Flow, how to understand it and how to live it, is critically important for our global mental health. Flow addresses how to live in the present, instead of an imagined future. In warrior speak, we learn to live by trusting how life unfolds.
I’ll be participating in the first Flow Conference, hosted by Cameron Norsworthy. My presentation will address How Motivation Impacts Our Ability to Learn. The conference will occur August 31 and September 1. Check the links for registration, one of which is free.
As an early teaser, check out Cameron’s TEDx Talk Fear or Flow. Below are some of my takeaways:
- We need to realize that we hold the reins of our own experience. You have a choice and that choice can change your life. What’s the choice? That your happiness doesn’t come from chasing after it in some imagined future. Rather, it comes from deep engagement with worthwhile challenges. “Deep engagement” means now, in the present moment.
- A gap is created between an imagined reality and reality itself. Our motivation can move us, usually unconsciously, toward that future imagined reality. In actual reality, the future never arrives. Tomorrow will be today when it arrives. A future moment will be a present moment when it arrives. We begin living in flow when we bring this unconscious motivation to our awareness.
- Constantly striving for and being motivated by the future puts us in survival mode. Flow puts us in thriving mode. Survival mode activates the sympathetic nervous system, getting us to fight, flee, or freeze to escape the present moment. It narrows our attention toward the goal, blinding us from everything we need to be attentive to in the moment.
- In climbing, we react to stress by rushing through it. Our attention narrows to just wanting to get the climbing over-with. At the top, we’re relieved that the effort is over. We survive, but miss drawing the value from the effort. We miss having an optimal experience to enjoy for its own sake.
- The old message of “push harder, tough it out, or get ‘er done” all come at the detriment of our internal experience. They are outdated. They create anxiety, fear, and frustration. We sacrifice our internal experience for the achievement of an external goal. It stems from the mindset of prioritizing external over internal, productivity over presence, outcome over process.
- We’ve created a world in which 76% of employees are disengaged at work, 75% of young girls are stressed about achieving good grades, and 45% of all of us will suffer from some mental health related illness. It’s up to all of us to lower these percentages.
- Understanding how to shift motivation and get into flow more frequently can reverse these trends. Flow requires that process goals be more important than achievement goals. Process goals keep our attention focused on the processes that occur in the moment, rather than distracted toward achievements. We want to be in the present stress, guided by goals, but not consumed by them.
Cameron offers three steps for making this shift:
- Mindset: Prioritize flow by focusing on the quality of your internal experience. Focus on maintaining an expanded body and an observant mind as the grounding for your attention.
- Preparation: You can’t just expect the body/mind to get into flow. You need to train your mind and body to deal with stress better. This is what mental training does. It trains attention by rewiring the body/mind so your whole approach to life changes over time.
- Immersion: You need to shift your consciousness. Immersion requires being attentive all day long. You make a choice to change how you’re motivated and how you’ll focus your attention. You’re motivated by the present challenge. You want to be in it. And you redirect your attention to it whenever you notice it’s distracted.
With flow as your True North, you’ll feel better, you’ll perform better, and most importantly, you’ll pass on a powerful blueprint to the next generation. You’ll help heal the current mental health issues impacting the world.