- Thinking your way into a state of flow might sound like an oxymoron, but you can’t achieve flow if you don’t consciously set it up.
- You operate in 3 different states; thinking, feeling, being (present), but most people do it haphazardly, without purpose or awareness.
- It’s easy to create a state of flow once you understand and apply conscious-choice into your life.
Being in the zone.
The idea of using conscious thought to create a sense of flow might seem to be an oxymoron.
But, it’s not as crazy as it may sound.
There are a time and place for everything but unfortunately, most people do not take the time to consider when and where to do what it is they are doing.
Time to Plan, Enjoy and to Just Do It
Planning, strategizing, and reflection is done in the head.
They are processes that project into the future and learn from the past, but it doesn’t happen in the present.
You can’t think about catching a ball, you either do it or drop it.
The same thing happens on the martial arts mat. While you’re planning on what you’re going to do to the other guy, you usually find that you wind up getting smacked upside the head while you were busy planning.
And it would be a good idea as you’re laying there to stop and reflect what you did wrong to minimize the chance of it happening again. But again, when you do this you are not in the present, not in the flow.
The same thing happens with your heart and emotion.
You ever notice when you’re watching a masterful performance, the individual face is almost calm.
There’s a sense of grace.
I’ve seen this happen watching sporting events, musicians, artists, and even mathematicians working on an exercise.
Emotional expression also takes a person out of flow.
Emotions are felt when you stop to take the time to anticipate something either good or bad that might happen. Or, when remembering back to what happened and superimposing what you now feel about the experience.
Like thinking and planning, emotions are based in past or future processing but not present-based experiencing.
The Key to Creating a State of Flow and Grace
Flow happens when the challenge of what you are facing is matched by the skill and expertise you have to face it.
Achieving flow is all about making sure what you attempt to accomplish is matched by your ability and resources to achieve your goal.
Applying yourself wholeheartedly to achieving your goal.
Analytical planning is matched with inspired enthusiasm to lay the foundation for getting your hands dirty, “doing the work.”
Get excited to get to work.
Then, let it all go to get in the flow.
Afterwards, you can reflect and learn what could’ve been done better.
And you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
But, during the process, learning to let go of the head and the heart, so that the dan tien can be the process.
Eliminating Anxiety and Boredom
But what happens if there is a mismatch between skill and challenge?
Life isn’t perfect.
You often don’t get exactly what you want.
You can reduce the stress and anxiety of difficult challenges a few ways:
- ask for help (we often taught not to ask for help)
- breaking big challenges down into smaller hurdles (take down the overwhelming wall to small speedbumps)
- lower your expectation (there’s no need to unnecessarily make the task too daunting)
- research alternative options (outside the box thinking to come up with missed alternatives)
- see the challenge as a puzzle, not a problem (negative emotions create unneeded anxiety)
To alleviate boredom and create improved engagement:
- adopt the role of a mentor, taking on a student to guide through the process (their enthusiasm and inexperience is often infectious)
- raise your standards of quality, time, quantity (raise the bar)
- limit your resources to use, challenging yourself to do the task with less options (this will challenge your creativity and ingenuity)
- make it a game (keep score, can you improve your score)
- can you use the challenge as an opportunity to build a team (can you use this challenge to create an process or system, grow a team, automate it)
Queen Bee and Worker Bee
In any project, there are two modes to operate from, queen bee and worker bee.
The queen bee plans, oversees, and enjoys the fruits of the labor.
The worker bee is busily doing the work, existing to get it done.
As people though, we get the roles confused. While we’re supposed to be busy planning and enjoying, we tinker with the work. And while we’re supposed to get down to do the work, we get bogged down with frustration, second-guessing, and distractions.
When you’re in queen bee mode, get all the planning and logistics out of the way.
That way, when you’re in worker bee mode, you’ve set up the challenge to be in your flow channel and you can get shit done.
Putting It On the Mat
Take one project that you have on your plate.
Write down the results you expect to achieve from completing the project.
What needs to happen do achieve those results?
Which tasks are above your skill set? Which are below?
What do you need to do to keep the challenges within your ability?
What logistical materials do you need to have in place beforehand; i.e. physical materials, research, assistance, tools, etc? Gather them all before you set out to do the work?
What did you miss or forget? Things will always pop up, taking into account what could go wrong ahead of time will minimize downtime during worker bee mode.
Do your best to let go of the idea of a deadline. Too often this creates the distraction of looking at the clock instead of doing the work. Tell yourself that when you have everything set up and you know what you need to accomplish and you have the tools, information, and material to accomplish the task, it will proceed at the best possible rate. Then get busy, getting to work.