How getting into a flow-state can bring us peace and joy during our work hours
His tire cuts through the soft sand. The brakes squeak as his back tire slips away. His left foot is already off the pedal, trying to correct his movement. His eyes are fixed on the ground underneath him. Then quickly scan what is ahead. He pushes off with his left foot from the ground. Keeping him from falling. He puts his feet back on the paddle. Positions it right and continues. One after the other his legs pushes against the peddles. The hill is tall and steep. Branches are sticking out on the path making it harder for him to get up. His gaze is fixed at the five meters in front of him. Trying to maneuver and control his way up. The end is nearing.
He barely dodges a small tree truck sticking out from the ground by making a sharp cut to the left with his front wheel. He gives a hard pull to the right and is backtrack. He is almost there. His left leg starts to cramp and tighten. A burning and squeezing sensation is slowly erupting in the muscles of his leg. Just one more push. His right leg pushes down, then his left leg pushes one more time with all the power it has. It is not enough to get him to the top of the hill. So his right leg pushes once more, hard and powerful. It is barely enough to get him up the hill, but he made it. His legs are burning and his heartbeat is pounding against the inside of his ribs, feeling as if there is a small man in there hitting it with a hammer. His breath is shallow like a dog with his tongue hanging from his mouth after fetching the ball for the millionth time. But he made it. He looks ahead and sees a steep decline. With twists and turns, and bumps and drops.
In a matter of seconds the mountain biker takes a deep breath and drops down. Dirt is crushing underneath his tires. Stones pop away as he cycles over them. His bum is slightly above his saddle. His paddles are straightened and he isn’t pushing them. His arms and shoulders tightened, you can see the veins pushing out as blood is pushing through. He notices a small bump in the road and gently glides over it by pulling his front wheel up ever so slightly. He is almost at the bottom as he makes a sharp turn to the right. His body feels all the way sideways as he rumbles and shakes through the sharp curve. A few small bumps and gaps make his head shake and wobble. His helmet is tight and doesn’t move much. He leaves the first sharp curve which is followed by another one to the left. This time the sharp curve is covered in roots, branches, and stumps erupting from the ground. He barely avoids the first root popping up. The next one he cycles right over as his front and back wheel leave the ground. He hits the ground again and has just enough time to take a quick turn around a stump in the ground.
He looks ahead as some of the danger has passed. Another turn to the right. He makes his way through. Still standing, still with all his muscles tightened and tensed. His wrists start to hurt as he joggles his way down the hill further and further. Pumping his break over and over again, in a controlled attempt to not hit a tree. A few curves pass and the man makes his way through clean. In the distance, two trees are tightly squeezed around the track. But he is too late to break. In a split second the man pushes his breaks, stands up, and puts all his strength into his arms. Making sure his bike is steady and straight. The trees are slightly apart and so he first moves his handlebar to the right. It barely misses the tree. Then he quickly moves his handlebar to the left. It too barely misses the bark of the tree. In front of him now is a wide-open field. The bottom of the hill. Covered in grass and puddles of water and mud from last night’s rain. The man sits down on his saddle. His acidified muscles burn and hurt. A deep breath in and he glances at his watch. “130” it shows. Indicating that the heart rate of the man is incredibly high after his climb and ascent from the hill. Tree after tree passed him by but he doesn’t remember it.
He was lost in time. Focused on making his way back down without cracking a bone or getting a concussion. He was focused on his breath keeping it calm and in check. The rocks, the mud, the sand, and every bump and gap in the track he saw. But he only saw the track, never did he see the people watching, or the mushrooms on the ground or the little squirrel on the side of the tree nibbling away on a nut. Now he was down in the valley, he had been in a rhythm. In a flow with the earth, with his bike and the track underneath his tires. He knew the trees and roots, the bumps, and the slippery parts. He saw what was coming and anticipated, not because he knew what to do consciously but because his mind did what it had to. He felt out of control, lost in the moment. In a flow.
RISE WITH THE SUN
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What had happened?
A sign on the left indicates that the trail ends here. The road leads to the right back to where he started. He follows it and feels his legs and arms loosening again. He sits up straight, stretching his back, hearing a few cracks from his backbones falling into place again. His wrists are soar but the way back home isn’t long. It is mostly flat and covered with asphalt. It’s an easy ride home.
A car passed by the young mountain biker, but he didn’t seem to care. He wondered what had just happened. He didn’t remember anything off the last part of the trail. He remembered the push up the hill and his legs burning, the sand making his tires slip. But the way back down, the quick ascent past trees that if he made a mistake could injure him badly. He had never felt so alive, yet didn’t remember any of it. He seemed both unaware of time, he had no thoughts and his body seemed to make every right choice it had to. He felt in a flow an experience he had never had before.
He was always frightened of these trails. He knew how dangerous they could be and what it would mean if his wheel would hit a tree root sticking out from the ground. It would mean that even though his ascent down was quick, his fall to the ground would be even quicker and more painful. He made the last turn to the right into his home’s back alleyway and opened the gate into his garden. He sat down on the bench outside, cooling down his body from the intensive workout he had just had. “What if I could do that again? What if this flow could also work for me during the day? Or when I work? Or when I have to be productive? Would it help me to feel lost in time? Lost in the emptiness of my mind, working without thinking but making the right decisions.
He took a quick shower, put on some fresh clothes, and made his way towards his desk to do some work. He sat down in pain, his legs hurt as the muscle strain slowly sank in. But he laughed, “it was a good workout.” He thought to himself. He wanted to know if this flow this feeling of complete harmony with his bike and the ground underneath him was something useful. A tool to use whilst working. So he started searching.
The power of flow-state
After a few hours of reading and watching videos on what he now knew was called a flow-state, he knew what it was about. He still felt the motivation and this sense high from his mountain bike trip. It felt a bit addictive but in a good way. He didn’t lose focus during his research time and learned all about this flow-state. He wrote it all down for himself and was now reading through the things he listed.
“Flow-state is a state of mind, a focused state of mind in which he was completely lost in time. He didn’t have a sense of time, he didn’t worry about the past nor about the future. All that mattered was the present moment.” He also jotted down that this was a common thing to happen when at risk. People riding incredibly high waves or climbing mountains need this heightened awareness, this flow. Without it, they would die. Crushed underneath the waves or slipping with their hands as they climbed up the side of the mountain falling to their death. But all he cared for was how to use it. But as he scrolled through story after story and watched a few videos he wondered what he did to get into a flow-state just now.
He was aware and focused. Listening to peaceful instrumental music as he read stories. His phone was upside down, he hadn’t checked it in hours. He drank water and was determined, motivated to do this one thing. The rest of his to-do list could be done in a snap of his finger. So he looked at himself. Knowing that what he was doing right now, was his way of getting into a flow. He was hit with another rush of excitement. Finally having figured out what it was that could get him into a moment of flow. He stood up and danced a bit. His body flowing happily as he released his muscles from the soreness they were in.
He went down turned on the coffee machine and got himself a cup of coffee. The brown steaming liquid poured out as the machine made a loud buzzing noise and rumbled a bit. He pulled out his cup of coffee and it was time for him to finish his to-do list. An hour or two passed and his parents got home from a day trip. He looked up from his screen and grabbed his phone. Looking at the time, it was already 5 pm. He had been in a focused state for almost two hours now, well longer because he didn’t feel distracted since the moment he started on his mountain bike trail. It was a marvelous feeling to him. He felt peaceful, relaxed, not at all stressed. Yet he got more done in those two hours than he had ever done before. He heard the ‘ding’ sound as he checked off each task on the list. He felt happy, more even, he felt joyful, motivated, inspired. He felt young and alive. Aware and present. He never knew that he possessed something this powerful. A state of flow. A moment of complete peace, joy, and productivity.
RISE WITH THE SUN
Your guide to a flow-state
Trust me, this is something everyone likes. I wanted to do more, push harder, get more things done but in that attempt I most of the time felt stressed and anxious. Rushed to the max trying to finish it as quickly as possible. But this understanding. This clear moment whilst I was out with my dad for a mountain bike exercise changed this for me. I started learning about flow-state and observing moments in which I felt in a flow. They all had a few things in common that I wanted to share with you. This is a guide for you to try. It will help you feel more peaceful, relaxed, focused, motivated, inspired, aware, joyful, alive, and productive. I truly mean that. This isn’t some list of amazing things we all want to experience. No, I am dead serious. When I am in a flow-state I feel all of this. Not only that but hours after that flow-state I still feel focused and energized. It lasts for a long time. So let’s get into this guide.
Try this exercise to get into a flow-state. This is something I unconsciously used to get into a flow-state. Remember that this is easier when you are doing something you love doing. Things you don’t like doing are most of the time more thought and emotion-provoking than the things you love doing. Which could mean you are easily distracted and pulled out of the act of working and pounding away on your tasks.
- Block your schedule
The first thing to do is make sure there is nothing for you coming up to attend to or that needs your focus, like diner, meetings, or other things. This will make sure you can stay in your flow-state longer and that nothing is gonna distract you or that you will miss some important meeting. Block this time in your schedule or just in your mind. I don’t use a time block schedule so I just check if anything is coming up for me and then put my phone away and get into my flow-state.
- Use music as an anchor
Grab a pair of headphones or earphones and plug them in. This helped me. Or just put on some headphones without any sound. The key here is that you want as little as possible distracting noises from the outside. Besides, people will bother you less if you are wearing headphones. They automatically assume you are working and leave you alone. I have created a playlist for myself, actually two, depending on the mood I am in. One is focused on writing and doing intense work that requires my brain to be peaceful and calm. For this, I created a classical playlist. Click the link right here to follow it or listen to it. Start this playlist I created: Experience now on Spotify The second playlist is more upbeat. That gets me fired up when I want to crack out several things. Like uploading all articles on my website or creating a platter of social media posts. Zone out on Spotify this is the second playlist I created.
- Your phone will kill the flow-state immediately
Put your phone either in your pocket on silent mode, or if you have wireless earphones put your phone behind you so you can’t see it or hear it. Or put in face down just out of your sight on your desk. This way you can not see it and when you look around you only see the back of it. You can’t see any blinking lights or get distracted by notifications popping up on your screen.
- Observe what you are gonna do
This sounds stupid but if you know what you are gonna do clearly, getting into a flow-state will be way easier for you. Look at the task at hand, what is it? Are you going to write or create? Or maybe a school assignment. Whatever it is take some time to look at it and think about it. This will get your brain in the right mood to start working on it.
- Breathing exercise
Take deep breaths, expand your belly outwards and inwards. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 5, breathe out for 5 and then hold again for 5. Do this cycle of box breathing about 10 times. This gets a lot of energy and oxygen flowing through your body and it a small exercise to already get you focused. It takes your full attention to both counts till 5 and to keep track of how many cycles you did.
- Start working
Not much to say here. Just start and give yourself time. The first few times you are gonna try this, this might not work because you are too focused on getting into a flow-state. You are trying to force it. That’s not how this works. A flow-state happens slowly and sort of glides into your mind. Your thoughts disappear and you are left with silence and just music. That is why it is so important to already look at your tasks and do a little breathing exercise. This already calms down your mind making it easier to focus on what you are about to do.
- Have some freaking fun
And last but not least. I want you to live a joyful life. So don’t be angry with yourself when things don’t work out. This should be a fun exercise that will help you live a joyful and peaceful life during a moment of work. So the goal here is not to do it in one go. But to train it and play around with it. Find your methods that work and just experiment. You’re a child, you’re a kid. So act like it. Even if you are 40 or 50 or 60 or maybe older. You are still a kid and can still do this.
At first, this might not feel comfortable, it might not get you into a flow-state at all. That’s completely fine, I don’t get into a flow-state all the time. But by doing this you not only give yourself a moment to get into a flow-state but you also calm yourself. Which eventually will lead to better work. So whether or not you end up in a flow-state all the time you will see yourself working more peaceful and joyful. Remember that it is all about the experience. To experience the beauty of life. To remember that
Today You Live!
Questions to think about for yourself:
- In which part of your life can you use flow-state?
- How would you like to use it?
- Have you already experienced a moment of flow like I described in the article above? If yes, then what did you do? Observe your moments, that the most fun. If it is different from what I have given you as a guide above, ditch my guide and follow your own. We are all different human beings and we have different things that work for us. The key is to get to a flow-state, how is unique for us all.