How To Find More Flow On Your Learning Journey

Meaningful, mindful and minimal steps are the key!

First of all, let’s define “flow”. What is it?

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is “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.”

When we’re in the flow, we’re totally focused, effortlessly engaged and thoroughly enjoying an activity. We’re fully in the moment.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to live more in that state of flow? Particularly when we’re learning something. Like a language. Or a musical instrument. Or a new job.

Is that even possible?

I believe it is and I also believe that the following steps are key to finding more flow.

Ground yourself and stay in the present

In our crazy, busy world of today, we’re constantly rushing and running. Racing to get somewhere. Do something. But we don’t think about how we’re being when we’re doing. And that changes everything.

What if we decided how we wanted to be before we started? What if we slowed down first to speed up later?

There are two ways of achieving this.

Firstly, we can pause, meditate on our breathing to reconnect with ourselves and find a state of inner calm. A sort of blank slate from which we can sculpt a new creation. You can easily find calming guided meditations for inspiration such as this one here. Or

We can decide in advance how we want to be during the activity we’re about to begin and take a few minutes to reconnect with a memory of a moment in our life when we felt like that.

An example: imagine you want to feel confident. Close your eyes and think about a happy moment in your life when you were full of confidence. This is your “anchor” or “peak moment” experience. Sink into that feeling as if you were reliving it. Use as many of your senses as possible to immerse youself in this 4-D image: what can you hear, smell, see, feel? Milk it for all it’s worth.

Then move into the present moment, into your new activity, enveloped in this feeling. Stay mindfully focused on the now, forget the past or the future.

The present is where our power is. It’s the doorway on which opportunity knocks.

Stay lean and aim for “lagom”

You may have heard about lean meat or even lean management & leadership. In a nutshell, you could say that “lean” means “only the essential”.

Thomas Oppong wrote a recent article about the essence of lagom in Swedish society. Its meaning is closely related to “just enough” or “just right”.

Lola Akinmade-Åkerström, author of «Lagom, the Swedish Secret of Living Well» elaborates further: “I define lagom as “optimal”. Meaning, the decision we choose to make at a particular moment or about a certain interaction or situation is the best holistic choice for us individually or for the group, we find ourselves in. That is what lagom at its core tries to do”.

In a nutshell, if we want our learning to be lagom and lean, it needs to be both optimal and optimized.

To achieve this, particularly in terms of language learning, you need to be aware that you don’t need to learn everything. Thinking you need to cover every grammar point, word or phrase just creates more overwhelm. Why not just learn the core language for YOUR needs, interests and use, i.e. what is meaningful for YOU in terms of why you’re learning.

A language coach such as myself can help you do this by stripping things down to the essence and focusing on the real, relevant and personal, so that you not only enjoy it but you also retain it.

It often helps to remind ourselves that we’re not at school any more. We don’t have to follow a set of text books and tables. We have a choice.

WE are responsible for our learning journey.

Communicate consciously

No matter what our means of expression is (whether words, art, music…), we generally have something we want to say through it. We have a message to transmit.

We can help others understand our message by ensuring that we’re being 3 things: clear, concise and compelling.

When we’re clear, we’re specific, we get to the point.

When we’re concise, we’re succinct, we don’t get lost in details and go around in circles. We stay simple in essence.

When we’re compelling, we ensure that what we’re saying is meaningful to us (we’re sincere and authentic, we’re expressing from the heart) AND to our listener so that the message resonates with them.

Start small

As James Clear points out in this article, the hardest thing to do when we’re learning anything, such as a new habit, is getting started and sticking with it.

This is why we need to chunk the action steps right down to the bare essentials. To the tiniest next step.

James talks about his latest push-up routine where he started with just 10 push-ups on the first day. It took him 15 seconds. The next day he did 11 push-ups and so on. At the time of the article, he was up to 21 push-ups and when he achieved a higher figure, he knew he would break it down into smaller, easier steps to avoid any feeling of overwhelm.

For example, if you want to start reading more in the language you’re learning, a tiny step could be putting a book on your bedside table so that you read before you go to sleep. If you have the habit of reading in bed anyway, even better, you don’t even need to change your habits, you just integrate it into your daily routine!

The most important thing to take into account is that the next step has to be so easy, so minimal, that you can’t NOT do it. You then build momentum through incremental progress.

And finally:

Focus on the Gain

Where is your focus when you’re learning?

Are you focusing on “The Gap” or “The Gain”? Dan Sullivan highlights the importance of how we measure our progress in his recent article.

The problem is that we’re often in such a rush to get to our destination, we get stuck in The Gap: the space between where we are and where we want to be. We feel frustrated, impatient, stressed. Helpless. Focusing too much on The Gap leads to procrastination and at worse, giving up totally.

Whereas The Gain is different. Instead of measuring forwards, we measure backwards: back from where we are now to where we started. That’s when we can really see how far we’ve come and how much we’ve actually achieved.

So, let’s resume the steps to finding more flow:

  • Ground yourself and stay in the present
  • Stay lean and lagom
  • Communicate consciously
  • Start small
  • Focus on the Gain


Photo Credit: James Beheshti, James Wheeler, Unsplash

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