Learning to achieve the three states of human excellence
Published on July, 30th 2018
By Greg Wells
When you are a science geek like me, you approach knowledge with a lens that can zoom in and out, seeking both fine distinctions and deep insights. Then, if you are a speaker, author and coach, you take what you have learned and sort out how to translate it into accessible and useable information.
This has been my process as I explore the realms of mindfulness, creativity, productivity, focus and joy. I’ve been reading, talking to people and doing experiments to test my thinking and apply my knowledge. This journey has helped me see that there are three distinctly interrelated states of being that we can all learn to access. One of them is pure mindfulness: complete immersion in the moment. The other two are ends of a spectrum: hyper focus for productivity and completely letting go for creativity.
A little over a year ago, I took my family to the mountains of India to explore meditation, mindfulness and attention. I wanted to look at the roots and get past the filters that mainstream culture tends to put on these topics. At the centre of the experiment was learning to be 100% attentive to the moment with no thoughts other than what presently existed. For a westerner and a scientist, it was very challenging. But as I practiced, I was able to go deeper and deeper into my direct experience.
What I discovered is a pure state of humanity, a resting state where you are immersed in joy and able to access deep modes of thought that are not otherwise available. Based on my brief experience, and work I have done with mindfulness since then, I believe that the ability to be completely present is a catalyst for releasing your true potential.
The second state is one that most of us are familiar with: the hyper-focused mode we get into when we power through a task and generate result after result. We have all experienced this in our work, and it is a state of being that athletes often describe as being in the zone.
A great example is a story told by José Bautista, a professional baseball player, in the Players Tribune in the fall of 2015. On October 14 of that year, in front of 50,000 screaming fans at Rogers Centre, he hit the famous “bat flip” home run in the bottom of a wild seventh inning in game five of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers. Describing the moment, he wrote, “I was so locked in that all I could see was the pitcher. Everything else was out of focus. It was so loud that it was quiet.” Total focus equals hyper productivity.
The final mode is creativity, which requires a completely different state of being. If you want to come up with new ideas, think about a new angle or solve a problem, you cannot be engaged with something else. And you definitely cannot be flitting around in your email or in and out of a conversation. You need to set yourself up to have all devices off and absolutely no distractions. That’s when your mind can become fully active and begin to explore and wander.
It’s even better if you can do it in nature. If you’re sitting on a beach staring at the waves for an hour or two, with no phone or book or distractions, you’re going to get to some really interesting ideas. You will access a whole new way of thinking – a state of uber-creativity.
The three states I am describing – complete presence to the moment, hyper-productivity and uber-creativity – all have one thing in common: you have to deliberately program them into your life. In the last year, I have been proactive about setting myself up to access the most suitable headspace, and it has made a massive difference.
It won’t just happen. You have to set your mind to what you want to accomplish and then make it happen. With practice, you can refine your ability to engage in each state and access the breadth and depth of you.
I hope you enjoyed this article!
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