Sonntag, 27. November 2016

FLOW

Waking up to a beautiful sunrise the other day assured me that it was the only right decision to run away from Lisbon and the city life for a bit. Over the weekend I spent some time in remote places discovering parts of Portugal away from the coastline. After three days I needed to head back, but as soon as the the city appeared on the horizon, I felt kind of stressed and boxed in again. I came to the conclusion that right now, more than anything, I need to be alone and clear my thoughts more. I was not through with this process yet and decided to head back out to search for a quiet spot on the shore.

After waking up I checked the waves and it looked quite good. Quite good turned out to become super fun and it was a blast surfing that morning with only a few others in the line up. One of the surfers out there, a Swiss guy, just randomly asked me something about the surf-spot we where at. I was not really searching for company, but somehow we ended up drinking a coffee together after the surf and started talking. We were chatting about our lives and ended up exchanging the educational process we went through, what we are doing now and what we were aiming in terms of profession. I already wrote about that topic in my last post, but this time the conversation took a different direction, which was highly inspiring. Finally, it seemed like we made a point and not only that, I was also able to put together the missing pieces of an audiobook I was listening to a couple of weeks ago. 

FLOW – Living at the Peak of Your Abilities by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (à check it out)

This book features a crazy amount of wise words and important knowledge, but some things seemed really abstract and I had no clue in which way I can gain something out of this for my daily life. But suddenly things became really clear and sorted out in my head, so I started to write down some lines.

empty line-ups down south



Flow can describe a lot of things and it's a pretty cool word as well... can it get any better? Yes, just think about this: Flow is described as a state of min in which we are fully aware and focused on what we are doing RIGHT NOW. No attention is paid on what's happening around us or where this activity will lead us into. It's like driving through a long dark tunnel and as soon as you can catch a glimpse of the light at the end, it becomes the only remaining matter on your mind.


The first thing that we need to understand is, that finding a purpose and reason for our lives should be linked to the question on what we find pleasure and flow in. Now think about some activities or moments in which you entered an extraordinary state of being in the flow.
One of the things that I came up with in my early days for instance was LEGO. You all know it right? Before we all started playing around with smartphones, most of us had thousands of small colored pieces of LEGO to build crazy stuff like spaceships or houses with. I was addicted to this stuff, putting block on block for hours and hours till my mum stopped me in order to eat or sleep. I loved it and while doing it I completely lost attachment to time and human necessities like hunger or sleep. Looking back now, I think this is the earliest contact with flow that I can remember. Later, my relationship with flow continued in school. Sometimes, when we got a really tough mathematic problem I would become so fixed on solving it and give a shit on the schoolbell ringing or even the next class starting already. Finish this problem boy, nothing else matters!
Obviously, the way how we experience flow is different to everybody. Artists, musicians, painters, teachers and so on, all find their pleasure in different aspects and so live the flow in their own patterns. Scientists, surgeons and of course athletes repeatedly report about experiences with flow and how it helps them to perform on the peak of their abilities.
One thing I just need to mention on this spot is the craziness of a school system following the status quo that every kid needs the same treatment with the same learning goals and evaluation standards.

Back to the flow. Already as a kid I was involved in almost all kinds of physical activities. I needed and still need movement and this is my main way of achieving the flow-state. After finishing school and especially after my first major ski accident (ACL) and the following period, I realized what sport, physical activity or whatever you want to call it, really means to me. You never know what you got until it’s gone, in my case this was “just” movement and my FLOW.

After three months it was finally time to get back on my bike again and the game changed. Just a little later I enrolled at university to study physical education. Once you are able to stop that inner voice that’s always worrying about everything and thinking about the long run, you start to get more successful in what you are going for. In my case I somehow ended up building up a career as a free-skier, traveling around to compete and film in awesome locations and just living a happy life. All of this happened because I achieved a flow state in doing what I love most and then stuck with it. In this scenario it is skiing, but this doesn’t mean that the activity can’t change. Right now I find just the same pleasure in surfing and I could do it for hours and hours without needing anything else than a surfboard to feel fulfilled. And yes, I can totally see myself finding flow in reading books, cooking, cleaning or a lot of other activities as well.

        “If you are interested in something, you will focus on it, and if you focus attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble of paying attention to them.” ― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


Now why are some people extra good in what they are doing, highly successful and dedicated to there field? Because they found out what gives them the most pleasure and then worked their asses of to become the best. Not because they wanted to earn a lot of money, but because this is the only sane way once you found your passion. The ambition of earning money is something that is followed by finding out what you love and can never be the first step in a career. When people tell me that studying this or doing that is a good idea because it’s easy to get a job then, I feel kind of sad for them, because they will have a hard time really finding pleasure in their jobs. And the life theme of buying a house, two cars and a dog is an artificial one for most people. Naturally we would prefer doing what we love than separating work and live. Once we are able to keep all the distractions of society away and take a close look on what’s going on inside ourselves, we would live our work and the other way around. One thing that helped me a lot finding flow on a daily basis for example is, to set yourself clear goals. This is actually a really important important factor, as goals set too high seem unreachable and will detain us from getting there. We are likely to feel overwhelmed and don’t even try our best. The same counts for goals set too low, we will get bored and lazy. 
Now think about the tunnel metaphor again; If the tunnel is too long and we don’t even see the end we might loose track on doing our best to get there. And if the light is too close, we are not encouraged enough to do more than the minimum.

The good thing is, that in our human nature we crave for new challenges and personal growth, which means we are always trying to get better, just follow your path! The ultimate goal of all this flow talk now should not be that everybody thinks about starting some extreme sports in order to be present, but to achieve this state in his or her everyday schedule with for instance reading, cooking, eating or even ironing. Just focus and see each activity as the goal itself and not as a means to an end.


Writing this lines beamed me in a fully conscious and present state, true to myself and with only one thought in my mind, maybe even just the next letter on the keyboard.
Jules
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