Creating flow and connection

When you regularly apply your passion without expectations, good things happen. It’s that simple.

Here are four ways to focus, adapt, and drive positive change.

1. Make it an adventure
Living an adventure means accepting life in its fullness. It means going with the flow, constantly learning and unlearning to make way for new. Seeking novelty is a psychological state that fevers the adventurous spirit. Whether though travel, hobby, honing a new skill, a career or lifestyle transition. Whatever your goal is at the moment, be eager to re-discover your potential, without clingy expectations. Find yourself constantly transforming by letting go of stories that no longer serve growth. Choose the story you want tell yourself. Make it epic.

2. be present
There’s the old proverb: necessity is the mother of invention. Similarly: presence is the mother of confidence. Your talent, strength, passion, ‘ahh’ and ‘aha’ moments live in this moment, not in some arbitrary fantasy in your head. Having a clear purpose begins with self-awareness, of the body and mind. Contemplative practices like mindfulness and meditation are effective ways to quiet the hindbrain (aka lizard brain), which is on survival alert and when hyperactive can cause over-production of the stress hormone cortisol, shown to shrink parts of the brain. A good book that dives into the physiology of mindfulness is Buddha’s Brain.

Regular calming routines help ease stress and balance the immune system. Studies even show that a mundane task like washing the dishes, when done with a mindful presence, reduces stress and anxiety. Check in with what the body is picking up and bear witness to thoughts and sensations rather than trying to control them. By quieting the mind, the body naturally follows and calms itself. Take a minute to simply breath throughout the day and observe what it feels like to have a body that breathes. The psychological term for this process is interoception, which means perceiving within.

3. Build empathy
Empathy is the foundation of emotional intelligence, which is the ability to read feeling states and adapt, in yourself and others. Now there are numerous definitions out there but the important thing is the capacity to connect. And like a muscle it can be strengthened by quieting the mind and being curious.

If you’re ordering food at a restaurant, you can tell if the employee is just going through the motions, or just following the script. You can also tell if she is tapped into the moment and having fun with real time conversations. When I notice people riding the script, I look for moments of pause, or surprise spaces that draw my attention, and it’s amazing how a gentle silence can dissolve the script for a smile or interesting conversation to emerge.

4. Tell your own story
Be true to your own story. Let experience speak for itself. When I was in China, my brain was racing to figure out what it means to live there. So much is different, from the language and history to the rules of the road. Chinese culture is fascinating, especially in areas that have preserved some historic roots like in Chengdu where I was staying.

I would hear friends share their own intellectual narratives about China. Out of desperation to find meaning in the new environment, I would fish for other people’s opinions to adopt as my own, which didn’t feel quite real. Everyone offered a piece of truth but the whole I had to discover on my own. I remember one night I was walking home when I realized to just sit with the experience without forcing a meaning and let the impressions land in their own terms. This way it becomes my story and not somebody else’s. And the experience unfolded beautifully, meeting some amazing people and seeing some incredible places.

Dropping expectations is the key. Not always easy but a worthy practice.