(#14) Flow State
Flow state can be achieved in really any activity: basketball, golf, reading a book, hiking, shooting a bow, singing, chess, conversation… it’s all about being immersed in whatever you’re doing and getting out of your own head. Here’s a few examples of when I’ve experienced noticeable flow:
An engaging, meaningful conversation with someone where we are listening intently, responding authentically, and enjoying each other’s presence… not thinking about what the other person is thinking, or how your words are being interpreted, or how to “not make the conversation awkward.” Just vibing.
In a basketball game - not thinking about the crowd, the coach, the other team… just playing through instinctual reactions that stem from hours of practice, conditioning, and hard work - getting buckets and making plays.
Delivering a lecture to my class/public speaking - not thinking about my words or how the crowd is perceiving them. Not thinking about what the crowd thinks of me. Talking with my hands. Speaking my mind. Caring less about what the crowd thinks or wants. Speaking what I know. Explaining what I know.
These are just a few of the numerous examples I could write about, but I think you probably get the point. Flow state is simply reaction and performance without self conscious thought; a reaction to some stimulus in an authentic, non-predetermined way. Or as my dude Dr. Orville Easterly describes it, “living out here” not “in here” (pointing to his head).
It’s impossible to have anxiety in flow state. It’s impossible to be self conscious in flow state. It’s impossible to keep track of time in flow state. Flow state is freedom-filled, life-giving, and mindless. Imagine if you could always be in flow?!
That brings me to my next point: the present moment.
If you’ve listened to any self-improvement type podcasts, follow “motivational” accounts on IG/Twitter, or really just participate in social media whatsoever, you’ve most likely heard/seen people talking about the importance of “living in the present moment.” This topic has come up numerous times on my podcast, and I constantly see it being advertised across platforms. And here’s the deal: it’s important because being in the present moment is synonymous with being in flow, the two are interchangeable.
When you’re fully immersed in the task/activity in front of you, you’re in the present moment, you’re in flow. I don’t care if it’s peeling an orange, playing with your kids, or playing billiards. The present moment is where life happens. It’s all we have. The past is gone, the future is unpredictable and not guaranteed. The present moment all. we have. Even as I am typing this post, I keep going in and out of flow. When I’m in it, I’m basically word vomiting my thoughts and progressing effortlessly. When I get in my own head and start thinking things like, “is this good?” and “will people like this?”, I can’t type a damn thing. Thoughts of past/future wreck my flowage (is that even a word?).
Here’s the key: to be in flow/the present moment is to not be in your own head. To activate flow is to focus so intently on performing the task in front of you that you forget all about yourself. In flow, that annoying voice/narrative inside your mind is nowhere to be found, you are simply living right here, right now! That’s why it’s so important. That’s why we seek activities that activate flow. That’s why these social media philosophers and self-helpers post so much about it…we get relief from from ourselves! We get relief from that ever-present negative voice. I hate that voice.
Some activities (like public speaking) are harder to get into flow than others (like playing a sport), I get it. But awareness is the first step… knowing what flow is. The next step is practice/intention. Start immersing yourself in your tasks, focusing only on the completion of whatever’s at hand. Focus on excellence. Channel your natural abilities, and then do what you do! Seek out activities that get you in flow. Spend time with people you flow with. Be yourself. Love the moment. Live the moment.
Flow state is freedom.
Much love to you all.