As you are no doubt aware, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (yes – spelling is correct!) is a key proponent of the theory of Flow – whereby Flow is described as the state when a person in an activity is fully immersed, creating a sense of energized focus, full involvement, and success.
So what I hear you ask!? Well, we were chatting last week about resilience within HR professionals, and how do you build or re-create a sense of resilience, rather than feeling overwhelmed with the pressure and workloads many of us have.
Anxiety and stress can be caused by the mind focusing on past or future events, rather than being fully absorbed in the present task – whether that be something as complicated as writing a blog (!) or as natural as walking or eating.
Our mind can play terrible tricks on us by dwelling on past mistakes or failures, or projections about future deadlines, difficult situations or possible future scenarios, many of which aren’t that helpful to our state of being!
If you accept this as true, then being able to generate absorption in a “task” – the sense of Flow – enables the mind to become less anxious and all the resultant benefits that ensue. So, how do you do that?
One of the many insights in Mihály’s work was that, concentrating solely on the task in hand was a key factor in producing this desired state.
Now, many of the tasks we do, we are able to do with subconscious competence – in essence, we’re soooo good at them, that our mind doesn’t have to concentrate on the actual task, but is free to think of other things. Before you know it, our mind has us dwelling on the past or creating fearful futures. Great!
I’m sure there’s no quick way to retraining the mind, but maybe a little by little we’ll make a difference. So, someone suggested doing tasks and activities in a way that forces the mind to focus back on the task in hand. The idea suggested was to try for a week, some simple “mind focusing” techniques for basic tasks.
The ideas we’re trying out this week include:
- Using your non-dominant hand for basic tasks like holding a coffee, brushing your teeth, writing notes, eating and so on
- Before answering or making a call, take 3 deep breaths
- Before each meeting, take 30 seconds to focus on your breathing.
You may think of some that are more useful for you, but in the meantime, good luck. (Written mostly with the left-hand – thank goodness for spell check!)