In today’s times faced with uncertainty, ambiguity, how can we become super learners and creative problem solvers to innovate under constraints?
FLOW state is state of consciousness or alertness where time slows down, we see more connections, we get creative ideas and we see the big picture. Flow state allows us to access our maximum potential capacity as humans.
Csikszentmihalyi describes this FLOW state through 8 characteristics.
1. Complete concentration on the task;
2. Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback;
3. Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down);
4. The experience is intrinsically rewarding;
5. Effortlessness and ease;
6. There is a balance between challenge and skills;
7. Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination;
8. There is a feeling of control over the task.
Now the question is how to access this altered state of consciousness in our daily lives? How can we find triggers to enter and exit this state at will? Top performing athletes, firefighters, musicians, painters and traders practice some of these techniques.
To understand the FLOW state, it’s important to understand the notion of resilience.
And to understand the connection between the FLOW state, resilience let me present to you the FLOWer model which is a metaphor with the growing conditions of a flower to better grasp this notion of FLOW.
The job of a flower
A flower’s main task is to attract pollinators and protecting the ovule production which later transforms into fruits to create seeds so that the flower can reproduce.
The flower draws carbon, nutrients, and water from the vegetative portion of the plant continuously over the flower’s life span. In extremely resource limited environments, future growth and survival of the flower is at stake.
Plants are photosynthetic organisms and must attain their light, water and nutrient resources directly from the environment. Consequently, plant size and position affect its capture and potential photosynthetic rates.
The absorption by roots and movement of water in the plant is determined by available water and the temperature and season.
Constraints and adaptability
Based on these external constraints, the plant adapts its growth strategy by having deeper roots, bigger or smaller leaves, and by growing taller to attain more light and increasing its mechanical stability with greater wind.
When plants are seedlings, slight breezes help them grow more sturdy. If the wind is too strong the plants oscillate until the roots or stem fail.
After suffering an injury, some individual flowers on the stalk can also rotate back, as best they can, into a position ideal for pollination.
In spite of the fragility of flowers, they definitely know a thing or two about weathering catastrophe.
Thus a resilient plant is one that adapts its resource consumption by adapting to its external constraints. This adaption happens over time with the right mix of external constraints which helps the flower keep its freshness and attractiveness to attract pollinators. The more resilient, the abler we are to deal with stress — and over long periods of time.
For us humans, every problem that life throws at us and we deal with it, it makes us stronger. To grow our roots and stay grounded in tough times, practising gratitude, meditation, doing physical exercise are some of the ways to become resilient.
Now the flower’s FLOW state can be compared to its freshness and ability to attract pollinators and at the same time protect the ovules during a gust of wind. A flower that never had a harsh growing condition will wither and die with the slightest fragility in the external condition. Similarly, a flower that always had a harsh growing condition won’t necessarily survive or be attractive enough for the pollinator.
The FLOWer metaphor is helpful in understanding the importance of resilience to enter the flow state, but what is different in humans, is that the flow state can also influence our overall resilience. What is important to recognize is the role of constraints and stressors in how the FLOW state is activated and how it builds on resilience.
The FLOW state is a state of alertness but can also be blissful. The FLOW state is also what makes us happy, it’s an egoless state of being totally involved in the activity. The question then is what are the triggers to get into this state?