Go With the Flow
This is not a status quo post. The "Flow" I am referring to is a specific state of consciousness characterized by heightened productivity, sensory stimulation, and intense focus. It’s not a product of pushing paper—it’s an outcome of passionate work. And let me tell you, it feels almost like magic.
I remember first noticing flow in college. In my studio classes, like figure drawing, painting, and two-dimensional design (which I learned through collage), we would unintentionally tap into flow. We lost track of time and space, completely absorbed in our work. When it was time for a break, we would feel the need for sustenance, as our bodies had undergone physiological changes from expending energy. We didn't think much about it and a pack of nabs always squared us up.
However, flow is actually a formal concept, or at least it has been classified and documented to better understand it. Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi recognized and named this psychological concept of flow. Experiencing flow is juicy stuff. It’s a natural high, something you would want to experience again. However, it is not always easy to achieve.
According to Csikszentmihalyi, the State of Flow refers to the moment when our bodies and minds are completely in sync with each other, particularly when engaged in creative tasks. However, achieving a flow state is not limited to creative tasks alone. It can be experienced during any activity, whether mundane or otherwise, as long as we are singularly focused on it.
Ultimately, flow is more than just a condition of enlightenment or fulfillment. It is a state of empowerment. In this state, our abilities are perfectly matched to the demands of a task. We are fully and willingly immersed, and the product of our work flows freely and without inhibition. It is a state in which:
- You have complete focus
- Your dedication to your task is at its peak
- You are driven by a sense of utter clarity
- Your mind is free from unwanted chatter and is at peace
- You are receptive to inspiration coming from your subconscious
Sounds like I’m trying to hypnotize someone. Now when I snap my fingers you will Venmo me… Just kidding.
But seriously, flow is not just a concept. It is a reality that can be accessed with a bit more intentionality rather than relying solely on chance. Flow is perhaps the most powerful energy and force to tap into when it comes to realizing our goals, surpassing our potential, and aligning our passion with what we consider work. The work that challenges us the most is often the work that allows us to do our best and promotes flow. As mentioned earlier, all things are achieved when we are singularly focused.
I won't prescribe a specific smoothie, a set amount of exercise, a precise number of minutes before engaging in an activity, or better posture to achieve flow. What I will emphasize is simply being conscious of your body, mood, available tasks, and the time you have for “work.” Create the environment for doing your best work—do your best to make yourself happy and content while you work. Align the tasks associated with this high-level work with realistic blocks of time. That’s a good first step. Productivity can arise from a rhythm.
This state of flow is often compared to the underlying concepts of the Chinese word Tao or Dao. While this idea may seem abstract, it represents an intuitive understanding of life and its "way," "path," or "route" that cannot be fully grasped as a concept but can only be experienced through living. Therefore, it is important to embrace this concept and take action. This is the secret that most procrastination self-help books eventually reveal. However, we can still set the stage properly. By attuning ourselves to this state of flow, we can tap into our individual wisdom, which in turn will benefit and enhance what we do for others.
So, as the often overlooked Pomona, California rap group Above the Law would say, "Flow on." Apologies, I'm definitely in the zone.
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