You’ll notice a new photo in the banner of my blog. It’s a photo of the river in Grand Bend Ontario, one of my favourite beach towns in this part of the world. Right now, I’m sitting on the front patio, with the trees around me and the birds tweeting their little hearts out. I am relaxed.
The experience of relaxation is kind of funny. You can be both relaxed and intensely focused at the same time. Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi coined the concept of flow to describe this sense of relaxation and focus in 1975.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a great example of flow. Andy Milne, a Canadian jazz pianist, now based in New York played in a concert series for the Bach Music Festival of South Huron. Milne demonstrated many of the elements of flow. And the result was spectacular. You can listen to some samples of Milne’s work on his website. But seeing him live, completely engaged in his work, aware of everything around him, totally responsive to the audience, yet completely relaxed was a revelation.
If you read my most recent post on motivation, you’ll know that according to Dan Pink, the things that drive us are autonomy, mastery and purpose. Somehow, motivation, practice, flow and success all appear to be linked. And one of the linkages appears to be practice.
I’ve been talking a lot about the elements of success. According to the research, they seem to include things like intelligence, hard work, resilience, and determination. To achieve flow, we have to have a mastery of skills that lets us relax enough to just be in the moment. My Sensei tells me that in order to be an effective karate student your actions must be instinctual. If you have to think about it, you’re too slow. In order to respond instinctually, we must have thousands of hours of practice.
If we want to accomplish something meaningful in life, then we must commit to the hours of practice it takes to master something and achieve flow. This means we may have to sacrifice other things that are important. So step one to success? Drill, practice and rehearse.