“Those who flow as life flows, know they need no other force.” – Lao Tzu
When you go with a flow, you force nothing because you are with nature, not against it. You just let it happen, trusting that whichever way it goes, it’s for the best. For me, being in a flow means being aware that the river of life is flowing at every moment. It means accepting whatever comes and putting it to good use before passing it on. Going with the flow means allowing whatever comes to move on freely without holding on in any way. When you are in flow, nothing else exists except that which is in front of you.
Flow is a mental state in which we are so engrossed in a challenging or enjoyable activity that nothing else matters. In this mental state also called “The Zone”, we experience prolonged focussed attention and often witness forms of peak mental and physical performance. This can be experienced in arts, sports, science and in everyday life activities too, like learning or an engaging discussion. As for me, Veli Ndaba, I experience this flow mostly when I’m writing, speaking on stage or reading something that requires my peak abilities.
When the task is too easy, we feel lethargy and boredom. When the task is way too hard, we panic and stress out. But when the challenge is just hard enough, we are forced to engage our fullest capacities. This push to perform at the limits of our ability makes us feel alive and engaged. In flow we often feel enjoyment, pleasure, and happiness. I’ve immersed myself in numerous books over the years in my quest to understand how I can get the most out of my brain. I’ve read a lot of articles around this subject and made my own personal observations along the way. Few of the books that helped and guided me in my quest are: Deep Work by Carl Newport, Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler, The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and few others. I suggest that you also empower yourself around this by reading these books. Through an understanding of flow or ‘The Zone’, we can see why, as creatives, learners, peak performers and pursuers of excellence, we should look at flow as a key element in human flourishing.
When you are in this state, it means you are not looking at your phone while you are doing something. If you are multitasking, it’s not possible to get into flow. When you are busy with a task and then stop and check your phone or email, it will put you out of that flow state. During a peak experience, the individual experiences an expansion of self, a sense of unity, and meaningfulness in life. The experience lingers in one’s consciousness and gives a sense of purpose, integration and self-determination. If you look at children, they can get totally absorbed in play and also when they are looking at something, they are fully focussed. We can clearly see that this state of flow requires three main ingredients: Fun, Challenge and Focus – not just any focus, but prolonged focussed attention.
When we get into “The Zone’, time falls away, self-doubt gets submerged, and our actions, thoughts and bodily motions are smooth and undisturbed. We feel great too. Flow is largely a subjective and a mental state of high concentration and hypervigilance. It is characterized by profound mental clarity, heightened situational awareness, emotional detachment, and an automatic nature. In this state, we don’t think so much, we just act fluidly and thoughtlessly.
What Is The Enemy Of Flow? The major enemy of flow is Distraction.
Flow can’t happen when we are distracted, since distraction takes us away from our focus. So, an experience of flow requires a relatively distraction-free environment. Flow can’t really happen in situations where you don’t feel motivated or care about the tasks at hand. To be in flow, you really need to be motivated too. For ages, when asked, artists, athletes and performers have described a sense of detachment in what they are doing and even believe they have an intuitive ‘voice’ or ‘muse’ guiding them. They believe they are merely the conduit of these inspired spirits. Essentially, in flow, we become less self-conscious and simply act.
Flow isn’t a state of rest but a state of doing. Flow is the experience of being so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. It’s a feeling of energized focus. Flow is an experiential state where you feel focused, confident, energized, motivated and happy in what you are doing.
What gets you in this state of peak performance? For you to get into the state of flow or “The Zone” you need to experience these three things from what you are doing:
- You must enjoy what you are doing.
- You must have a bit fear, not paralyzing fear, but a bit of challenge outside of your current skills, this challenge is the one that pulls you out of your comfort zone.
- When you enjoy what you are doing and it’s giving you a healthy challenge, it forces you to focus and these three conditions take you right into Flow.
So, lets FLOW with life into our dreams that have long been calling us!
Veli Ndaba is a Neuro-Conscious Leadership Speaker and Trainer, Life & Business Coach, Motivational Speaker and Author of four books (You Are Born to Win, Your Dream is Calling You and SWITCH ON! And Set Your Soul On Fire!), Newspaper Columnist and Entrepreneur. To book him to speak at your next event or to help you and your team unleash your greatness, contact him on email@example.com, www.velindaba.com or +27 83 304 9773