When was the last time, you were in a state of flow? Getting lost in thinking about the same! We all are always in a state of flow. But mostly we don’t recognize those and neither we try to capitalize on those. Before we get into this state of flow, let’s understand what is flow?
Flow means the action or fact of moving along in a steady, continuous stream as per the online dictionary. It’s a state in which one is aligned seamlessly with the thing. For example, when a river flows, it’s in a state in which it moves continuously and steadily across the terrain. In this state of flow, it carries every small pebble, gravel, sand, fishes along its current flow. The flow is smooth and rhythmic. Give in your ear to listen to the river flow, you can always hear that rhythmic sound.
Whenever the river comes across a hurdle, a boulder or a valley, it creates over time a force to navigate, passthrough or fall to comeback into its state of flow. That’s when you see any river as it originates is in a smooth state of flow, before it navigates through all mountains or valleys and then recovering back to its original state of flow. Thus, as humans we easily get into a state of flow, without realizing the same. When one is in this state of flow, it’s a meditative state too.
Let’s delve to understand, when are we in this state of flow? In our day to day tasks, for example, when you listen to the favorite music of yours, you indulge in it – That’s a state of flow; similarly when you take a walk or go for your jogging or in your work, when you start to make that proposal or the presentation where you can see yourself your work flows at a rhythmic pace, you are in the state of flow. During those states, we are one with the flow or the music or the task or the jogging etc as to what we do.
You would have always felt after listening to that music or completing that task in your flow state or relishing the coffee as you read the book etc, you feel a kind of relaxation. That’s the strength of being in the state of flow. It actually relaxes the one. We are in the state of meditativeness during the state of flow.
The challenge with the state of flow is that, it’s addictive in nature. The moment you realize that, you are able to focus when you have that refreshing coffee or you listen to that music or take a walk and come back; which initially starts as a rhythm becomes a habit of addictiveness. Eventually, we start to feel that without that music we are not able to focus. Our mind gets accustomed to this routine. Is this good or bad? That’s a question one’s own mind needs to ponder. As long as one is able to have a watch over it, then it’s not a challenge. Else, these state of flows rather than being supportive engines for oneself, become more of a relaxation engines. What do I mean by here is that, they actually become your stress reliever or attention seeker. For example, we start to play the music to get relaxed of the stress, which at first go started as a channel of focus; similarly we start to take a smoke to relieve, which initially started as a time to think; so how can one be watchful of the state of flow.
In a state of flow, it’s being mindful of what drives you to make it happen. Keeping a watch on the instruments of flow and then occasionally trying to break the rhythm shall help the oneself in the state of flow. As a tamil proverb goes,
too much of elixir can turn out to be a poison.
Thus, try to look out to your state of flow. The moment you understand your state of flow and the instruments that influence the state of flow, you are in control of the actions in your hand. Actions are nothing but the thoughts pushed into a momentum.
We all are intelligent emotional beings. This makes us special, because we can adopt, learn, unlearn and evolve. It’s not we don’t face uncertainty in life. However, most of the uncertainties of life are overlooked. Let me give a simple example. The probability of a bicycle failure is far less compared to an aero plane. However, we fear the most when we ride a bicycle on highway, because of the uncertainty of situation with respect to other drivers like a car, truck or van etc.
So, we assume those with least importance. Hence, we evolved ourselves as masters of pattern. We were educated that everything is good as long as we follow a certain pattern. The pattern is by repetition. This is called as habit. For example, from brushing our teeth in the morning, till we go back to bed on a regular week, we follow various time stamps throughout the day.
What misses, in this pattern is excellence? Pattern helps to forecast one’s mode of action, which was so important during industrial revolution. As it was manufacturing driven, people were modelled to follow a pattern. But in a knowledge driven economy, though pattern helps you have a compliance with respect to your work, excellence play an important role. Excellence means those small improvements which you do regularly over a period of time. This elevates you with respect to your workmanship. Treat your work as delivering an art.
During our regular working environment, the standard office hours we try to excel in our work. Because there was a certainty towards our job, work environment even life for that matter. But how do we focus and excel during uncertainty. How do we achieve personal mastery during uncertainty? When we are drowned in uncertainty paradox.
To answer this, we need to delve deep into a relatable past history. The specialty of history is, it has all the reference points for us to check. The interpretation is up to us. Let’s look into the history of World War II.
During the time of World War II, there was complete uncertainty. Raising from the loss of control in World War I, Germany was forming its alliances as well as capturing territories. WWII can be a classic case of Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). The term VUCA was taken from the leadership theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus – to describe or to reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations.
V = Volatility: the nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts.
U = Uncertainty: the lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events.
C = Complexity: the multiplex of forces, the confounding of issues, no cause-and-effect chain and confusion that surrounds organization.
A = Ambiguity: the haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause-and-effect confusion.
(Reference from Wikipedia for VUCA)
In such a scenario, the question raises in one’s mind is how the leaders navigated during these times? What would have been the traits of those leaders? Are there any learnings, that we can be adopted in our uncertainty times? Well, there are plenty. From those, I chose to present the top ten. The top ten, which can be an evergreen trait for personal mastery. Be it in your personal life or professional life or public life, these ten principles can elevate your game.
The ten gems of Personal Mastery are
Always exhibit optimism.
Own your responsibility
Never give up
Serve not Survive
Think about Yourself
Learn how to learn
Art of Journaling
The Influence of Words
Always exhibit optimism
The best soldier the world has ever seen was General Marshall from Allied forces. According to him,
“When conditions are difficult, the command is depressed, and everyone seems critical and pessimistic, you must be especially cheerful and optimistic.”
Optimism is a happiness magnet. If you stay positive good things and good people will be drawn to you. Being optimistic is contagious in nature. Try being optimistic and see for yourself. You would be surprised to know, the kind of impact you leave on others, just being optimistic.
Fake it until you do it. When you feel your positivity is down or not naturally coming, pretend. Pretend as if its true. Acceptance of your own self is most important. Once you had acknowledged yourself, you would see, the optimism sprouts slowly as a shower. Use it to fight your mental stress or tiredness etc. Be positive. Be energetic. Show it in your voice. In your actions. You will soon realize the amount of impact it leaves on you and the people around you.
Own your responsibility
During the World War II, there was too much of chaos. The synergy wasn’t so strong and at the ground it was evident. But the success, was due to the ground forces. Though they were far from the strategy team. Their communication most of the times were hampered by the Axis forces. However, they had one common trait. They all owned their responsibility. Though there was uncertainty, ambiguity, they owned their responsibility. Every day, their only task was to inch closer to axis territory, with loyalty and humility.
The price of greatness is responsibility.
During the times of uncertainty, the best thing to do, let’s go behind our tasks. Knock the tasks one task at a time. This brings us focus and a sense of achievement. The more we own our responsibility; we gain traction and start to excel. Because, responsibility brings focus.
Never give up
Every day of WW II was like a perceived failure. The moment our perception looks in that direction, we feel to give up. General Marshall advices never give up. Never ever give up to the perception of failure. The persistence and quick adoption to every day scenario makes one successful.
Thus, built the attitude of never give up. There can be fatigue. There can loss of interest. There can be lethargy. In the times of volatility, let’s keep our focus to our task. Bring a routine. Make a plan and execute it. Repetition kills remiss. Start small. Regularly, let’s complete our task. Expand, explore and elevate.
Serve not Survive
One of the dilemma’s that gets into our mind during the tough times of complexity is how can I survive. The moment, we get into this thought, we lose our intent to empower ourselves. The foremost important things to do is to empower oneself. The way you can achieve this is by distracting our thoughts to our passion. Learn to serve our passion. Our interest. Our hobbies. Server yourself with empowerment. Not just to survive.
Your fear is 100% dependent on you for its survival
A small direction alignment, in the mind can change our course completely. We can feel we are uplifted. That energy shall be radiant enough, to spread to our near and dear ones. It’s that intent to distract oneself from the mode of survival to serve oneself. The moment we empower our self, we will start to empower others.
Think about Yourself
The most poignant thought is we never look into us. We always try to look into others. But it’s of utmost importance to look into ourselves. To be an observer. As an observer, of oneself, we can understand our traits and falls. Our strengths and weakness. The practice of looking at oneself, can be a way to groom oneself better.
The habits that we need to follow. The one’s we need to leave. When you don’t spend time with yourself, you are not going to know why you lack certain traits. Understanding about oneself, by themselves can be the greatest strength. That strength can build with your empathy for others.
Unless, we don’t do this, we will always be influenced by the situations and surroundings. We will never control ourselves to the repercussion of these events.
Learn how to learn
The greatest personalities who navigated through the tough times, were great readers. They learned the art of how to learn. This involves mainly to relearn and unlearn, whenever you wish to learn something new.
When we speak about WW II, we cannot forget Winston Churchill. Churchill was an average student during his school and college days. However, he developed his interest towards reading. Whenever Churchill got an opportunity to read, he sinks himself into large volumes. Starting with a 4000-page book of The Decline and the fall of Roman empire, during his free time, he started an ambitious journey. A journey where he covered the works of Adam Smith, Plato, Gibbon, Macaulay, Aristotle and many more. This helped him to shine bright than the brightest during his college as well as in his political career.
With the presence of internet, books are available everywhere. Let’s choose our interest towards the topics we like to read. Start reading 2 pages every day. Grow our interest. Buy the books and keep it next to us. Book mark those articles on our browser. Set an alarm for reading. Keep it as a reminder. When we read, we teach ourselves something that we presumed to know. When we read contrarian topics, we teach ourselves something that we assumed. Develop the art of learning.
Art of Journaling
The under rated work is art of journaling. Journaling need not be only about, our life’s events or capturing a day’s work. When we do journaling, we are actually reciting the course of our day. It gives a glimpse of how the events unfolded for us that day, can help us understand it better and share more insights.
When we are not interested to journal our daily day, we can simply capture our thoughts. Take simple notes. The quotes that we read from a book. The three good things of the day. I practice, the 3 good things of the day, because it helps me to appreciate the events and the things that I am blessed with. As I write down, it helps to share a positive vibe. However, be the day, those three good things, helps to cherish, value and be grateful.
Practice to write. Start every day. Capture the thoughts. The day’s events. Or the things we like that day. The things that affected us that day. Keep writing.
Influence by Words
We are conscious about the inner voice. A voice that’s monologue about our lives throughout the day. This inner voice, according to psychologists is proven as an effective way to build one’s confidence. The eminent leaders used these self-talks as a positive assurance to themselves. They practiced during their times of doubtfulness.
These self-talk with oneself can be supportive or positive and cheerful. It can be negative and self-defeating when we speak in a negative way. Assure our self, with positive words. Have our own recital poem or positive dialogue or slogan, which we can say to our self. This would be useful, as the words influence us to positivity, reducing our own fears and building the confidence.
Words are powerful. They have the immense force to create and build a moment to movement. Choose those wisely with in oneself.
A simple slogan be asI am positively strong
I am positively strong
I am courteous and noble
I am curious and humble
I will raise myself and deliver
We all are involved in a moral struggle. This shall ultimately define our life’s value. WW II questioned and raised concerns towards Moral clarity. There is no better reference than Winston Churchill.
To quote from him,
You must look very deep into the heart of man, and then you will not find the answer unless you look with the eye of the spirit. Then it is that you learn that human beings are not dominated by material things, but by the ideas for which they are willing to give their lives or their life’s work
Thus, look into us for the values that we stand for. Nurture those values. Keep them safe. We might never know, as to when they would be our guiding force. We can face trials and tribulations in our life. During those, times it’s the moral clarity that defines us.
In times of volatility, the important aspect of personal mastery to hold on to moral clarity is nothing but Personal Courage. The most important one of personal mastery. Let’s look into that strong and valuable final point.
Courage is resistance to Fear. Mastery of Fear, not absence of Fear.
Any eventualities lead to uncertainty. The vulnerability paves in fear. With fear, we lose the confidence. We lose focus. We start to deliberate the reason with in us, as to why we should not progress further. We hear the negative self-talks.
That’s the most important time, when we need to be courageous. Personal courage is contagious. When you are courageous, you send hope to the people around you. When you share hope, they start a belief. The belief that the things, shall turn around. That belief will push you and the one’s around you to start a journey. When the journey begins, the momentum starts. Thus, courage is a primary step. Keep the flame of courage always burning inside you.