In this inspiring article about mastery, Marcia Reynolds gives us some hints on how to get into the “the zone of mastery” or, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it, in the “Flow”.
There is one passage in the article that I find fascinating.
“I found the best competitors do not think about anything, not even winning, when they perform at their best. Thinking of winning causes their brains to entertain the possibility of losing.”
Isn’t it ironic that in a society so obsessed with results and achievements, the best performers avoid thinking about winning to express their full potential?
Keeping the focus on the prize is a common mistake in goal settings. You set an audacious goal, maybe a SMART one and then, because you want to be sure to get it, you keep your eyes on it all the time. As a result, you’re not in the here and now. And Marcia says, “being fully present while performing is the critical factor that can put you over the top into the zone of mastery“.
The approach to goal setting that I use is the following one:
FIND: First I set a goal, and I spend time finding what makes it meaningful to me
REWRITE: Then I think about what do I need to change to get where I want. Who do I need to become to achieve that goal? What do I have to learn? Which habits, rituals and structures do I have to install? This transforms the journey into a learning process.
EXPERIENCE: Finally, I forget about the goal and focus only on the experience, on being consistent with the new habits and rituals.
EXPAND: even if I don’t always achieve the results that I set at the beginning, I always learn something valuable in the end that I can apply in other parts of my life.
Did you have a good weekend?
It is probably the main question asked on Monday morning when we go back to work.
Everyone has a different idea of a good weekend. For someone is about spending time with the loved ones. For others is about doing nothing or maybe doing all the things that can’t be done during the working days. Some engage with people while others seek only silence.
This morning I woke up thinking about the importance of rest and recovery. We often overlook how vital it is to take the time to rest our body, our mind and our soul.
A friend once told me that even the stronger bow would snap if you never release its tension.
Pushed by the desire to achieve our goals and improve our performances, we focus only on the things we have to do, and we overlook resting.
Everyone whose performance depends on their physical condition, like athletes but also people with physically demanding jobs, are well aware of the importance of rest and recovery.
But what about our mind? How much time do we give to our mind to rest and recovery? How much space do we invest to refill our creative reserve?
Personally, not as much as I should. And having a smart device with me all the time is not helping.
This is why I decided to carve out more disconnected time in my week to replenish my creative tank.
And what about you?
Do you give some time off to your mind?
Non-attachment is a powerful practice.
But it’s not easy at all.
We live immersed in a culture that celebrates achievements and material wealth.
It’s hard to do something without being attached to the outcome.
Yet, anytime I’ve been able to experience non-attachment, my performances surged.
This practice of writing every morning is a good example.
When I started I had no goal but writing.
Being completely detached from the outcome, it was easy for me to sit down and write.
Then, once the practice became a habit and my writing began to improve, I started paying attention to the results.
I wanted to write something good because I knew I could.
I developed an attachment to the outcome, and I experienced the first difficulties. Days when words weren’t flowing, ideas were not coming, and my posts became less authentic.
Then I realized that nobody was expecting anything from me.
Nobody was reading me.
That gave me freedom.
And with that freedom words started flowing again.
Until lately, when I realized that I was focusing, again, on the outcome.
I have some readers, and I wanted to write something meaningful for them. For you.
The attachment to the outcome was getting in the way of my creativity.
Last days writing hasn’t been as fluid as usual.
And this morning I was stuck.
I was ready to give up and call it a day.
And when that thought came, when I gave up my attachment to the outcome this post emerged.
A few weeks ago I had an inspiring conversation about playfulness with my dear friend Luca. While we were reflecting on what “being playful” means to us, we realised that in playing, like in every human experience, there are both form and essence.
Because the form is the only visible one and the easier to model, we usually focus on it. It is what most of the companies did years ago when “gamification” became one of the main buzzwords in the digital industry. I did it too.
My feeling is that the “gamification” approach didn’t deliver the expected impact because it was all about form. We were trying to apply the typical visible elements of games to other areas. But the essence wasn’t there. We were just asking people with a business mindset to use a playful form.
What could happen if we do the reverse? If we infuse a playful mindset into other forms?
For Luca and I, a playful mindset or attitude is about being always curious, making everything experiential, seeing everything as an opportunity to learn and discover, focusing on the act of playing more than on the outcome, having fun together.
What about you? What is the essence of playing for you?
And what would happen if you infuse that essence in your work?
You’ve probably heard or read about the “board of directors” or “supervisory board” concerning big companies.
A board is a group of persons having supervisory or advisory powers over a company. They usually hire, support and supervise the people leading the company, the CEO and the executive directors.
When I think at a board the image that comes to my mind is one of a council of wise and elderlies people. I’ve never been part of a board, but I’m pretty sure my image is not accurate.
Anyway, the point of this post is that I believe that everyone should have a board. A council of wise people ready to give advice and support.
How easier would it be if you could ask for advice when you have to make a tough choice?
So, every year I appoint my “supervisory board”, or as I prefer to call it, my “life council”.
Within there are a few people that inspire me and to which I turn to in search of wisdom.
When I have to take a tough decision, or I don’t know what to do, I summon my council and ask for advice.
In my council, there can be people that I never met such as writers, historical figures or fictional characters. There are also people I know, but they don’t need to know that they are part of my council.
It is, indeed a virtual council.
Fancy creating your own life council? Just take a piece of paper and jot down the name of a few people whose words and actions are sources of wisdom for you. Then, anytime you feel stuck just open that piece of paper and ask yourself “what would they do in this situation?”.
Be aware, they can just give advice.
The responsibility for your choice is all yours.
Sometimes all we need is just a nudge.
A little push to break the inertia and start moving.
I discovered it soon after I decided to write every morning.
The first days I was so excited that it was easy to find something to write about. And to be completely honest, I just wanted to write, so I wasn’t paying much attention to what I was writing about.
Soon, I found myself consuming most of my writing time to search for something to write about.
In the beginning, I thought that I needed a topic. A destination or at least a direction for my words. But this search wasn’t easy and, even when I found a direction, I wasn’t satisfied with the final result. Having the end in mind was narrowing my creativity, and the outcome wasn’t very inspired.
Then I discovered The Write Practice and its prompts. A prompt is a great way to inspire the writing process. It gives you a starting point, not the destination. It’s a little push, so you start moving, but being free to go anywhere.
Anything can be a prompt; a word, a question, a picture, a sound.
You just need to be willing to surrender to it, open the gate and go with the flow. Prompts are great for writing, in conversations, in self-reflection.
It’s a way to start without the end in mind.
About ten years or so ago, I was sitting in my grandma’s kitchen with her and her brother. They were sharing funny stories of their childhood when my great-uncle, out of the blue said “Fabio, you know what the problem is nowadays? There is not enough love in the world“.
I still remember vividly that moment.
A few years after, my girlfriend took me to a talk by Sujith Ravindran. At that time I didn’t know him, and I didn’t know that it would be the beginning of a life-changing friendship. I don’t remember all the details of that evening, but one sentence remained with me since that day.
“Fear is the opposite of love.”
This morning I picked a Be The Change card saying “Power + Love.”
I immediately recalled those two moments.
When I read the news, I realized that too often power is driven by fear and as such, it is used to divide us.
And I’m honest, sometimes I feel there is nothing, as an individual, that I can do.
I feel powerless.
But this card, this morning, reminded me that maybe, there is one thing I can do.
I can choose love.
“Love is the experience of that oneness of being” — Rupert Spira
Self-doubts are thieves.
They sneak into your mind, and they steal your self-confidence and your creativity.
It’s an awful feeling to stare at a blank page realising that you’re as empty at that page.
Sometimes life tests us.
Things don’t go exactly as planned.
The expected results are not coming.
The self-doubts lurk in.
And before we realise it, we are questioning everything.
I know the feeling.
I’ve been there often.
It still happens.
We all have moments of doubts and fear when we question what we do and who we are. I used to rely on self-reflection to find my way out of those moments. But in doing so, I was adding even more questions and making the hole bigger.
I was feeding my fear.
Now, when it happens, when the self-doubts arrive I ground myself in my rituals. I stop the thinking that is just feeding my self-doubts and rely on the habits and structures that I created when my self-confidence and my creativity were full and energised.
“Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don’t know how paralysing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, ‘You can’t do a thing’. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerises some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of `you can’t’ once and for all.” – Vincent van Gogh
Years ago I went to a conference about eyesight. Among the various information that I’ve learned that day, one really surprised me.
When we discuss eyesight and its related problems, we put most of our attention into our focal vision, yet it covers only 5 to 8 degrees out of the almost 180º of the human field of view.
We see most of the world through our peripheral view.
I think it has to do with our hunting heritage. If we want to snatch the prey, we must entirely focus on it.
The focal mode is almost exclusively visual, while the peripheral vision acts in concert with all the other senses. When we focus all our energy on the focal vision, we reduce our ability to perceive the world.
The other day I was talking with an old friend about the beginning of our careers almost two decades ago. He reminded me of the endless and boundaryless conversations we used to have at crazy times of the day or night. We were able to spend hours talking about impossible things and visionary stuff disconnected from reality. Though, a lot of great ideas that flew into our work came out of those conversations.
Unfortunately, because of their nature, nowadays those conversations can’t find space inside our work time. We are so focused on the outcome, the prey, that we put all our energy in the focal vision becoming blind to most of what’s happening around us.
This ability to have an extreme narrowed focus has surely improved our performances, but I believe it is affecting our creativity.
Those open conversations were our way of nurturing our peripheral vision.
Are you still able to find space for open and aimless conversations?
“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.” — C.G. Jung
We all want to be loved, liked and appreciated.
The desire to belong is one of the basic human needs.
Sometimes thou, this can get in the way of our ability to live fully.
Particularly at this moment in history, when we are all overexposed.
We begin to focus more on being, or I should better say appearing, good than on being real.
At least, this is what happened to me.
Growing up I’ve always been a good guy.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great thing.
But at some point, I got stuck in that role.
I believed that being “the good guy” was the reason why people loved me.
So, I did that.
For the first thirty years of my life, I sealed any potential shadows away.
I wanted everyone to see only the lights.
Including me, and that’s the worse part.
I was deliberately ignoring my shadows.
But they didn’t go away just because I ignored them.
And in doing so, I was neglecting my wholeness.
It didn’t last.
You can’t sustain an entire life without substance, without being whole.
I had the opportunity to restart, and I started by acknowledging and taking care of my shadows.
It was nice to be good.
But it’s even better to be real.