Imagine being at your most productive and creative, but also at your happiest. This is achieved in a state called FLOW. In Positive Psychology, flow is a state when you are fully immersed in an activity, feeling energized, and completely absorbed in the moment.
All of us can achieve flow, but we wanted to find out how experts and high-achievers get into flow, then use the data to benefit everyone. This year we asked a panel of 11 experts and high achievers what flow means to them and how their mindset and equipment play a part in bringing flow into their lives. We’ve been studying flow states to help design more meaningful experiences for people. As designers, the deeper we understand people, the better we can create experiences that empower and inspire them.
Join us on 11th March 2021 where we present the findings of our FLOW X DESIGN study. In the meantime, enjoy our interview with the inspiring Eimear Noone.
Eimear Noone is an award-winning conductor & composer, with a resume featuring iconic video games such as World of Warcraft, Diablo, and many other big names, as well as the first woman to lead the orchestra at the Oscars.
Image © Steve Hum
Eimear says her biggest accomplishment was how she felt during the Academy Awards performance, making history as the first woman to conduct at the Oscars.
“I felt completely present, and completely at one with the experience. I didn’t feel at all nervous, I felt completely whole. The way I felt, with that level of pressure on my shoulders, was my biggest internal achievement.”
Eimear describes this flow-state experience with extreme fondness and reminisces on the first time she experienced flow at the age of 15. Eimear was randomly chosen by the conductor of the Army Band of the Western Command to go on the stage to “wave her arms around”. Little did they know they had accidentally selected someone who had been practicing in the attic of her parents’ house for years.
“It felt like my awkward body, my neuroses, my crazy brain, everything all stopped and quieted down. And I had this singular experience where everything was working together. Time has slowed down, and I felt kind of invincible.” She continues: “I accidentally experienced flow, and it’s something that I always want to get back to. So, I’m always investigating it.”
Onstage, in front of orchestras from all over the world, Eimear performs with batons that she has modified to suit her needs. Her relationship with the baton, how it feels and moves can directly influence her performance.
“I did work with the baton makers to create my own batons that are weighted exactly as I like them. Often, baton makers will balance it where half of the baton meets the shaft of the stick, but for me, I like it a little bit off-balance. Strangely enough, where it feels like the tip of the baton wants to dip downwards. And I find that it helps literally with the flow.”
Eimear continues to push the boundaries in her work, and constantly seeks new challenges, but she admits to continuously working on her mindset to enable her to achieve those moments of flow in her work.
“I always say I’m the last person that should be a performer, but I’ve learned how to use that kind of adrenaline and natural nervousness, to make sure that I can get to that point where you’re responding rather than reacting.”
To help deal with high-pressure environments, Eimear had to rethink her attitude towards stress. She explored meditative and breathing techniques, Quigong martial art, body meridians as well as listening to music before the performance to quieten her thoughts. They help to settle her heart rate and ready Eimear’s mind for entering flow states.
“If I’m going to stay in this career and if I’m going to get into the flow, and get to that place that I’ve experienced by accident, if I’m going to find my way back there on purpose, I need some rituals.”
It was amazing because they helped get to a point of flow, to a point of being completely present
Being in the flow can be challenging, and people who master relaxation techniques tend to more easily access the state. In an orchestra, flow is not a solo act – it’s a group experience.
“What is completely fascinating about it, there’s so much nonverbal communication going on. And it goes way beyond the conversation between the gesture of the conductor and the sound of the musicians. There’s a sort of symbiosis happening between our brains and our energy. We’re all in the flow, we don’t need to tell each other.”
When Eimear is in that moment, she likens it to an infallible state; “you can do no wrong, there are no mistakes, it’s almost like we’re being carried along by something else.” She continues, “There’s just a vibration that’s buzzing around between us. There’s this kind of feedback loop happening, the audience is sending the energy back to us. It’s contagious.”
You can do no wrong, there are no mistakes, it's almost like we're being carried along by something else
Eimear has faced many challenges and barriers along the way that could have stopped her from becoming a conductor, but she has always felt that it was her calling. She jokes about the small village in East Galway, Ireland with a population of under 500 people, where she grew up. “There weren’t enough people in my village to tell me that what I wanted to do was impossible.”
Alongside her incredible resume, Eímear Noone has recently been nominated for a Hollywood Music in Media Award for the song Stand for Hope from the film Two By Two: Overboard! You can follow Eimear’s exceptional journey on Twitter.
Join Design Partners’ FLOW X DESIGN Master Class on 11th March. An opportunity to hear the insights from our 11 amazing experts and high achievers. We’ll reveal what flow really means to them, and the role that mindset and equipment plays. Plus, we’ll be exploring the implications of design in helping to achieve the highest levels of flow and happiness.