reflection is a tool used to learn from the action and work that has been done. It can also be used to help us understand ourselves and our feelings while working. To work smart we need to be able to reflect on the work we are doing and observe it. If it is beneficial to you and others and if the work we are doing is needed. Import to remember is to observe things from many ankles so we are able to get different views and expand our view. 

To practice wise work we need to have peace to focus on the work. We should love the work so we have better empathy for it, have value for the work, and helps us set boundaries and self-leadership on it. To make sure we are able to learn from the work and see it we need to stop to reflect on the work we have done and reflect on our own feelings towards it as well.  

 5 steps

The five steps to get into the flow state. Hannu Pirilä introduces his five steps on how to get into the flow for most athletes in his Flowopas. He believes by taking small steps in the right direction and feeling small successes we are able to reach behavior and thoughts that provide flow for us.  

First step

Set goals for yourself. It is important we aim to somewhere and do things because it matters to us. Make goals that are realistic for yourself and achievable. You can start with big goals and cut that into smaller goals. It is important that you feel that your success in those goals. It will give you a good feeling and that will make you want to move on to the next challenge or goal.  

Second step

Ensure the right level of requirements for the task. You need to be aware of how hard the task is to ensure it is not too easy or too hard for you. Because when the task is too easy for us the possibility to get bored is high. When we get bored we do not see the value of working on a particular task and lose interest. But if the task is too hard we end up feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, because we don’t have the right level of requirements to succeed in the task. To avoid that we need to be conscious of the level of the task and modify it to meet our needs, so we are able to perform best. 

Third step

Focus on the task at hand. It is important that we are able to eliminate distractions, so we can make sure our focus is given to the task we are working on. Multitasking is something that only a small percentage of humans are actually good at. Humans are not designed to focus on many things at the same time. There it is important to find a way you are able to focus on the task you are working on. Maybe silence the notifications or find a quiet place. You can also try to reach the focus state better if you make a trigger that would launch a focus mode. It can be a small gesture of finger movement so when you do it, it helps you bring your awareness back to focus. 

Fourth step

Know the rules or makes one. Knowing the rules gives you the advantage of knowing what you can and can’t do regarding the task. It helps you clear if there are any doubts regarding the task. So you are not using time on thinking if you are able or not to do it. If the rules are not set, you can set your own rules to help and guide you on the task. 

Fifth step

Change limiting beliefs. The worst enemy to you is yourself. When doing things you need to believe you are capable of doing and succeeding in it. If there is a seed of doubt it is easier to fail because you give yourself permission to fail. Sometimes these beliefs and doubts are deeper than we know. That’s why is good to reflect on what is keeping you from succeeding. If we are able to change our beliefs we are able to succeed. 

By following these five steps on your tasks, you should be able to reach the optimal performance state of mind, the flow. Some of the steps may be harder and may take more time, but by changing our ways of think we are able to get faster to the flow.  

What happens in our brain 

Every day we learn more about our minds and brain and how they work. The study of the mind is a working process. Getting to know what our brain does during flow is something neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman and his crew works on. In his word what we know about flow is that it spelled wolf backward, we can not really understand it at the moment and what happens in it. But to get more productive and train your brain he recommends understanding how urgency and focus must converge for that to happen it can be useful. We can use threats for urgency or reward, either one of them can trigger urgency in our brains. But there needs to be a focus because that is the key. Focus on goals and what we try to accomplish and where is our focus at the time. The importance to learn how we get our brain to focus on the task is key.  

Summary

There are different ways to get into the flow state. You can focus on working wisely and by then accomplish the flow. You can focus on analyzing the task and making it fit for you and changing your mindset behind it to understand it better. Or you can understand how our brain works and that to accomplish “flow” the brain needs urgency and focus to perform the task. One that all of the methods that were mentioned had in common was the focus and a goal on the task. The importance finding meaning and a goal for the task is needed and focusing on the doing. 

 


Sources

Podcast: Flow akatemia, episode: Tehokkain työ syntyy rentoudesta, Rakkaus on kova tekijä viisaassa työssä, Reflektio on viisaan työn ytimessä by Jussi Venäläinen.

Wikipedia about Carl Lewis

Article by Hannu Pirilä, 5-askelta flow-tilan saavuttamiseen

Video: Rich Roll Podcast; Change Your Brain: Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman

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