Transform your mind’s potential while bringing yourself more peace.
When I started my career as a conductor, I thought the only way to achieve success was to do 10,000 things all at once. I was newly married, starting a new job with lots of conducting, administration and pressure. Soon after, I started a family. Travelling every other week, it didn’t seem possible to manage everything. I prided myself on multi-tasking and working long into the night.
Fast forward a few years, and I realize now that whatever I was overachieving in action took away from what I could have achieved mentally and creatively.
When we are committed — there is nothing that we won’t “do” to achieve success. But our real power and potential is in how we approach life through our minds.
I found that I could achieve more by establishing two key habits in my daily life — ‘flow’ and ‘timelessness’. Clarity became my reward, my brain became more engaged and focussed and I learned to reach a higher potential with more creativity and peace.
Here are 8 ways that ‘flow’ and ‘timelessness’ can potentially transform your life and bring more quality to everything you do.
1. Do one thing at a time.
When we do one thing and stay immersed with only that thing, we can get into a mental state called flow. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, who named this flow state, has a wonderful TED Talk on finding happiness through flow here. Flow is beneficial on so many levels — we can achieve, feel empowered, and find our true potential when we get into this zone.
writes in his article The Simple Secret To Being In A “FLOW” State… At All Times
When you accomplish one thing at a time, you’re giving your best to that thing. You’re not stressed. You’re present and in flow. As a result, you actually accomplish WAY MORE.
Getting into the flow state is akin to being present, and time flies as we immerse ourselves in the quality and focus of what we love doing. The first thing that we all need to do is to get rid of any bad habits of responding and interacting with technology. Every time we do that, we disrupt our flow. I’ve noticed that when I write in the mornings, my best work comes when I don’t turn my phone on.
The most important one thing we can do is to practice getting immersed in something where time is not a component. You need to descend into a new world and in order to fully explore it, you need to be wide-eyed, ready to perceive and feel the possibilities and be open to taking whatever time it takes to make the journey. This can’t happen if we are thinking about time.
Since most of us can’t let go of time completely, we can create time blocks to enable our ability to get into flow:
- Find a space of time and set an alarm for the allotted amount of time you have. Then let go of the time during this block and practice getting into the flow of whatever you set out to do in that moment. Do not let anyone interrupt you.
- Try to design your life around several flow blocks in each day.
2. Transcend your abilities.
I used to be proud of the fact that I was doing ten things at once. It made me feel like I was a highly efficient sort of superperson. Experiencing a lifetime of warp-speed juggling over many of my past years — schedules, performances, family, work, travel, speeches, board meetings — I guess I felt that there was no other way. But I think now, that I missed out on a key realization.
We can transcend the abilities that we think we have — our brain can go further, our creativity can surprise us with new insights, our skills can deepen beyond wherever we’ve gone before —but only if we are all in. Our human mind is extraordinary — it never stops growing, changing and assimilating new knowledge.
When we focus, we can transcend to a potential we didn’t know was possible.
I’ve experienced this working with musicians in an orchestra. When we are focused, and completely in the flow of what we are doing, we always go beyond. I’ve seen how rehearsals transform into magic in performance through the simple act of complete awareness and focus. In performance, we operate in a higher state of alertness, readiness, spontaneity, and creativity.
- Expectand to look for this ability that you have to go “beyond”. We can experience this in anything we do — as writers, athletes, creators, thinkers, or in any possible human endeavour.
This mystery waits for us somewhere between our conscious and subconscious brain. The potential is beyond what we understand. It is thrilling and life-enhancing to harness this extraordinary potential from time to time.
3. Don’t multitask — ever.
This is why it is important NOT to multi-task. When we multi-task, we are actually training our brain to not flow, to not pay attention. We are practicing distraction.
- If you are cooking, enjoy the ingredients, the balance of what you create and every taste. Use that process as practice for mindfulness. Put your mind into each action thoughtfully and with presence. Only cook.
- If you are planning a business presentation, curating a new fashion season, or writing a book — enjoy the process of every decision, let the flow of creativity take over, and do not answer any emails or get distracted.
Sometimes we have a bumpy start with this. Our adrenalized mind darts around, anxious to do a few things at once. Practice staying with it. Practice getting into the flow and you will find new potential for yourself.
4. Get super focussed.
One time I was called up with five days’ notice to step in to conduct a major opera for Opera McGill in Montreal — Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann. I always thought I needed weeks to study for such a project, but with the urgency of preparing on short notice, I realized that previously I was undermining my potential and wasting time. Being forced into an urgent flow state, I learned that I was capable of remembering, learning, focusing in a much greater way than I had previously believed.
In a fascinating interview with Rich Roll, neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman discusses this in a podcast called Change Your Brain. Neuroplasticity enables our brains to continually develop and change. This is an empowering truth for any superachiever to contemplate.
Essentially, Dr. Huberman says that we need to do two things in order to harness our brain’s highest potential for a task or outcome:
- extreme focus on one goal, task or desire
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Past the ripe age of 25, we are fully cooked; calcified in our ways. So dispense…
If we are in a state where we need to do something so that it is critical to us, our primordial brain will kick into high gear and we can learn and change anything we want to. Our brain can change, through neuroplasticity, in the directions we desire, and transcend into uncharted territory through focus, urgency and passion.
- Explore your edge of pushing time limits. What is the time you really need to accomplish something IF you are under pressure? Observe your brain and find the state where you are most effective.
- Quality is much more effective than quantity. We use time-based goal setting often (workout for one hour, meditate for 15 minutes, practice piano for two hours). Open your mind to how youreally are functioning and when you are experiencing your highest degree of focus.
- If you are not focussed, try reducing your time and pushing harder and see what happens. Experiment with how you respond to urgency. Find your highest focus zone by mixing in a bit of urgency and see what happens.
“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” — Leonard Bernstein
5. Add a cycle of timelessness.
Alternating urgency and focus with periods of timelessness enable you to harness states of flow and focus during certain parts of the day while empowering your self creatively and emotionally at other points. Applying timelessness at some point every day will give it awareness, inspiration and harness your creative potential. It will fill your spirit and draw you into a deeper connection to yourself.
Creativity is what makes us unique.
You want to be unique, don’t you?
When we have ideas — ideas of how to market our business, be entrepreneurs, writers or creators, even what to make for dinner— these are all moments of creativity and presence. All of us are creative — we are visionaries in some way, no matter who we are or what we do.
- Every day, make a priority of creating a space for timelessness.
- When we create a cycle of daily goals, flow and timelessness, we create a powerful habit. If we alternate moments of high intensity, specific goal-oriented output, and then other moments of free space to think, contemplate and recharge, we will create the long tailof potential.
- Creativity will emerge. Many of the thoughts and ideas in our brain are emergent.
Think about it: how interesting is it that there are certain things that can happen to you, in your mind, that you don’t control?
Emerging ideas make life fascinating. They colour our world and create possibility.
6. Drop your addiction to time.
Over the years, I came to recognize that I could not achieve happiness or a feeling of being content until I started to drop my addiction to time.
Efficiency is a double-edged sword. It has its place. But the higher value needs to be placed on being present, being focussed and flowing, and being open to the moment.
Whenever we place too much priority on time, we can’t enjoy the moment we’re in. Time robs us of being content in a moment because we think we should be doing something.
For me, restlessness has distracted me from my full creative capacity. It has taken away contentment from the things I was doing because I had the habit of looking towards something else. This issue is especially important with family.
- If you are talking to your child or spouse, be timeless, and be present with them. Listen, pick up their signals, encourage their interaction with your questions and thoughts. Good quality time is much more precious than lots of less quality time.
- If you can pick two timelessness priorities within your day — 1) pick quality moments of family or friend time and 2) a personal moment for your own empowerment and creativity.
The quality that we are searching for is life-changing. It will give us more for less, and make us more out of less. One nice meal shared with your family, one truly enriching walk, or one hour of blazing creativity at work is worth much more than the multitudes of hours when we are half present.
Timelessness is the most important missing treasure of a busy life.
7. Be aware.
You may have a plan for flow and timelessness in each day. You might have a schedule planned for meetings, a workout, or some family time.
But it is also important to be aware and present in order to notice opportunities that are unique and meaningful.
The value of living with committment to timelessness also means noticing when it is right to step out of your plan and cherish a beautiful moment that you didn’t expect. You might have planned to do “x”, but the sun comes out now — time for that timeless walk. Or you planned to do “y”, but your son seems in a talkative mood.
Grab the moment. Awareness enriches your life.
8. Contemplate ‘why’ to find your ‘how.’
The single act of contemplation will reconnect you with yourself — who you are, what you know, what you care about, the wisdoms that you feel strongly about and define you.
When we hurtle through a busy life and wonder how we will accomplish everything, the answer is to slow down and to, paradoxically, transcend. Do less and be more. When we give our minds space and contemplate why we are doing each thing that we set out to do, our mind will give us the how.
“He who has a why can bear almost any how.” — Nietzsche
Ultimately, our lives need to be lived with a strategic plan that prioritizes quality over quantity. We can gain the success that we seek for our goals through focus, flow, urgency and the quality of how we approach each task. We can create a framework for how we live each day which enables efficiency within the framework that we define, and with mindful attention to how we cycle through what is important to us, we can achieve great potential in our work and effort.
This is the part that we can control.
And, to truly open ourselves to the potential that we don’t fully understand — our creativity and emerging ideas — as well as to share life fully and deeply with others to fulfil our happiness and awareness in the world around us — we can prioritize an everyday cycle that includes timelessness, creativity and contemplation as well.
When we transform our busy lives through “flow” and “timelessness”, we create a cycle in our everyday lives that encompasses the known and unknown, the planned and the unplanned, the goals and the space.
In this way, we can harness our mind’s ability to flow, transcend and emerge. We enhance the quality of how we live each day through a thoughtful approach to our priorities and how we cycle through them. And by doing this, we can elevate our success and potential while simultaneously enabling more peace and personal fulfillmen