Increase Your Experience of Flow

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Follow me, if you will, in a brief thought experiment:

  • Visualize yourself floating down a river. You may be hanging onto an inner tube, on a raft, in a boat, or whatever you prefer.
  • The river is mostly tranquil, flowing smoothly and peacefully through a lovely landscape.
  • But there are areas containing white water, sharp rocks, narrow passageways, maybe a whirlpool or two.
  • Your goal is to float down the river, avoiding the hazards while enjoying the river’s endless resources and fascinating experiences.

It’s a thought experiment, but it’s real: the river is a metaphor for your life.

When you unpack this metaphor, you begin to realize that you can probably endure a difficult, awkward, uncomfortable, perhaps even dangerous life. But, you may be able to navigate the river of your life in such a way that your journey is largely pleasant and productive.

To have the best possible experience, you must learn to flow with this river as much as possible.

Here are some ways to do it:

Relax

I realize that a great many pieces of advice begin with the admonition to relax. I wish I could go some other way, if only to be different. But the simple truth is that relaxation is the key to two important aspects of flowing with the river of life:

  1. Better performance. When you’re tense, nervous, or afraid, your performance inevitably suffers. Relaxation allows you to stay sharp and flexible, easily identifying your opportunities and taking maximum advantage of them.
  2. Closer touch with your inner self. When you’re tense, nervous, or afraid, you can’t hear your inner voice, feel your inner sensations, or recognize your intuitive understanding of situations. Relaxation allows your inner awareness to take a larger role in your reactions, choices, and decisions.

There are many ways to practice and develop relaxation. It’s helpful to learn one or more of them.

Cultivate Useful Skills

Since life is like a river, it’s helpful to know how to survive and thrive in the surroundings through which it will carry you.

Just as there are many skills that can be helpful in real life on the water, you have a wide choice of specific skills to help you better navigate the river of your life. Your selection should depend on your natural gifts and talents, your personal preferences, and your immediate as well as future needs. Think in terms of:

  • Learning the technologies and other disciplines you’re most likely to want and need.
  • Getting along well with the people you’ll meet on your journey.
  • Analyzing and solving common problems.
  • Sequencing your life so you optimize your schedule and minimize interruptions.
  • Making good decisions, especially during difficult times.
  • Bouncing back from any disappointments and defeats.
  • Getting the most – enjoyment, wisdom, benefit – from everything you encounter on your journey.

Observe the River’s Course and Current

Your life will take many twists and turns, go through periods of moving fast or slow, encounter rapids or perhaps even waterfalls, and more. Navigating all these experiences will be easier if you’re deeply aware of them.

Reflect on your past so you can learn the most from your successes and failures, and apply what you’ve learned if, as, and when appropriate.

Observe the present so you can take stock of what’s happening around you. Detailed observation will help you identify the resources available to you, avoid any obstacles, and take advantage of the opportunities. You’ll also be better able to avoid unwanted interruptions and focus on what’s most important at each moment.

Anticipate the future so you can better prepare for what might come next, and hopefully avoid unwanted surprises that might degrade your level of productivity and success.

Work to Stay in the Smoothest, Safest Parts of the River

The better you can do all this, the larger payoffs you will obtain from flowing with the river of your life.

The most obvious payoff is that you’ll get more enjoyment from a smooth, safe journey than you will from a difficult, dangerous one.

Another payoff is that flowing smoothly and safely through your journey of life will help you avoid the setbacks, injuries, disappointments, and pain that life can inflict on any of us, at any time. Some of these are, of course, surprises we can’t possibly anticipate or avoid. But some of these are easily foreseen and fairly easy to avoid once you have learned to flow along with the river of your life.

I hope these ideas are helpful to you, and that you have a safe, enjoyable, fruitful journey that enriches and fulfills your spirit.

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