Have you ever had a bad day at work, attended an under-stimulating class, or sat through a snore-worthy meeting and thought to yourself: Will this ever end?
I’ve been there before.
I recently pushed myself through a grueling yoga class where my mind couldn’t stop racing. There was no music, little inspiration, and very little instruction, which left me looking up at the teacher every few minutes begging for direction.
Tell me you’ve been there before.
Toward the end of that class, I started to think back to some less stimulating experiences I’ve dealt with in life. Where there any similarities? And, more importantly, is there a formula to control the outcome of these experience so we don’t fall into a rut?
I just finished reading Steven Kotler’s book on flow, The Rise of Superman. He suggests that all of us can access, what he calls, a “flow state.” In flow, time is suspended, we accomplish the unthinkable, and there is a merging of body and mind that creates what I like to think of as magic moments. We’ve all had them. It’s when we are in our zone. Immersed.
If you want to create more flow experiences, on or off the yoga mat, here are my top suggestions!
1. Start Your Morning Off Right
Have you ever noticed that if you start your morning centered with clear intentions, your entire day flows better? Your morning routine sets the tone for your day, and your day sets the tone for your life. So rather than checking emails first thing in the morning, take a little time for yourself. Clean your body and your mind. Make yourself a nourishing breakfast and think about your day’s objectives.
2. Eliminate Distractions
There’s nothing that kills a creative moment more than being interrupted. I’ve started and stopped this piece multiple times because one of my kids needed me, an urgent WhatsApp message came through, and a number of other pressing matters popped up. When you’re trying to enter your flow state, the best thing you can do is find yourself a quiet area where no one can bother you and unplug.
3. Stop Multitasking
Sometimes it’s not other people who are distracting you. Rather, you may be your own worst enemy. When you’re trying to finish a big work project, do you log into Facebook and check out what your friends are up to? Or maybe your schedule is just so packed and you’re trying to do too much at once. Whatever the case, countless studies demonstrate that multitasking doesn’t work. So stop trying to do so much at one time and start single-tasking.
4. Challenge Yourself At Your Edge
Getting into your change zone requires you to get out of your comfort zone. Here’s how Kotler puts it in his book, The Rise of Superman:
“Attention is most engaged in the now when there’s a specific relationship between the difficulty of a task and our ability to perform it. If the challenge is too great, fear swamps the system. If the challenge is too easy, we stop paying attention. Flow appears near the emotional midpoint between boredom and anxiety, in what scientists call the flow channel-the spot where the task is hard enough to make us stretch but not hard enough to make us snap…If you want to trigger flow the challenge should be 4 percent greater than your skills.”
If you just cruise along then you’re missing access to the sweet spot where adrenaline and dopamine flow and creativity is unleashed. Push your limits.
5. Give and Get Feedback
Not only does feedback help us improve over time, it also keeps us progressing in the moment. It does this in a few ways. Maybe you think you’re doing poorly at something because the people around you are performing at a different level. A small pat on the back will help boost your confidence and inspire you to keep trying. Or maybe you think you’re doing something correctly and you really aren’t. A little guidance will transform your present and future outcome. Be generous with giving and getting feedback.
6. Find a Partner
Kotler argues that flow is more easily accessed in the company of other like-minded people. Create meaningful relationships and discuss things that interest you. Do you have a good friend who you could sit with for hours and totally lose track of time? Why? Because we are challenging each other and engaging.
7. Blast Music
Nothing gets our energy flowing more instantly than a good song. Make yourself a playlist that pumps you up and listen to it to shift your mood. Bust out a couple dance moves while you’re at it for some serious mood altering!
It’s hard to use your mind to turn off your mind. That’s why it takes years to learn how to meditate properly. Try downloading a guided meditation app, like Headspace, or just spend a couple moments with your eyes closed taking long deep breaths. Play some soft meditation music too—this often helps me relax even deeper.
Even if you have a busy day, try to squeeze in some type of workout—whether it’s a gym class, at-home yoga routine, a few pushups, or a stroll around the city. Your physical state dictates your emotional one. As Tony Robbins says, “Your physiology informs your psychology. Looking to instantly get out of a funk? Move your body.”
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