In positive psychology, a “flow state” is where you’re “in the zone,” fully absorbed in whatever activity you’re in. You lose track of time and you’re fully present.
Being in “flow” is crucial to high-performance and creativity. It’s crucial to being happy. It’s crucial to social connection.
And here’s the truth: You can live your entire life in flow. It turns out, being in flow isn’t that big of a mystery.
There are many “flow triggers,” such as being in various types of environments, having short deadlines, having high consequence for failure, etc.
One Outcome At A Time
“Wherever you are, make sure you’re there.” — Dan Sullivan, the founder of #1 entrepreneurial coaching program in the world, Strategic Coach
But there’s one “flow trigger” that is more important than anything else. And that’s having ONE OUTCOME that you’re seeking at any given time. For example, right now I’m writing this article. The ONE OUTCOME I have, for this moment, is to finish this article. If I stay focused on that ONE OUTCOME, then I’ll stay in flow until this article is done.
The problem for most people is that, while they’re doing one thing, they’re also seeking other outcomes. Say you’re at home with your family but you’re also wanting to see what’s happening on Facebook. You’re now pursuing TWO OUTCOMES… being with family and checking Facebook….Flow gone.
As human-beings, we are driven by outcomes. In philosophy, this is known as Teleology. Every human action is driven by an aim or end. If I go to the grocery store, there is a goal: Buy groceries. If I go to the bathroom, there is an aim or end: Go to the bathroom.
Everything we do is driven by an outcome.
Our brain’s become mentally lazy when we stop being purposeful about what we’re doing. We can become accustomed to never being fully present, and rather than being where we are and accomplishing our ONE OUTCOME, we get sucked into mental addictions.
So, if you’re reading this article right now, then finishing the article may be the ONE OUTCOME you’re currently pursuing.
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.
Success is increasingly about quality over quantity. Relationships are about quality over quantity. The 80/20 Principle is true. 20% of what you’re doing creates almost all of your positive results. 15 people in your life are the one’s creating the most happiness and success.
Focus on what matters.
Keep it simple.
Do one thing at a time.
One Major Goal
“What is the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” — Gary Keller
But there’s more to this idea than simply focusing on ONE OUTCOME at a time. If you want to radically improve your overall results, you want to simplify your daily, weekly, and year goals.
Every day, there should only be ONE OUTCOME you’re trying to produce. Stop trying to do a thousand things. 80% of what you’re doing is a distraction anyways. Focus on “less, but better.” If you focused on one really good and powerful outcome each day, your quality would increase dramatically. Rather than doing 10 things poorly, you’d be doing one thing, the right thing, VERY WELL.
This doesn’t mean you only do one thing per day. But as it relates to work, lets say, you only have one key outcome. Anything above that is gravy. But by doing less, you’ll actually accomplish way more. Because you’ll be doing the right thing, and you’ll be doing it very well.
Productivity is about doing less. Busyness is about doing more.
The most successful people in the world do less. People working paycheck-to-paycheck do more.
Want to become brilliant at what you do? Focus on one key outcome per day in your work. What about weekly? What’s the ONE OUTCOME this week that would make the biggest difference?
Robert Brault has said, “We are kept from our goal not by obstacles, but by a clear path to lesser goals.”
What Brault means is that it is not the challenges or obstacles between ourselves and our ideal future that are stopping us. Instead, it is “clear paths” to “lesser goals.”
Think about this for a second: What is the ONE GOAL you truly want for yourself? I know you probably want many things. But which one is most crucial? Which ONE OUTCOME would make the biggest difference in your life?
The more simplified your future, the more streamlined will be your “path” or “process” to creating that future. This is crucial because motivation depends on simplicity. If you want to be very motivated, you must see a clear and compelling future. But you must also have a “path” for creating that future. If you’re pursuing too many goals, then you won’t have a clear path forward. As a result, you won’t create momentum.
Momentum and confidence involve taking 20 steps in one direction, not one step in 20 directions.
What’s the ONE GOAL you should really be pursuing?
What would happen if you stopped investing all of your energy into your “lesser goals”?
Want More Flow?
If you’re doing one thing at a time, you’ll be in a flow state. You’ll be immersed in what you’re doing. As a result, you’ll accomplish so much more.
I wrote this blog post in about 20 minutes. I didn’t get distracted once. It was the one outcome I wanted. I was in a beautiful flow state while writing this article. It was very enjoyable for me, and hopefully enjoyable for you.
Wherever you are, that’s where you should be.
What’s the one outcome you’re trying to accomplish, right now? Stop trying to squeeze too much in. Just do that ONE THING. Once you’re done, you can do the next thing.
Being home and present with people is crucial. Connecting with them should be your ONE OUTCOME. Be home. Be present. Be with your people.
When it comes to people, and especially children, it is understandable when you’re “away.” If you’re “gone” for work, that’s fine. But if you’re “there” but only half-present, that’s unacceptable to anyone, especially children.
Either be there or be gone, even if that means being in a different room or outside the house for “work.” Be gone or be there. Create ONE OUTCOME at a time.
If you want flow and extreme productivity (i.e., extreme RESULTS), then seek fewer goals. In other words, stop pursuing “lesser goals.” Go for ONE THING at a time. Making a true decision means “cutting of alternative options.” Commit!
I’ve learned this lesson again and again. When I was an undergrad, my ONE OUTCOME was getting into a high-tier PhD program. That gave me the path I needed. When I wanted to become a professional writer, my ONE OUTCOME was getting a 6-figure book deal with one of the BIG 5 NY Publishers. Now that I’m a professional writer, my ONE OUTCOME is selling millions of copies of Personality Isn’t Permanent.
The more focused you can be on the key outcomes you really want in your life, the more progress you’ll make as a person.
The more flow you’ll live in.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy is an organizational psychologist and bestselling author of Willpower Doesn’t Work. His blogs have been read by over 100 million people and are featured on Forbes, Fortune, CNBC, Cheddar, Big Think, and many others. He is a regular contributor to Inc. and Psychology Today and from 2015-2018, he was the #1 writer, in the world, on Medium.com. He and his wife Lauren adopted three children through the foster system in February 2018 and, one month later, Lauren became pregnant with twins, who were born in December of 2018. They live in Orlando.
Image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio.