I recently read the book “The Flow” by author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. A special gift by my husband to help me achieve a state of mind that can enable me to balance motherhood with work while enjoying both of them to the fullest! I know it might sound counterintuitive managing work with a newborn and her tantrums but this book has really helped to channelize my energy such that I can manage both or at least try to manage both of them to the best of my abilities.
We live in a world where everyone is chasing their goals yet finds himself or herself devoid of happiness, frustrated, burned-out, and often wait for the weekend to get back to work. If you are a goal-oriented person, then there is no weekend or holiday for you since work is something you love to do! Just think about it, what does it take to make your work effortless or something you would love to do? Or what does it take to achieve the impossible? Or what does it take to accomplish the paradigm shift that is never seen before? Literally, taking inspiration from up-start entrepreneurs, people like Larry Page, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos who have created world-changing impossible business in near-record time. These are the individuals who are going after grand global challenges like poverty, water scarcity, etc. and tackling many challenges which few years before were only taken up by the government and big cooperation. What I discovered that it doesn’t matter which domain you look, it can be an athlete, business tycoons, technologist, or artist. Every domain you find the ultimate performance has the same signature, state of consciousness known to the researcher as flow.
This book is for anyone who wants to tap into something called Flow state. Essentially, “Flow” is an optimal state of mind between boredom and anxiety where one performs one’s best as well as one feels satisfied with its efforts. At its core, Flow is the experience of being so engaged in the task that one loses track of time. If we look back, I am sure you must have experienced this state of mind when you have engaged activity that interests you therefore, you must be aware of the high that I am talking about or comprehend the satisfaction derived from this state of mind! Perhaps, a state where you are focused yet very calm and whatever it is, you are doing, you are doing it really well! You tap into higher faculties of mind that enable you to open the creative side to your personality. Sure, the situation might be challenging for you but it overwhelms you to an extent that you lose track of your goal. As a result, you are able to come up with solutions to solve problems and continue doing your best in real-time. In all this, you are enjoying what you are doing and feeling happy with no stress. This book throws light on the eternal question when do people feel their best or when do people feel the happiest. Contrary to our belief, the author, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains that happiness is not a result of random chance or something that is dependent on external events.
I am sure while working there are certain things you find boring or maybe don’t grasp your interest. With a few tweaks, you can convert your boring task and most stressful project into flow producing activities. I have highlighted the key takeaway from the book that can help you engineer more flow in your professional life so that work can be a more enjoyable and fulfilling experience. With state of flow comes true happiness since you feel satisfied with what you are doing!
Flow Factor 1 – Focus Author, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has studied Flow state for over 50 years and he is found that flow requires concentration so intense that there is no attention left over to think anything irrelevant. Quote from the book “Your mind isn’t wandering you are totally involved in what you are doing“, this essentially means no distraction or multi-tasking rather all the things that matter is the one thing you are doing right here right now. So while working reduce distractions that draw your attention like turn your phone to silent mode or close number of browsers window open while you are trying to concentrate on an email. I would rather close my eyes and listen to some good music so that when I open my eyes I can sharpen your concentration by transforming it from scattered focus to single-pointed focus.
Flow Factor 2 – Freedom Have you noticed that when you are having a conversation with a friend on a topic you know about 2 hours pass by in 20 minutes while during a job interview 20 minutes can seem like 2 hours. This is because while having a conversation on a topic you know about with a person you are familiar with signals brain to put the guard down and enjoy the conversation. However, in the latter case, where you are sitting for the job interview you are constantly analyzing every word spoken from your mouth and self-critical about yourself making it difficult to enter into a flow state of mind. The author, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that inflow there is no room for self-scrutiny. If you are constantly worried about making a mistake and saying something stupid then you will never experience flow. To get in the Zen-like state you need to let go and let things happen automatically by trusting your ability to solve problems.
Flow Factor 3 – Feedback A Gallup study about 1000 US employers found that managers giving little or no feedback to workers fail to engage them 98% of the time. Flow is the state of total engagement, requires a constant flow of information that lets you know your actions are closer to the goal or not. To determine your actions at work are closer to your goal make an effort to give feedback to yourself throughout the day. This brief check-in can help you find your flow sweet spot.
Flow Factor 4- Four% Challenge Steven Kotler author of the rise of superman and founder of Flow Genome Project has continued the research of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and found that if you want to trigger flow, the challenge should be 4% higher than your skill. If you are a chess player then you would find it more interesting to play against a player who can present you with a challenge that complements the 4% rule.
If you play chess against weaker players then it likely that you get bored and lose interest. While if you play against a Chess grandmaster like Vishwanathan Anand it is highly probable that you get crushed and feel frustrated. Therefore, compete against player those are slightly better than you since you know if you try hard you might win. This slight elevation in the challenge can drive you to dig deeper into your skills and find ways to achieve the raised bar of the threshold. Similarly, at work, if you adjust the challenge in the task such that it offers you slight elevation in difficulty from your skills you might break down monotony rather than feel engaged and driven to achieve the goal.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.
Where Can you Find this Book – You can find the book “The Flow” by Author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi both Paperbook and Kindle version on Amazon with massive discount by clicking on the link below