In my conversation with Steven Kotler, we got right into strategies to enhance both flow (one of the most optimal states a human can be in) and creativity. Below are a few ideas on how to increase flow (more on creativity later).
As a starting place, there are no “tips and tricks” to increasing your frequency of being in “one of the most optimal states a human can be in” (flow : see link here). Rather, the most robust strategy, is to fundamentally organize one’s life to activate as many “triggers” of flow as possible.
One of those triggers is deep focus. With digital discretions all around us, deep focus is a fading resource for many. Steven highlights that flow follows focus. We are talking about “deep focus.”
How can you do this?
Look for environments that have risk (either social or physical) and “take a shot.” There are some “guidelines” to taking a shot. These risk environments facilitate flow when the challenge is just slightly above a person’s skill. Note, the term “just slightly.” You inherently know exactly what this means. Go do something that you (almost) know you can do, but for it to happen well, it will require full commitment and a deep focus.
Deep focus is a function of uninterrupted moments. Sounds easy, but, the natural state of our mind is like a drunk monkey: wandering, curious, a bit sloppy. We have to work and sometimes struggle, to sustain a deep focus.
With that in mind, there are many ways to actually do “focus” training, but one well-tested approach is practicing a daily mindfulness training program. It’s not that complicated, but certainly not easy to do (at least for me).
Heres a simple starting place:
- Set a timer for “x” minutes (maybe start at 1 minute, progressing over time to 20+ minutes)
- Focus on one breath at a time (as if your loved one depended on you getting it right).
- When your mind wanders, just bring it back to your inhale (or your exhale).
When can you do this? Trying doing the above training in the morning. And see if you can do “the hardest things”, the most challenging feats, earlier in the day as well.
This strategy prevents the habit of busy work getting in the way and procrastination.
This strategy of doing the hard things first is meant to be a life-pursuit — to organize your life to do the “things” that are challenging while you are sharpest, have the least amount of distractions, and have your sites clear on your objectives, without the natural disruptions of the day.
Enjoy the simple joys. Be you. Train deep focus. Go for it. Find flow. Recover. Rinse and repeat.