No matter what you do, your ability to hold focus and concentration on a single task can largely determine the size of your success in business, school, relationships, love life, sports, and life in general.
Have you ever wondered why the majority of people seem to struggle with life, while some people go through life without stress and problems? They seem to enter some mystical state of flow which allows them to be almost perfect at what they do.
In this post, I will share a few valuable tips on how to improve your focus and concentration derived from my personal experience. Moreover, I will explain what the flow state of mind is; the state where you find your focus and attention to be on the highest level, furthermore I will show you how you can master the flow to skyrocket your productivity.
The ability to read this post in full will be the first indicator of how developed or undeveloped is your focus and concentration.
Gold Fish Focus
We live in a world of record low ability to focus and concentrate. Some studies have shown that it is short as in goldfish.
How did we get so low?
In my opinion, social networks are reason No1 why people are losing mental abilities such as focus and concentration. Scrolling down on Facebook news feed flashes to your mind one hundred different pieces of information per minute. One second you are thinking about a friend, the next second about the event, the third second about another friend, and so on.
It is devastating for long-term focus, and it can kill concentration. If those two are damaged, other mental abilities will suffer as well. Rarely I meet someone today who is focus-sharp and who can concentrate on a task longer than ten seconds before the mind goes away to some other place while the body is still with me.
Moreover, the life is not that easy as it was before 100 years. We came soo far soo fast. And because of this tempo, everything is sped up, everyone is running around the place stretching their focus on too many things at once. At the job, we have to think ten thoughts at the same time, at home is the same situation.
The fact is, many men and women from history and some still living today owe their success mainly to their ability to hold their focus. They were not distracted by a million and one things during a day. Maybe they were, but not as much as we are today. However, they were able to guard their mind against any outside circumstances so they can enter the flow state and keep their focus and concentration on the task in front of them.
Their focus can be compared with,
Magnifying Glass Focus, Laser Focus, or Simply, the Flow State
Take the glass and put it in the sun. The lens concentrates a bunch of sun rays into a single one. After some time they become so strong as a laser beam. You can even start a fire with it.
That is what we want! We want to learn how to hold a thought on one thing for so long that when you do the task, the results will be quick as a flame. You will be able to do things so fast and effective but without hurry or rush.
Some circles call it the state of mindfulness, some say “in the zone”. However, I decided to call it the flow state of mind, the state of laser-sharp focus and fire-starting concentration.
What is the Flow State of Mind?
The flow state is a mind-body state when you are entirely in the task, holding your focus and concentration strictly on what you do at the present moment. You are completely immersed in your activity. You think about nothing, you just do what you do.
It is a state of mind when your thoughts, emotions, and actions are in complete harmony with each other. In the flow state, you are completely relaxed and allow free flow of energy.
Once you reach the flow state, things seem to do by themselves. It feels like you are nothing but an observer from your mind, while your body performs the task without a single mistake. Your actions are quick and prompt. Everything seems to become smooth and effortless.
While in this state of mind your productivity is at the highest level and you are able to focus and concentrate on the task for hours without feeling tired or exhausted. Moreover, your focus and concentration are at a peak level. The feeling of ecstatic takes you over, and you become soaked in enthusiasm.
Examples of the Flow State
Many professionals in many walks of life mastered their focus so they can enter the flow state in a matter of seconds.
Professional basketball shooter practices his shoot thinking about nothing except the ball going into a basket. Mentally, emotionally, and physically he is on the court and nowhere else.
He feels the ball, he can hear the flor, he tastes the air in the gym, he touches the basket from a distance. It seems that the entire room is him and he is the entire room. His mind is with him at the moment, his hands handle the ball by themselves, he doesn’t think, he just acts. The sense of aliveness and ecstatic its on its peak. He enjoys every moment.
When the game comes he switches his thoughts on the feeling from practice, he enters a flow state in a second, and almost nothing can knock him out. Those who master flow state sometimes can finish the game almost without a missed shot.
A surfer on the waves becomes one with the stream. When he is on the surfing board, nothing else exists except him, the board, and the tide. Hee feels every slope, he manages to ride and predict the movement of the wave. The wave seems to follow him and not the other way around.
Musicians enter the flow state as soon as they grab their instruments. Many of them are known to compose a song in a matter of hours. Simply thanks to a fact they are able to concentrate their mental and emotional focus on what they love to do, writing the music.
There are many more examples from the world of sport, music, literature. However, they are not necessarily the only ones who are able to feel the flow state. You have experienced flow state many times in your life. Only thing is, you were probably unaware of the state. It takes time and practice, but it is available to everyone. All you have to learn is these five key steps to unlock the free flow of energy.
How to Get Into the Flow State?
Next few steps can help you to trigger and get into the flow state.
1.) Completely relax
The primary key to flow state is to relax your body and mind. You must learn how to eliminate negativity which affects the way how you feel and ultimately how you perform. Your focus and concentration depend on the way you think. Tension and anxiety will block the flow, while complete relaxation enhances the state.
Next few practices can help you to relax and prepare your mind to enter the flow state.
While it becomes more and more popular in the western civilization, in eastern countries meditation is known for centuries. India, China, Japan, nurture meditation practice for ages because of its benefits on the focus of mind and ability to concentrate.
Meditation allows you to rise above your everyday problems and worries which are blocking the free flow of energy. It helps to clear the mind and relax the body so that creative energy can flow with ease. That is where the expression “flow state” comes from.
There are a few different meditation practices. However, in my own experience, there is no right or wrong one, all of them work the same. The basic concept is to sit down, relax your body, and focus your mind on taking slow, deep breaths.
Once you are able to concentrate enough to control your breath, you will be able to control your mind as well. When you reach the faze where you can manage your body and mind, you will be able to control your emotions. Then, you are entirely in harmony on all levels of your being, and you can enter the flow state.
Exercise helps to eliminate stress and tension from the body and mind, maintains the cardiovascular system, improves strength and endurance, and many more. It is one of the best ways to strengthen up your mind as well as your body. Also, it helps to improve focus and concentration.
One of my personal favorites is reading. While reading, our mind is wholly focused on the pages in front of us, everything else is blocked. Reading helps to eliminate free thoughts from the brain so the mind can relax much quicker.
Some people can focus on reading so much they can go through medium size book in a day! It is because they mastered their focus. They stay in flow state for hours without any disruptions which allow them to read with ease and flow until they finish the book.
However, this is not the point. If you can read 10 pages every day, the ability of focus and concentration will enhance over time, and ability to reach the flow state will emerge by itself.
This kind of music is recommended in many cases. It helps to relax the mind and release tension. Therefore, a relaxed mind can focus longer on the task at hand.
For example. Many surgeons are familiar with this practice. They listen to classical music while they are performing life or death operations on their patients because it helps them to stay calm and relaxed. They can maintain the flow state for hours until they successfully finish the process.
This example leads me to the second key for flow state, which is…
2.) Work on something that has true meaning to you
It can be your career, it can be your housework, it can be a sports activity, it can be writing, it can be climbing the mountain! What is important is that it has to be something that “moves your juices”; something that doesn’t give you a feeling of anxiety or hate towards the task. For many people, it is work on their goals and passions in life.
If you feel love or passion for your work, the flow state is almost inevitable. While you are working on something that has a true meaning to you, these feelings only get stronger and stronger which leads to a feeling of total enthusiasm and ecstatic. The flow state comes by itself.
When I write, I always meditate for at least 10 minutes before I put down the first letter. It takes 10 minutes more to think, positively and cheerfully, about what am I going to write. When I approach to write, I am already close to a feeling of the flow state. In the first few sentences, I have to push some effort to focus my thoughts and concentrate them on the screen. However, after 10 more minutes I totally relax, my focus is a laser, and I write almost unstoppable. Sometimes I get so lost in flow state that I am able to ignore tiredness, hunger, toilet urge, or even distractions from outside.
However, if I find it difficult to reach the flow state while I write, then I use the third key.
3.) Find a challenge in it
After some time performing the same task over and over it can become boring, and we can lose the ability to flow.
Therefore, whatever you do, try to set a small challenge for yourself each time you do it. In other words, set a bar higher each time you perform the task. This way you will make your mind to work a little bit more than usual.
For example, if you are a chef and you love to cook, you will get bored if you have to prepare the same dish day after day after day. What keeps the excellent feeling alive is mixing things up, or setting a bar higher every time. You can try to do it a different way, or maybe a bit faster than usual, or even in reverse. Whatever will push the buttons make sure you do it and don’t stick to the same routine over and over because it kills the flow state.
4.) Remove distractions, find a quiet time
How many times have you felt that you want to do something you usually enjoy, but you couldn’t enjoy it because there were too many distractions around you?
In my experience, early morning would be the best time to practice focus and concentration. The flow state can be reached if you have no distractions around you and for many people that is early morning.
Also, there is some strange sense of tranquility and serenity when you wake up before everyone else. While others are sleeping, you are wide awake and already working. It makes the flow state easy accessible.
5.) Repeat the process
In learning and in life, repetition is a key. More you repeat the task, the better you will become. The same stands for practicing the flow state. You will become better and better each time you go through the process. Each time you will relax more, accomplish more, feel happier and happier.
Eventually, you will master your focus and concentration. Therefore, you will be able to reach the flow state in any task you put in front of you, wheater you like the job or not is impartial.
How Long it Takes to Reach the Flow State?
It depends from person to person. We are different on our mental levels, so for some people, it takes minutes to entirely emerge themselves and focus their thoughts on what they do. For other people, it takes a little bit more.
However, one thing is for sure, as long as you stay relaxed in the process and keep your focus strictly on the task at hand, you will reach the state of flow. Positive energy will eventually come to you, and you will find yourself riding the wave.
How to Maintain the Flow State?
It is inevitable that you will eventually lose a focus, something will distract you, or you will have to go to a toilet or something. In this case, the flow state will go away, and you will be pulled back into “reality”. Like a surfer on the wave, you will lose a wave and fall down into the water. However, there is always another wave coming if you know how to get on it and ride again.
Once you lose the focus, don’t stress about it. Instead, take a break, relax a little bit. Then, when you are relaxed enough, try to focus your mind on a task again, and once more emerge your self in. It will take a few moments to reach the state, but you will get there as long as you are relaxed and confident about it.
The Benefits of the Flow State
Once you are able to reach the flow state, you will feel a useful improvement in your life. Of all you will have:
- razor sharp focus
- high level of concentration
- enhanced positive feelings
- more energy
- increase in productivity
- peace of mind
- ability to be quick and effective
- total control over your actions
- precision and accuracy
It is hard to put all benefits on this list, and the best way to discover them all would be if you try and see for your self.
I can say, that since I found the flow state, my everyday activities are not hard anymore. Whatever I do, I do without too much conscious thinking about it which allows me to do even the most humiliating tasks with ease and focus.
Moreover, when I engage myself into something I love to do, like writing, it seems that time stops, nothing matters except me and the words on the paper, or in this case, on the screen of my laptop. Sometimes the flow is soo strong, and I can write for soo long, and when I finish, I feel to have more energy than I had when I started.
Get on the Wave!
I hope this post helped you to understand a few key points about what is the flow state of mind, how to get into the flow, how to maintain the stream, and much more.
From experience, I know that it increases one’s ability to focus and concentrate in an entirely natural way. There is no supplement, or chemical drug you can take that can give you the feeling of ecstatic such as you feel when you master the flow state.
In the end, remember, there is nothing mystical about it, we are all the same, and we are all designed in the same way. Therefore, all physical and mental states you see or read about are available to you, me, and everyone who is determined enough to practice until he or she masters.
If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below, and I will be more than happy to help you out.
All the best,