Get in Flow - My learnings from the Best Selling book
I just finished reading a great book called Flow. I want to share with you my biggest take-aways after reading it. Let me know your thoughts.
My take on the book:
The author of the book, dedicated a large portion of the book to this idea: "A person can make himself happy or miserable, regardless of what is actually happening 'outside' just by changing the contents of consciousness". Throughout the book he goes on to quote other greats like Victor Frankl and Marcus Aurelius, so the idea isn't new, but over the past decade we have been able to gather much more research on the idea.
People seem to have this idea that, "If I just had that nice car, or a bigger house, or a lot more money, then I would be happy". The reality is, that just is not how happiness works. Studies have been shown that the amount of income a person makes will not necessarily effect the level of that persons happiness. There is a certain amount that a person needs to make to have their basic needs met, but after a certain point buying a bigger house, or a new car or whatever, is not the way to happiness.
It all boils down to "changing the contents of your consciousness".
How do we change the contents of consciousness? One of the best ways to do this, is to put ourselves into a state of optimal experience called "Flow". Mihaly describes Flow as the state in which someone is so involved in an activity, that nothing else seems to matter.
Side effects/benefits of being in a state of Flow or in the "Flow Channel"
Nothing else seems to matter because concentration becomes so high.
No room for attention on petty problems or bullshit because you are so focused on your task or objective.
All the garbage self consciousness begins to disappear and your sense of time becomes distorted.
I think we have all experienced this before. I know I have. It's absolutely one of the best feelings I have ever experienced. I remember times when I was recruiting for the Army and trying to become the top producing recruiter in the State, I was so focused that fucking nothing or nobody was going to stop me from achieving my goal. It's not easy to find it, but when it happens, you become un-stoppable. I remember when I started recruiting, my Station Commander at the time, SFC Stevens, told me that there was no way I could become the top recruiter in only my 2nd year of recruiting, he said it was impossible, and that stuck with me, I remember being so focused that I would spend 18 hour days doing paper work and prospecting just so I could reach that goal. I wasn't talented, I wasn't a better recruiter, I just worked, I couldn't focus on ANYTHING other than reaching that goal. Everyone else would go home at 5pm on a Friday, I worked all god damn weekend. I was in my flow. If you want to be the best at anything, you have to be more obsessed than every-one else. Sergeant Stevens knew how to motivate me, and get me into my flow. That's good leadership.
The same thing applies to so many other activities. Whether you are a triathlete trying to achieve that new PR, or a guitar player trying to create that next big hit song. Think about it, it's the most ridiculously amazing feeling, you are so immersed in your task that nothing is going to stop you, I know you have all felt this. You weren't worried about stupid crap, you weren't regretted stupid ass things from yesterday that really dont matter, you weren't living in fear about what you're doing tomorrow.
How do you get into a state of flow?
It's about finding a challenge that is balanced between being too hard, and not hard enough. You don't want what you are doing to be too challenging, because this will create anxiety. You don't want what you are doing to be too easy either, because then you just will get bored and complacent. The latter is what ended up happening with my career in recruiting for the Army. I loved it the first few years because the challenge was just hard enough to keep me focused without too much anxiety, I was pumped to prove everyone wrong. I ended up being in what Mihaly calls the "Flow Channel". After a while though and two years of being #1 producer, it became way too easy, leadership changed, I got bored and started looking for other challenges, it eventually made me a shitty recruiter, I lost that hunger, I lost my flow.
This is a great lesson for you managers out there. If you manage a high performer, you HAVE to find a way to motivate them and keep them just challenged enough to keep in that Flow Channel. If you fail to do this as a leader, you will lose your best performers, every single time. High performers need to be challenged, if they aren't, they will move on and find somewhere else to get that feeling of Flow. When you increase your challenge, you get better, and when you get better you get more challenged, the more you move into that direction, the more intense the state of flow becomes.
So, I know I am getting off on a rant here, but the main idea here is that you have to find something that you love, and then keep getting better at it, and keep making it more challenging. In other words, the goal is to spend as much of your life in this state of flow because that is where we find this unbelievable feeling that only comes when we are growing.
My biggest advice to myself, and to you after reading this book: If you are not doing something that keeps you in a state of Flow, take action and fix it. Find something that challenges you. You have one life, don't waste that shit by doing something that makes you apathetic and bored.
What are your thoughts? How do you find your flow?
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