Summer is here! The days are getting longer and warmer and there’s excitement in the air for all the adventures that lie ahead — get ready!
For me summer is a special time. It’s where I’m spending lots of time outside and something as simple as just walking down the street taking in the fresh smells and feeling the sunshine on my face, really brings me alive.
What about you? What makes you feel alive? I mean really alive. You know, that feeling of absolute stoke and utter absorption into the present moment, when everything else fades away and all that’s left is an overwhelming feeling of joy, excitement, and meaning.
When is the last time you felt this way? Maybe it’s been a while. For some of us, maybe it’s even been a long while. Or maybe the experiences happen but are just too far and few between.
One of the big reasons this feeling tends to escape us is because most people live in a world that others have created for them. Our jobs, responsibilities, and in some cases even our free time is dictated by the expectations of our families, friends, and society at large.
Sometimes it can feel like we are drifting along on autopilot, moving from obligation to obligation without much thought or intention. We play a lot of defense, and not a whole lot of offense.
As a result, many of us don’t have a good sense of what we care most about or what we’re truly passionate about. We’re out of practice. And if we are lucky enough to know what our passions are, we often don’t have enough time or motivation to pursue them.
Why does this matter?
It matters because if you want to design a life full of happiness, fulfillment, and success — then I would argue we need to follow more of what makes us feel alive. In other words, we need to follow the flow.
Wait flow, what’s that?
Well, I’m glad you asked ;-)
Flow is an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best. Flow states are those moments when we feel most alive. They are those peak experiences of mindfulness and hyper-focus, where the self and inner critic vanishes, time flies, and performance goes through the roof.
Things like creativity, idea generation, learning, motivation, and productivity all become highly accelerated and optimized (increasing upwards of 500% according to one recent McKinsey study)!
In fact, most if not all of the greatest human achievements can be attributed to harnessing flow states, from the creation of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, to the inspiration behind Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech, to Alex Honnold’s mind-bending free solo ascent of El Capitan.
Flow lives in the expanses of human possibility.
Laird Hamilton, the surfing legend known for pioneering big wave surfing characterized it this way: “When you go to that place, there’s no time, and there’s definitely no thought. It’s just pure. We need it to feel alive and to feel complete and to bring it all into perspective — it just makes everything else fall in line, fall in place. It makes everything else tolerable.”
What’s unique about the time we are living in, is that science and technology (specifically modern EEG and fMRI brain scanning) are unleashing an inflection point in the understanding of flow. We now have the unprecedented ability to pull back the curtain on the neurochemical, neuroanatomical, and neuroelectrical forces responsible for flow, and consequently, we know how to hack it better than ever before.
Needless to say, the world’s most innovative companies, government agencies, and academic institutions are taking notice — Google, US Military Special Forces, and Harvard to name a few. It can even be argued that a quiet performance revolution is brewing. What an exciting time!
Perhaps the most important implication of flow, however, is that flow experiences are highly correlated with happiness. The godfather of modern flow science, Hungarian psychologist and academic Mihay Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Me-high Cheek-sent-me-high) discovered after decades of research and thousands of experiments that the happiest people on earth, the ones that felt their lives had the most meaning, were those who had the most peak experiences.
What’s beautiful and important to recognize about flow — is that it’s not just for world-class athletes, cultural icons, academics, or tech billionaires.
It’s open source, accessible to all of us. In fact, it’s all around us and there for the taking. You just have to design your life thoughtfully in such a way as to let it in and allow it to work its magic.
So…this summer, as the trees are budding and the birds are chirping, remember to ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do more of that!
As the great civil rights leader Howard Thurman once said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs most is more people who have come alive.”
Interested in learning how to build more flow in your day to day life? I’m happy to send you the guide I wrote about the Top 20 Flow Triggers and How To Build It Into Your Daily Life — just drop me a line here.