So I was at the gym the other day and had a revelation.
Whenever I go there I always stock my phone with podcasts and audiobooks to listen to. It's a great way to digest some new info while running on the treadmill or cooling down (Hint: play them at 2x speed to rip through them faster…as long as you can follow along at that speed).
One of the books in my queue recently was The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance written by Stephen Kotler (http://www.amazon.ca/The-Rise-Superman-Decoding-Performance/dp/1480570834).
In it Stephen explains what he defines as a "flow" state of mind and recounts several stories of mostly athletes who achieved it and thus pushed the boundaries of human limits. Skateboarders who jumped the Great Wall of China, rock climbers who traversed unscalable mountain passes, surfers who used a crazy new technique to surf impossibly large (and deadly) waves. Each was a story where a person succeeded at something that was before thought impossible. And in all cases the subjects recounted what was going through their minds at the crucial moment when success-or-failure (or life-or-death) decisions had to be made in a split second. They all described this "flow" state of mind they were in where all distractions were eliminated and their minds were completely focused on the task before them.
Take a second to consider that state. Do you even recall a time when you had 100% uninterrupted, unwavering focus on the task before you?
At the time I was listening to this, one of the TVs in the gym was showing a movie, Wanted (also one of my favourite recent movies!).
In it, the main character Wesley (James McAvoy) is a schmuch of a man working a mind-numbing desk job when he gets told he is actually a member of an elite group of assassins. These people have the ability to achieve mind-bending moves like curving the trajectory of their fired bullets, all by their super-heightened focus.
This movie would have definitely been a lot different if Angelina turned out to be wrong about Wesley's abilities in this scene.
Now to bring this all back to reality for a moment, I know we aren't here to become Superman and we're not aiming to perform feats that defy physics, but here's the takeaway. Both of these stories, Rise of Superman and Wanted, illustrate the importance of achieving that state of mind where your focus is as sharp as it could possibly be.
Both showed that when you are in your "flow" state of mind you will see you perform your best, make instinctual decisions that are on point and push your boundaries of what you thought you were capable of.
Two things happened for me as Stephen Kotler's speech about "flow" poured into my ears and Wesley curved his first bullet on the TV screen before me:
1) I turned off the audiobook and ignored the TV
2) I hit the weight rack and achieved a personal best for my deadlift (140lb)
3) After finishing I went home, sat down at my computer and quickly cut together 4 new scenes for the comedy series I was working on.
That deadlift personal best is still remarkable to me because a shoulder injury often prevents me from putting too much weight on. That day, no pain. And the scenes I cut together? The director loved them and they changed very little for the final cut of those episodes. The pacing was right on for each of them.
After turning off the audiobook and quieting my mind I was able to focus wholeheartedly on my gym goal that day. And when I got home, I blocked distracting tabs on my browser like email, Facebook and Twitter and put my phone on silent.
In those moments, I achieved a bit of this flow state of mind I had heard so much about.
What's distracting you while you work? Right now, you might actually say it's this blog (ummm…touché) . But there are other things that may be distracting you externally (social media notifications, text messages, other colleagues dropping into your office or that cat sitting on your keyboard) or internally (What to make for dinner tonight? When should I call that person back? Gotta remember to pay that bill!).
Nowadays "flow" also goes by a different name: mindfulness.
Whatever you call it, you can achieve it by recognizing what is distracting you and taking steps to block it from your mind.
You may not always be able to achieve it (unless you truly are superhuman…) but for those times that you do, you may surprise yourself with what you're able to accomplish.
We want to hear from you!
What steps do you take regularly to achieve your "flow"?
E-mail us or tweet us with your tips on focusing your mind.
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