How To Focus / The « Flow » Concept

Sup mate? Vincent here!

Today I would like to introduce you a cool conceptual idea related to focusing and sticking at our goals,, especially when the motivation is extremely low. And more importantly why it is the best and very crucial moment to focus and why we should actually seek for more episodes like this.

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“To overcome the anxieties and depressions of contemporary life, individuals must become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer respond exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments. To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to herself. She has to develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances.” ― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

1975: named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi after studying the idea of happiness and numerous CEO interviews, he decided to write a book about this intricate state of « Flow ».

The basis of the « Flow » is supposed to be a perfect balance between skills, what you’re capable of, and challenge. It reveals some sort of clarity regarding your goals and you become capable of instant feedback while doing your thing, whether it’s sport practice, music or anything that involves such prerequisites. Like every action or decision that you make is being scanned in real time and you can instantly correct your process when it’s needed.

Here are the essential characteristics that I could find on the web when I was looking for some more informations about it, some of the most current symptoms of the Flow experience were:

  • -intense concentration with great focus on the present time,
  • -reduced consciousness of your environnement and even yourself (because you’re genuinely connected with your work/art/whatever),
  • -a feeling of control and power over the situation,
  • -some time distortion (hours can really become minutes)
  • -(and the best one imo) a massive satisfaction

“A joyful life is an individual creation that cannot be copied from a recipe.” ― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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Almost like creating a different reality for yourself (or perhaps being on ecstasy, yeah, according to Mihály’s analogy) I’m sure you guys already felt this at least once. If you’ve ever been practicing something challenging for hours/days and not feeling forced of doing it, you’ve probably experienced the Flow. I think the moment when I personally feel it is when I’m doing music or video. Sometimes it happens when I’m editing or mixing a musical project or when I’m improvising on the guitar. That’s why I also need to add that it doesn’t mean what you’re doing is great, haha. It’s just that you’re at your maximum potential regarding your skills and your target. Heh.

But yeah, at this point your mind is drowned into something more blurry and more finical at the same time. You don’t exist anymore besides the trip you’re living in your head – and probably creating with your hands.

From now on, I think that is what I tend to seek every day. It looks like this is one of the best ways for me to be happy. I’m not saying that it could apply to everyone, there’s no right or wrong, just things that work for me and maybe not for you. Yet this is what I feel is the most appealing thing to do with my life and that is what art and creation are about: giving a sense of reality to something that didn’t exist before / apart of your mind.

If you’re interested in reaching this level of concentration, fortunately there’s a path to do so. You’ll need to train yourself, just like muscles, to approach the exact spot where anxiety becomes awakening and where control becomes power. And because, in this moment, you’re using all your skills at their max efficiency, it’s just a matter of time before you push yourself out of your comfort zone and backward your limits. Advancement can quickly become an addiction as well, which is great!

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A cool way to be able to get closer to the Flow is by trying to add more skills to your current talents (dude, I sound like I’m talking about a friggin RPG!), you need to train yourself and learn on the subjects that matter for you or your long term goals. Because sometimes you’re just about to make it but you get hit by some ridiculous technical aspects of your process and so you can’t be fluid and so you get pissed off and so you may eventually give up. And that’s not what we want.

“Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.” ― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

That said, there is still an obverse, a price to pay to deal with the Flow. Indeed, precisely because this particular state of mind might be the answer to a lot of existential crises such as ‘’what am I made for’’ or ‘’what’s the meaning of (my) life’’ it also provides the accurate tribute in response to that. Just like the second law of thermodynamic, there’s no actual free energy and productivity costs energy. Focusing for so long and so intensively can really be exhausting for your body and also your mental state.

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I’d say it’s just like in sports, it depends on your central nervous system’s resilience. You’ll have to rest, take some breaks and have quality sleep to be able to regenerate. Some may even consider learning and practicing meditation to improve their condition and clarity.

In a future post I will talk about why you should get on trails right now, before getting your heroic armor and enchanted weapons. Because if you feel the urge to create and actually know how to do it, there are great chances you couldn’t do any better with a lot more stuff than you have now (unless you’re at Day 0 with absolutely nothing to produce, of course).

Stay resilient.

Sources:

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  • Uplifting song of the week is a remix we did with Tsuko G.:
  • Yo! I’m also accepting requests & suggestions on Twitter! Did you like this article? What should I write on next? Send your tweets to @haarasnc with hashtag #StayResilient
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