Enough writers have commented on putting the ‘less in effortless’ that it’s no longer safe to attribute anyone to the quote. Writers, of course, spend a lot of time trying to make difficult concepts seem easy. They do this in pursuit of narrative flow.
Narrative flow taps into the built-in instinct many share for a mental state known as the flow state. This is when you’re able to achieve a clear mind and focus on a specific goal.
While in this state, you accomplish more across less time and with more enjoyment. It is a highway with many onramps such as Zen, mindfulness, and the examined life.
If you’d like to learn how to achieve this near-mythic (but very real) state, read on.
Flow State Defined
Aside from writers, many other professions enjoy tapping into the flow state. This includes card players, dancers, surgeons, and engineers. Anyone who needs to work in a ‘higher’ brain state enjoys the feeling of freedom and connectivity that a flow state provides.
Put simply, a flow state is a focused condition in which the mind is immersed in a task, able to see it from many angles, and to act quickly in-totality without effort.
A flow state, conversely, is not a state with no boundaries. It is not a laissez-faire condition, in which everything is given the same weight resulting in a series of blind guesses. Rather, it is about processing the current set of thoughts within a framework of immediate feedback and compensation on the fly.
Reaching a flow state provides a myriad of benefits.
- Motivation – Some tasks are slow-going because they take just enough effort to combat doubt and reach a sense of certainty that one is simply drained quickly. You do that enough times and getting started feels like a chore. Flow states reverse this fear loop, offering a pathway to joy and achievement that motivates further work.
- Clarity – Part of what makes thinking clearly difficult is the barrage of lingering issues outside of the job. Gaining a sense of clarity cuts out this detritus and feels very much like dropping a heavy weight and walking freely, only mentally.
- Breakthroughs – Sometimes a problem is a problem because it becomes your sole focus. Freeing your mind allows you to see the territory around the obstacle and the solutions therein.
- Satisfaction – Lacking expectations for either success or failure, a flow state allows you to feel the moment. The act of doing is more joyful than any end result.
Achieving a Flow State
Now that you’re more than convinced to seek it out, you want to know how to reach a flow state.
There are multiple techniques that will get you there. For convenience, there are three paths that will be covered here.
- Analytic Approach – This approach appeals to logical people that like to create parameters and work with a tight set of parameters.
- Freeform Approach – This approach works best for people who are goal-oriented but unrestrained in their pursuit.
- Assisted Approach – Especially for beginners, utilizing tricks and shorthand can help achieve limited flow states to expand on with more dedicated efforts later.
Let’s take a look at these in reverse order.
Shortcuts and Aides
Rather than focus on a specific problem, the assisted approaches come at a flow state from a combination of self-hypnosis and chemical responses.
Meditation is difficult because it requires a wealth of skill and the ability to focus beyond. Self-hypnosis, in the form of autotelic experiences, is far easier.
Consider your capabilities. What you can do, not what you need to do. the longer you focus on a single skill or image associated with that skill, the easier it is to enter flow.
another way to get out of your head, so to speak, and start considering beyond the detritus of anxiety and daily worries is to take calming therapeutics. Secret Nature Delta 8 was created with this effect in mind.
Partnering with Yourself
The best way to get working on a flow state for the analytical mind is to find a challenge-skills balance.
This involves starting with an easy task, one that you’ve stopped doing as a challenge and participate in for recreation. This might be something like a well-worn Sodoku, a word search, or some baseline formulae.
As your mind gets working on these simple but doable tsks it swaps into gear, in the same you would walk a lap before running to ease that transition.
From there you swap to a task that is difficult but not pressing or pressing but not difficult. Either of these will help separate the mental work from body objectivation.
Clear Mind, Calm Mind
The freeform approach looks at the goals and processing of feedback.
This starts with a well-defined goal. From there you build a chain from where you are to the goal itself. This chain’s links don’t have to form in a row or start from either side, they only need to connect.
This combines two distinct elements.
The first is action-awareness merging. Here, you examine what you’re doing and ht equalities that the action has to understand how the action fits into your overall goal.
The second is appreciating your sense of control. You don’t need to inhabit control, you exert it.
This slight detachment between your action and the result allows you to consider the feedback without being at the center of the result.
You are the cue, not the ball. You move the force, you don’t feel the force.
Beware falling into the solipsism pit along this route. You might be the one very much in charge of your creations and ideas but there is a reality you’ll need to return to and pre-existing forces to deal with.
Practice and Participate
Entering into a flow state each time you want to isn’t a realistic goal. Continue to practice focusing on your goals and your clear mind techniques and you’ll enter a flow state more frequently.
Remember, achieving a flow state makes your work and experience better but you’re still capable without it.
For more ideas about health, lifestyle, and the world around you, check back with our other articles.