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March 25, 2015

Get into flow to do your important work

get into flow

I enjoyed this quote: “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” – Albert Einstein

Time doesn’t change … we all get only 86 400 seconds a day.

But, our perception of time does change, doesn’t it?

When we’re doing something that we’re not that into, time can feel as if it is expanding. The task at hand becomes a drudgery.

But, when we’re doing something that really intrigues us and keeps our attention, before we know it hours have gone and it was an absolute pleasure.

How often do we get into what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi referred to as “flow”?

Some folks call it “in the zone”. Whatever you call it … when it happens, it is a beautiful thing.

Before you continue reading further, take a moment to think about when you did something and you weren’t aware of the time that went by because you were so into it.

In my case, I get into flow state when I’m playing a game of chess, when I’m writing an article or a book or when (I know this one may sound weird to you) I’m washing dishes.

I’m totally vested in the moment and not the outcome. I know what the ideal outcome is for me and that lies on the outskirts of my consciousness. I’m in flow when I’m in the moment. When I’m present. When I’m trying to create beautiful art. When I’m doing something important.

Because, when you think about it, we’re all artists and we’re all trying to create masterpieces. If you’re not in awe that you can read this article and the rest in this publication in print, you should be. Because if it wasn’t for the amazing art of  the German, Johannes Gutenberg  and the gift of printing he gave all of us, intellectually at least, we’d probably all still be in the dark ages.

For me a beautiful move on the chess board that get’s my opponent to pause and ponder for a little while longer than he normally would gives me a small thrill. Finding just the right word to help my reader understand something and maybe shift his or her consciousness to the positive … phew, that’s got to be art. To uncover the squeaky cleanness of a white porcelean plate (told you it’s weird) gives me pleasure.

So, what’s the trick to getting into flow in any task we do.

I have a notion that to get into flow we should be totally focused on the process and not on the outcome.

Don’t get me wrong, the goal should be clear. But, once it is set, the magic happens when we focus on the process of getting there.

The more we’re present in anything we do, the more we enjoy the journey and the happier we are.

When we’re in flow we have no time to worry about past or future. It is only the present that counts and we are in a state of harmony.

When we are in flow we feel in control.

Everyday frustrations are removed from our consciousness when we are in flow. I, for instance, can’t be focused on writing an article and worry about picking my daughter from after-care at the same time.

So, focus on the journey, enjoy the creation process and watch the beautiful art you will produce that will benefit everyone who you come into contact with. Get into flow so that you can do your important work.

Check out Csikszentmihalyi’s ground-breaking book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

The photo used in this post can be found here.

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