Just Flow With It

When we disable ego, we enable learning. 

Learning is an innate capacity but judgment, fear, and ego get in the way. Pace and quality of learning accelerate with relaxed concentration - flow.

So how do we get into a flow state? There are three requirements: 

  1. Clear goals
  2. Immediate feedback
  3. Challenge-to-skill ratio

To clarify the challenge-to-skill ratio parameter, the task must be difficult, but not too difficult. Provided that these parameters are present, we can get into a flow state in a surprisingly short amount of time. By shifting our perception of flow states, we can enjoy them faster and more often. 

Video games illustrate these parameters well and are designed to get us into flow states. That’s why they're fun and addicting. David Chapman writes: 

“They are engineered with clear rules and easy-to-understand goals, and give immediate feedback (such as a score or damage bar). They present a long series of carefully calibrated, increasing challenges, with skills to develop. They demand intense attention control, as you have to keep track of numerous monsters and constantly scan the screen for threats and opportunities.”

When we enter a flow state, the rational mind goes dim. Awareness and uninhibited perception take over. Full immersion is the essence of flow states: energized focus, full involvement, deep enjoyment. 

Presence. 

Tiago Forte calls flow the "holy grail of productivity." The pre-frontal cortex shuts down and self-criticism disappears. Flow states improve pattern recognition and lateral thinking. Flow is a non-ordinary state of consciousness and a state of inner tranquility with more focus and less stress. The science proves this. 

In a flow state, you feel free and relaxed, not tense and overly controlled. 

Josh Waitzkin, a chess and tai chi world champion, calls flow the secret to optimal performance. In his book, The Art of Learning, Waitzkin writes: 

“In performance training, first we learn to flow with whatever comes. Then we learn to use whatever comes to our advantage. Finally, we learn to be completely self-sufficient and create our own earthquakes, so our mental process feeds itself explosive inspirations without the need for outside stimulus.”

His quote reminds me of a Japanese word I like: Mushin (無心). The English translation is “the state of no-mindedness.” 

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Advanced martial artists enter a Mushin state during combat where the mind is free from ego, anger and fear. No internal chatter — present, aware, and free.

Guided by the subconscious, the sword and the warrior become one in the same. The mind is guided by instinct and intuition. It works deftly, but with no intention, plan or direction.

Flow with whatever comes. Move with - not against - randomness and unexpectedness. Flow itself can become more rewarding than what what we achieve with it.