Putting your brain in the right frame to achieve the perfect flow is key to satisfaction and productivity writes Ekaterina Voznesenskaia
In the fast-paced, rapidly changing world most of us tend to experience uncertainty about the future, we tend to be working harder and longer than before to ensure stability and continuous development of the business, keeping relationships with the partners and clients, adapting and reshaping the business models based on the current global economic situation.
The concepts of “living on autopilot” and “multitasking” have become an inseparable part of our life, and when we think about the last time we were focusing on one thing at a time, we can hardly remember this.
“The state of full focus and attention, big motivation, inspiration and enjoyment of doing the work is called being in a state of flow”
Most of the time we are shifting our attention from one task to the other, from today’s project to the presentation for next week, and at the end of the day we might feel as if we have not done a lot, though there were so many things to consider.
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always a result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort” – Paul J. Meyer
It has been proven in the research that doing one thing at a time and being completely involved in it increases motivation, productivity, boosts our energy and takes less effort to complete the task, compared to multitasking. We tend to see more positive results from our work, as we have put all our energy into the task and can see that it was worth doing it. Avoiding multiple distractions, we are activating all our resources, our abilities and strengths to complete the task.
Our brain works faster and more efficient, and some small but significant points, which we have not noticed before, become more obvious and clearer, and help us become even more proficient in our work. The state of full focus and attention, big motivation, inspiration and enjoyment of doing the work is called being in a state of flow. Most of us have heard the notion of “flow”, and many of us are striving to be in the flow.
When was the last time you were in the flow? What does it mean for you to be in a state of flow?
The first time when I heard about the notion of “flow” was two years ago when I was a graduate student in Trinity College and attended a mindfulness and leadership career course aimed at building and increasing the students’ awareness of their skills, strengths and talents.
There was a very insightful and interesting discussion about the meaning of flow in our everyday life, and how crucial it is to be in a state of flow. At that time the whole meaning of flow, the value and importance of being in a state of flow were completely new for me. I actively participated in the leadership session, giving some examples from my teaching experience, and I felt slightly lost in the mindfulness class during the discussion of the state of flow. That was the time when I got highly interested in learning more about the notion of flow, its nature, meaning, and its powerful effect on our life.
“The happiest people spend much time in a state of flow – the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
What is actually “flow”? Flow can be defined as “the action or fact of moving along in a steady, continuous stream”, “move or progress freely as if in a stream”, “a smooth uninterrupted movement or progress”, “the direction of movement or development”. All this highlights smooth continuous uninterrupted movement, development and progress that is the key to understanding of flow.
For me flow is deeply associated with peace, harmony and calmness that we are observing in the flow of the river. When I have a chance to spend some time in nature, I am truly astonished at how everything in nature is connected, and how the flow of the river is moving smoothly, continuous, fast and then slow, in synergy and harmony with nature, with weather, with the whole world. Even though the flow of the river is changing, its nature remains the same – harmonising and balancing.
“The more in harmony you are with the flow of your own existence, the more magical life becomes” – Adyashanti
When we are in the flow, we are getting more balanced and in harmony with ourselves. We are getting united with everything happening around us, like the flow of the river is united with the whole universe. As Tony Robbins said: “Where our attention goes, energy flows.”
When we are focusing on one particular task at a time, not being distracted by thoughts about the past and the future, we are opening an invaluable energy channel inside us, that fulfils us with power, motivation and passion. We are getting more focused and more productive. We are doing our work from heart, putting all our energy into it, fully living in this particular moment, exploring, discovering and creating. At such moments we are doing something really meaningful, valuable and beneficial, and the results can be high above our expectations. As we are in a state of flow.
“To be in flow means to be totally absorbed in whatever one is doing at the moment. It occurs when one is fully present and completely focused on the task at hand. Flow can occur during any human activity, where work or at play” – Dalai Lama
How often are we fully focused and involved in an activity? “The river is everywhere”, said Herman Hesse. Flow can be achieved in everything that we are doing, in very small and significant things.
Listening to a person with interest and full attention is being in a state of flow. Having a conversation with your friend or colleague is being in a state of flow. Having breakfast with your family is being in a flow. We can fulfil our daily activities with greater value when we start living here, right now, not thinking about the past or the future.
Doing such common activities as cooking, eating, reading, swimming, gardening, fishing, hiking triggers a flow state. We all have individual activities that automatically absorb our attention and lead us into the state of flow. All of us can become more present, bringing a bigger meaning to our life. “Being in the flow means being aware that the river of life is flowing to us at every moment. Being in the flow means accepting whatever comes and putting it to good use, before passing it on.”
“When you have the exquisite combination of acceptance, responsibility and defencelessness, you will experience life flowing with effortless ease” – Deepak Chopra
The state of flow is deeply connected with the principle of least effort introduced by George Kingsley Zipf. The principle of least effort or least resistance indicates that the result can be achieved by the less effort and the least energy, and greater effort does not always generate better results.
We can do the same task in much less time, more efficiently, with less errors, when we are fully involved in the process. The amount of effort invested is not proportional to the results obtained, as when spending a lot of time and effort on something, we are wasting energy.
Significantly, the principle of least effort does not aim at eliminating the difficulty, nor does it encourage us to choose only easy tasks, but the whole focus is rather on finding ways to reduce the effort needed to achieve a goal. The same task can be done in different ways, and we can spend hours trying to solve some issue with no promising result, or can look at the other direction and find a quicker and smarter way.
When we are in the flow, we are spending less effort and less time on completing the task, as our immersion and involvement in the task generates all our hidden resources that drive us in the right direction, and we simply know how we are going to do it.
“Flow is more than an optimal state of consciousness – one where we feel our best and perform our best – it also appears to be the only practical answer to the question: What is the meaning of life? Flow is what makes life worth living” – Steven Kotler
Being in a state of flow, living in the flow changes the quality of our life, bringing a sense of meaning, value, purpose in every single day. Being in the flow generates heart energy – loving energy that brings feeling of peace, harmony, gratitude and connectedness with other people, with the whole the world. It brings light inside us.
Being in a state of flow opens vital energy channels inside us giving us power, motivation and strength to move forward, reaching our goals, developing and growing. A state of flow helps us reveal our hidden talents, skills and abilities, and one day we can realise that we have become different, as we have found our life path. We have found our Flow.
Written by Ekaterina Voznesenskaia
Published: 27 August, 2020