To me, the Flow state means:
- Feeling powerful and energized
- Enjoying interactions with people, moments and events without being concerned with outcomes
- Striding powerfully toward your goals with a smile on your face
- A sense of timelessness
- Feeling a sense of connectedness with the world at large
- A confidence that you are living and creating life based on your values and desires
- An internal knowingness that you are on your own path, you are the Hero of your own story
Some of this relates to what many top performers describe feeling while they are at peak performance – a perfect game, an amazing business meeting, a brilliant speech.
We want to cultivate this feeling so that it happens as often as possible.
The Flow state also refers to the state in which you no longer experience Resistance to events unfolding in your life. Resistance in this case indicates the negative feelings – which are almost always based on fear – that cause you to emotionally “resist” a circumstance or event in your life which you perceive as undesirable.
- Your significant other dumps you and you feel afraid that you’ll never meet someone again (fear of lack of love)
- You are about to lose your job and it causes you stress and sleepless nights (fear of poverty)
- You’re about to move to a new place and are concerned or worried about what your new environment will be like (fear of being alone / fear of lack of love)
The above are just some of the countless examples of Resistance we can feel toward life events.
So how can we conquer Resistance and cultivate a state of Flow? In my view there are three pillars.
First Pillar: It’s About Belief
If you haven’t seen it already, go watch the speech Steve Jobs gave at the 2005 Stanford Commencement.
In this speech Jobs articulates very beautifully and clearly the key to overcoming Resistance. He refers to having had certain experiences in his life toward which he may have felt uncertain or negative. He did not understand the significance of these events at the time they occurred; it was only much later that he was able to “connect the dots looking backward”.
It’s the same with the above examples.
- You were dumped because you weren’t a match; once you’ve processed the emotions you will know more about what you want out of your next relationship
- You needed to lose your old job in order to get a new, more suitable job or maybe start your own business
- Though it was hard to say goodbye, you made amazing friendships and new connections at the new place that helped you grow in new and wonderful directions
All of these events are necessary on your lifelong journey of emotional, spiritual, and professional growth in your human experience.
If you are able to internalize such an event as necessary and something that will ultimately lead you in the direction on the path that you need to take, then worry melts away. You take it in stride, smile, and are unconcerned with the outcome.
Second Pillar: Mind Control
The above is easy to understand philosophically. It’s much harder to internalize.
In order to overcome resistance, you must master your thoughts toward circumstances and events in your life. But where do your thoughts come from?
Are you creating them, or are they just “there” in the ether and you are merely acting as a receiver?
If you talk to creative types, they describe the creative thought process as one in which they act more like a passenger than a driver.
It seems to me that thoughts are generated/received in accordance with the emotions you are feeling most of the time.
Simply stated: if you’re feeling good you’ll have mostly positive thoughts; if you’re feeling bad you’ll have mostly negative thoughts.
The trick, then, is to understand three points:
- You are not your thoughts
- Your thoughts can be controlled to a large degree
- There are many easy practices available to improve your mood and change your thoughts over time
Once we understand this, we can focus on these practices to help us feel good and overcome negative thinking.
Negative thoughts / emotions can also be very useful in themselves but I’ll save that topic for another time.
Let’s get specific: some practical techniques for your FeelGood Toolkit™
These are TONS of different things you can do to optimize your emotional and mental condition, but here are my top five.
#1 Exercise: your free happy pill
I put this at number one for a reason: I think it’s hands down the best and easiest way to improve your mood, energize yourself and get into that Flow state.
Google the morning routines of almost any successful entrepreneur and you’ll find the same.
The time of day when you exercise is up to you. I personally prefer mornings because it gives me that energized, relaxed confidence throughout the coming day.
My current routine is to do morning yoga for 20 to 50 minutes, sometimes followed by body weight exercises (pull ups, pushups) or kettlebells.
“But..but.. yoga is expensive and I can’t afford that!”
Good news! Check out www.doyogawithme for hundreds of free online classes at multiple levels. There’s an excellent 14-day course on the front page which will help you start a daily routine.
“But… but… there is no gym near me!”
Got you covered: Visit www.onnit.com, they have tons of free guides on how to exercise at home using your body weight and some basic equipment.
Even going for a 30 minute walk or bike ride is enough! Just get your body moving for at least 30 minutes, 3 times per week. Do it every day if you can. Governmental health programs have been telling us this for decades.
This is a HUGE one. I think it’s actually more important than exercise, but diet can be a touchy subject and it’s harder for someone to change their diet than to pick up a new form of exercise.
It can also be completely overwhelming. There are dozens of “diets” out there, new ones come out each year, and our understanding of nutrition is constantly evolving.
Which one will work best for you? I have no idea. But here are some general guidelines that I follow, you can call it a Modified “Paleo” Diet:
- Eat real food. No chips, sodas, ice creams, refined-sugar based products, frozen dinners, etc.
- Minimize bread and pasta
- Stick to white meat and fish; I still eat red meat but very infrequently
- Eat organic where budget allows, especially eggs
- Minimize (sorry, fellow cheese lovers)
- Eat lots of vegetables and fruit
- Eat at least 3x per day most days
As a general rule, just be aware of how you feel after eating something. If you feel like sleeping 20-30 minutes after a meal, or erupt into gas explosions that scare away the cat, this is an indicator that you probably shouldn’t be eating that food.
Once I started paying attention to how food affects my thoughts and how my body feels, I noticed a direct correlation between consumption of sugary, processed foods and negative thoughts and self-doubt/low self-confidence.
That hopefully keeps it pretty simple.
It’s easier said than done. Most people are unaware of their addiction to sugary, processed foods. Detoxifying from starchy foods and sweets may be the most difficult part of your journey. But trust me, you’ll feel better because you won’t have those cravings or sugar crashes anymore.
No matter what your situation is – everybody has something that they can be thankful for.
I try to make this a daily habit for 1-2 minutes just before I get out of bed (and sometimes right before falling asleep). It puts you into a gratitude mindset, which means you’ll have ever more things in your life to feel thankful for.
No bullshit – there are times when I feel so grateful for the things in my life that I nearly cry.
I am thankful that you are reading this post!
Just the fact that you have Internet and are able to read this post is amazing! Thank you, Al Gore.
Obligatory meditation section!!
I’m joking of course. Every “feel good” blog/article gives a nod to meditation, and for good reason.
I really do believe in the importance of cultivating a meditation practice, and combined with yoga it has given me enormous benefits and really helped me to dissolve resistance.
Most of us should now be aware of the benefits of meditation; but if you aren’t, here are 20 scientific reasons.
People commonly resist meditation. It’s too hard to sit still, they say.
Well, here’s something that will help: Osho – a 21-day course in meditation.
This program is genius, for two reasons:
- It’s 21 days; it is said that it takes 21 days to successfully form a new habit
- The meditations are varied and target a specific emotional set-point
The programs are about 20 minutes long and provide you with a meditation technique at the end that you can implement in your life.
The intent is not to incorporate all 21 different meditations daily, as that would be overwhelming. Rather, each of the meditations are applicable to certain emotional states.
For instance: you do not listen enough to your intuition. There is a meditation specifically for that.
Or: you have trouble coming out of your shell among new people. There is a different meditation for that.
You can mix, match and combine different meditations to suit your particular emotional needs.
#5 Cold showers
I got into cold shower therapy after listening to Wim Hof on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
“God is the Cold… it is a noble force”. Vice has done a great documentary about him.
He invented a unique breathing technique which is said to have remarkable benefits on his physiology, and this enables to complete nearly superhuman feats. He holds several cold-related world records such as the longest ice bath (2 hours!).
I didn’t do his course but I found this write up on it: Wim Hof Method *REVEALED*.
I followed that guide for 10 weeks or so. Each week, I tried to last a minute longer in the cold shower. I did finally get up to 10 minutes, during winter in Switzerland no less! It gives an incredible feeling of energy afterward. Somehow the water doesn’t feel as cold when you use his breathing technique first.
I am no longer taking 10 minute long showers, but I have kept the habit of taking cold showers each morning.
I keep the breathing technique in my Feelgood toolkit, it’s a very fast way to relax and feel good.
I’m not sure if it’s because of the showers but I haven’t really been sick in a long time. At the very least you’ll have no problem feeling fresh and energized in the morning!
Third Pillar: Motivation
I tried not to list too many techniques for a reason; it can be difficult to form new habits, and any more than 5 at once might be overwhelming.
Having the above in your FeelGood Toolkit is great, but won’t be of much benefit to you if you can’t put them in consistent practice.
So you need to discover your motivation.
My motivation is just to feel as good as possible, as often as possible.
What’s yours? You need to discover what you are working toward, and view the above as necessary tools to achieve your aims. Because your aim will be much more elusive and the journey will be less satisfying if you can’t succeed at feeling good first.
In summary, 4 simple words: Don’t worry, be happy
There’s a lot more depth to this song than you may realize!
Find what makes you happy, and don’t worry about what happens; it really is that simple.
What practices do you have to keep yourself in a Flow state? I’d love to hear from you.