Flow--a zone of productivity and creativity that seemingly comes out of thin air--is a much sought-after state of being. But is there a way to arrive in the zone more often instead of waiting for it to serendipitously appear? Lux Narayan, CEO of social media analytic company Unmetric, believes so, as long as you foster a mindset of focused flexibility. Here are four unconventional ways he primes himself for flow.
When Narayan first began taking improv classes in New York City he tried to anticipate what would happen and say things that would be funny and not make him "sound like an idiot." After a while, however, found himself simultaneously focusing intently on the person he was interacting with on stage while feeling more comfortable with uncertainty. "You have no clue what's going to be thrown at you, and that's actually a very happy space to be, contrary to what I used to think," he says, describing himself as the kind of guy who formerly had to rehearse every word and its intonation before giving a presentation. "Once I went through improv class it kind of changed my perspective. I became a lot more comfortable with uncertainty, with just being myself."
Improvisation is good for the workplace, as well. How would your meetings be different, for example, if they were called on the fly and no one showed up with a pretty slide deck? "That ah-ha moment happens where you are actually comfortable with letting yourself go," he says. "It also requires a certain amount of being comfortable with making a fool of yourself, which will happen."
It's a proven fact that if you want to be creative, stop trying to think up good ideas and go do something else. Distraction through fast-paced sports works in a similar manner for achieving flow in life. It's a simple concept: When you play a sport that requires fast reactions such as tennis, racquetball or hockey, you don't have time to lose focus and dwell on obstacles in your life. If you can escape for a period of time into a zone of focused flexibility you can emerge better suited for flow in real life.
Similar to losing yourself in sport, scuba diving is a way of putting yourself into a different reality which affects how you think later on. For example, Narayan remembers diving off the coast of India during a particularly challenging time for his company when he needed to switch off for a few days. Shutting off his phone, he lost himself underwater not knowing what kind of life form he would encounter around the next rock or coral. "There's something beautiful about that," he says. "I think in some ways your mind state is almost completely altered. And it allows you to get a totally fresh perspective on things."
If you really want to turn up your potential for flow and improved creativity, find a sensory deprivation tank where you can lose yourself. It's a light-proof, sound-insulated shallow pool filled with salty water heated to skin temperature. "You can hear the blood pumping through your body. You can actually almost hear and see your mind," he says. "About a half-hour in there you go to a very interesting state in terms of brain waves. You come back very, very rejuvenated and in orders of magnitude more productive than you would have been otherwise."