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3 Questions That Will Immediately Ramp Up Your Creative Flow

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If you’d like to learn how to ramp up your creative flow so you can produce your best work, sign up for the free 90-Day Master Class hosted by the founder of Addicted2Success.com, Joel Brown.


While creativity has long been co-opted by the arts, anyone that’s been in business, built a new product, or pitched a new sales deck knows that creative thinking and execution aren’t only for the painters and poets but for everyone that wants to or–as so often the case as an entrepreneur–needs to think and work differently. At the heart of creative work is not talent, inspiration, or the hope of an epiphany; it’s flow.

Flow is that state of performance in which we do our best work. Free from distractions, ultra-focused and challenged, our brains engage our work at its deepest level; ideas come, time flies, and the world around us seems to disappear. This is the zone to which athletes aspire, and the Groove for which artists hunger. 

Flow is a state of creativity and productivity that exists in the liminal space between work and play and if you want to think better and produce stronger results in any context, it is to Flow that you must look at.

Flow is not a hack or a trick. You can’t just turn it on or off, but you can create it, anytime and anyplace. In a 1996 article in Wired Magazine (Go With the Flow), writer John Geirland quotes Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as describing Flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” He should know; he discovered the idea.

A prolific and creative man himself, Csikszentmihalyi was the man who first identified this phenomenon. His 1990 book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, introduced and explained it to the world, and it deserves better than a short article boiling it down to essentials. But there are conditions in which Flow occurs, and if you can get there intentionally, you will get to that state of optimal performance faster.

“Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river.” – Lao Tzu

Here are three questions I ask myself to get to Flow:

1. Am I Focused?

Flow depends on focus and that’s an increasingly rare commodity. Our attention is a resource and among driven people and high performers, it’s often put into overdraft by the belief that we can multitask. Of course we can multitask, but study after study shows we don’t do it well and if you want to get to Flow, it’s not about doing as much as you can while paying as little attention as possible. There’s next to no return on investment for paying that kind of attention.

Flow is about peak performance and doing your best work, not a hack driven by a desire to accomplish the mediocre. If you want to do your best work, the work that will distinguish you from others, it must be given your undivided attention. That means turning off the distractions completely, making yourself unavailable, and doing one thing only for longer blocks of time. 

Flow requires attention and time, and won’t be placated by half-measures. The emails and texts and social media can wait. The upside is that those can also benefit from Flow. Save them for blocks of time in which you can give them your full attention and you’ll make fewer mistakes and do more than just distractedly mail them in.

2. Am I Challenged?

One of the more interesting ideas is that Flow occurs most reliably when you are operating at the vector where skill and challenge meet. Our best work is not done when it’s an easy match for our skills; that rarely holds our interest long enough for Flow to occur.

Our creativity needs challenge, it needs something to push against and a problem to solve. But one must not overpower the other. If the challenge, relative to our ability to pull it off, is too great, we start freaking out and we’ll lose the focus that’s so important and burn through our attention resources long before we get into the zone or groove. If the challenge is insufficient, we’ll get bored and then too we lose focus and start looking for something that feels more significant.

Asking ourselves if we are sufficiently challenged is a good way to re-calibrate. If the answer is no, find a way to add challenge to the project. How can you make it even better, take it deeper, or accomplish it in half the time? When challenged, we focus and bring out the best of what we know, and what we can accomplish. Want to bring out the big guns? Pick a bigger fight.

“You’re thinking too much, just let it flow.” – E. Paluszak

3. Am I Nervous?

In The War of Art, a book about fighting the resistance that is always present in any creative work, author Steven Pressfield talks about the presence of fear in the creative process, reframing it from a negative to a positive: “Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

In other words, fear is a compass and anyone doing work that matters should be suspicious if there’s no fear and nothing at stake. Years ago I was a comedian, performing routinely for audiences of 1000 to 2500 people. In those 12 years I learned to identify the fear as a reliable indicator of the possibility of Flow. My best shows were not those in which I felt perfectly comfortable but those in which I had the most to lose. The nervousness focused my thoughts and energies and put an edge on my performance that wasn’t there when I was just going through the motions. I thought faster, I improvised better, I put more in and expected to get more out.

When I find myself outside the riptide of Flow I ask myself if I’ve really got skin in the game, if there’s a way I can increase the risk, be more vulnerable, or put a little more on the line. It’s not for the sake of risk, but to draw out the best of me that otherwise need not show up when there’s nothing to lose. If there’s nothing to lose there’s also nothing to gain.

You don’t need to study Flow or know how to pronounce the name of the man who brought such clarity to the idea. But you do need that state of optimal performance if you’re going to do your best work, the work that sets you apart from those who think they can get along just fine without it, distracted, unchallenged, and without the nerves that come from taking on something a little bigger than themselves.

Flow brings focus and draws out the best of our skills and pulls us toward innovation, unexpected results to bigger problems, and the kind of results that make our work stand out from a crowd too willing to settle for half-measures and the good enough.

Have you ever been in flow? If so, share how it felt with us below!

David duChemin is a best-selling author, award-winning photographer, and leading expert in the field of creativity. His podcast and book, A Beautiful Anarchy helps him share his message with tens of thousands. Fuelled by his endless creative hunger, he has built a seven-figure business with the goal of inspiring others to realize that the creative life is for everyone—not just artists. David spent the last twelve years travelling the world as a humanitarian photographer and creativity workshop instructor on all seven continents. His adventures have taken him through winters in Russia and Mongolia and a summer on the Amazon, as well as months among nomads in the Indian Himalayan and remote Northern Kenya. Drawing on a successful, twelve-year career in comedy, David brings a dynamic and engaging presence as a presenter in workshops, on camera, or on stages for corporations like Apple and Amazon.

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Success Advice

20 Ways You Can Become a Powerful Communicator

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Emile Steenveld Speaker and Coach

Some people seem to naturally know how to effectively communicate in a group setting. They can express themselves clearly and listen attentively without dominating the conversation.

Being a powerful communicator is important for several reasons, including building and maintaining relationships, achieving goals, resolving conflicts, improving productivity, leading and influencing others, advancing in your career, expressing yourself more confidently and authentically, and improving your mental and emotional well-being. Effective communication is an essential life skill that can benefit you in all aspects of your life.

But, don’t worry if you don’t naturally possess this skill, as effective communication is something that can be developed with practice, planning and preparation.
 

1.  Listen actively: Practice active listening by giving your full attention to the speaker and responding to what they are saying.

 

2. Use “I” statements: Speak from your own perspective and avoid placing blame or making accusations.

 

3. Avoid assumptions: Don’t make assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling.

 

4. Be clear: Express your thoughts and feelings clearly and concisely by getting to the point and avoid using jargon or overly complex language.

 

5. Show empathy: Show that you understand and care about the other person’s feelings.

 

6. Offer valuable insights: When speaking in a group, provide a valuable takeaway or actionable item that people can walk away with.

 

7. Be an active listener: Listen attentively and respond accordingly, incorporating your points into the conversation.

 

8. Choose the right time: Pick the most opportune time to speak to ensure that you have the group’s attention and can deliver your message without interruption.

 

9. Be the unifying voice: Step in and unify the group’s thoughts to calm down the discussion and insert your point effectively.

 

10. Keep responses concise: Keep responses short and to the point to show respect for others’ time.

 

11. Avoid unnecessary comments: Avoid commenting on everything and only speak when you have something important to say.

 

12. Cut the fluff: Avoid being long-winded and get straight to the point.

 

13. Prepare ahead of time: Sort out your points and practice them before speaking in a group.

 

14. Smile and be positive: Smile and nod along as others speak, to build a positive relationship and be respected when it’s your turn to speak.

 

15. Take responsibility: Take responsibility for your own actions and feelings.

 

16. Ask questions: Ask questions to clarify any confusion or misunderstandings.

 

17. Avoid interrupting: Allow the other person to finish speaking without interruption.

 

18. Practice active listening: Repeat what the other person said to ensure you have understood correctly.

 

19. Use your body language too: Use nonverbal cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, and body language to convey your message and build rapport.

 

20. Be aware of the tone of your voice: it should be calm and assertive, not aggressive or passive.

 

By keeping these tips in mind, you can improve your communication skills and become a more powerful communicator, which can help you build better relationships, achieve your goals, and lead a more fulfilling life.

I you want to learn how to become more confident in life then you can join my weekly mentorship calls and 40+ online workshops at AweBliss.com so you can master your life with more success.

 
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Success Advice

Dead Men Tell No Tales: How to Navigate a Mutiny as a Leader in 10 Steps

You’re the manager. You’re the supervisor. You’re the leader. But maybe your people don’t see it that way

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You’re the manager. You’re the supervisor. You’re the leader. But maybe your people don’t see it that way and perhaps that has created a divisive and adversarial working environment that makes it difficult for you to influence and inspire your team in a way that meets your vision. (more…)

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Success Advice

How to Think Like a CEO for Your Future Success

A blueprint for CEOs to draw a disciplined strategy

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Strategic thinking helps CEOs build successful businesses. It helps them establish everlasting enterprises. It is one of the key elements of decision-making. It is different from strategic leadership. It differentiates between leaders from managers.  (more…)

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Success Advice

How to Focus Your Mind on Your Goals in 2023 Constructively

In this world of distractions due to information overload, it has become a big challenge to focus our minds

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In this world of distractions due to information overload, it has become a big challenge to focus our minds on positive aspects and constructive activities. Sometimes we waste our precious time mentally and physically due to distractions arising out of technology. We must understand our priorities and learn how to focus on them religiously. (more…)

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