The martial artist & the knowledge worker have one common problem: juxtaposing a state of focus with the readyness for everything. Usually, when we’re focussing, we’re so single minded that we don’t pay attention to what’s happening around us. Yet we desire to adapt to changing situations, to be ready for everything.
The state of mind that allows for both focus and readyness is the mind like water. Having emptied one’s mind of distractions and clutter, it is ready to apply all of one’s skills. Like water, it adapts to the situation it is in, but never loses focus.
A skilled martial artist with a mind like water trusts her skills to manage any situation. Her body flows and responds automatically to her opponent. She respects the 12th principle of Karate Sensei Gichin Funakoshi: Do not think of winning. Think rather of not losing. Because if she thinks of winning, her mind is preoccupied and not in a state of readyness.
A productive knowledge worker with a mind like water is undistracted. She works on her tasks focused, but never forgets that sometimes, new possibilities arise and deserve to be pursued. She never overreacts or underreacts, but reacts exactly appropriate to the situation. Like a pond of water, in which a pebble is thrown (via David Allen).
A mind like water needs preparation. Skills need to be learned and practiced. The mind needs to be trained with a resistance to distractions and a trust in one’s skills. But with every step along the way, the mind becomes more like water — quite an interesting journey.