Perception drives people’s behaviours every day.
Perception and reality are two different things; however, they are entangled in our mind: one generates the other.
Our mind is so powerful that it exerts constant pressure on our actions and emotions. Have you ever been in a bad mood without a tangible external reason? It all started with a negative thought that started crawling around in our minds. And that thought generated another negative thought and then another, until you find yourself angry, or depressed, or sad. As a result, you treat people around you without respect or aggressively, whether they are friends, colleagues, or family members.
The downward spiral acts very quickly, and the effects it produces are long-lasting.
There are four states of mind, which condition our life; only one is positive for us, and we must all learn to recognize and practically realize it.
1. The negative spiral
We are not happy in the present, and we have no vision of the future.
The more we create negative thoughts, the more these thoughts generate negative feelings and, in turn, influence behaviour in a negative way. We feel stuck and overwhelmed, and eventually hopeless, depressed.
2. The Current Reality Trap
We are happy in the present, but we don’t have any vision of the future.
The lack of goals means no growth and no motivation, so we can only achieve a superficial happiness. This happiness is not stable, and it is not sustainable in the long term. We will soon feel empty.
3. Stress and anxiety
We have a clear vision of the future, but we are not happy in the present.
We live disconnected from reality, our mind is absorbed in the goals or results we want to achieve, but we neglect the present. We feel stressed because we don’t see around us what is already in or mind and we feel anxious, we start to work quicker than the time.
4. State of Flow
We are happy in the present, and we have a vision of the future.
It is the most difficult objective to achieve, but we should all live up to it. It is the perfect balance. To conceive it, we can take some tangible action.
According to positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, we reach this state of mind when we are motivated, focused, pulled forward by big goals. Yet, we are happy and grateful for what we already have; we feel lucky.
He describes the mental state of flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away—time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Csíkszentmihályi describes eight characteristics of flow:
- Complete concentration on the task;
- Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback;
- Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down);
- The experience is intrinsically rewarding;
- Effortlessness and ease;
- There is a balance between challenge and skills;
- Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination;
- There is a feeling of control over the task.
How To Trigger The State Of Flow
We can follow a specific path to achieve the state of flow and to feel fulfilled and happy. What we need to do is to start working on our attention. Attention is “psychic energy”, and we have to let it flow. The very fact that we are focused on achieving our goal makes us happy and satisfied. I have often observed this in my children. Children are wholly immersed in what they are doing, a game, for example. The more complex the game is, the more focused they are, and immensely happy when they finally achieve the goal. Think of the children when they play with wooden constructions, and they have to make all the joints, or put rings in stakes, or think of Legos for older children. I see my kids hyper-focused and hyper happy when they complete the game.
Let’s learn from them! We can start by following this plan.
- Eliminate All External and Internal Distractions
When we intensely focus for at least 10–15 minutes, then we into the flow state. We have to turn off the mobile phone and not access social media; close all unnecessary files or email tabs; free the table from unnecessary items; keep on the table only the ingredients we need to cook, and so on. We also need to free our mind from other minor thoughts, so let’s complete what’s going on in our head, such as making an appointment with the dentist; answering an email; washing dishes etc. anything that diverts our attention away from the primary task.
- Work At Your Biological Peak Time
We said that energy is psychic energy, so to get the attention we need to be rested and energetic. Some people are more productive in the morning and others in the evening, it depends on our Cicardian cycle. Let’s learn to recognize it and make the most of it. If we are energetic, we will also have more willpower, and this will allow us to be more resilient.
- Work On One Task At A Time To Reach Your Big Goal
Pick one specific task and start to work on it solely. It can be anything: writing an important email, preparing a speech, creating a new cake décor; styling a new dress etc. The task must be challenging but not too challenging. Start choosing “mild tasks” and then increase the complexity by time. If you work, all of a sudden, on a very challenging task, this will probably lead to frustration and stress. If a task is too easy, you’ll be bored quickly, and your mind will wander. This way, working one task after the other, will guide you through the journey to achieve the goal you set. When we start walking on this path, we need to have an unambiguous vision or purpose that we want to reach.
- Nourish Your Body With Healthy Food
The ancient Romans said: Mens Sana in Corpore Sano. It means that if the body is healthy, then the mind will also be healthy and able to function efficiently. Let us therefore always stay hydrated, avoid sugary drinks but drink tea or infusions or green juices. We use food as gasoline and medicine for our body. We will receive well-being and health.
- Work In A Quiet And Relaxing Environment
It’s essential to immerse ourselves in tranquillity. It is difficult to do it if we work in an open space office; however, we can use some tricks. For example, we can use headphones and listen to relaxing and meditative music; we can put plants around us; we can mentally isolate ourselves for the time needed to complete the task, even a tidy and clean desk helps us relax!
- Create A Mental Cue
Our mind and body need a kind of signal that tells the process is starting. For instance, we can take a deep breath, or straighten the spinal column, make circles with the shoulders, crack the fingers, massage the neck. Anything else will work as long as is the same thing each time we want to get into the flow state. Over time, this will help us create a mental cue for our brain. The brain will be ready to enter the flow state.
When we finally manage to enter this state, we will have achieved happiness, meant as profound satisfaction, and we will have managed to live with awareness and meaning. It is a long journey, but I am sure we must do it for ourselves and our loved ones.
I have already set out on the journey… will you do it too?
“Even a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”
Your first step is to book your Free Workshop Here
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience’ by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi