Researchers, athletes, executives and artists have all searched for the holy grail that is often described as ‘being in the zone’ with tantalising glimpses into this powerful state appearing sporadically and seemingly at random.
Kotler, Wheal and Csikszentmihalyi amongst others, have tried to indicate conditions or ‘triggers’ to enter this state of ultimate performance. With the former suggesing no less than 17 different triggers, and the latter suggesting eight, as well as their opposing ‘detractors’ makes getting into flow a seemingly complicated exercise.
As a performance coach, I’ve found that the following conditions pretty much sum up the fastest way to get into flow. Try them out.
Purpose: what is so valuable to you that you need to put all your effort and attention to it? Defining clearly and succinctly why you want to get important something done – a clear goal to achieve imminently or a level of performance you need to be at now, will allow your mind to ‘dial in’ and sweep aside any other distraction present. Whether you are on the 10m diving board at the Olympics or getting ready to deliver a keynote speech to your company, NOW is important, and nothing else matters.
Passion: are you doing what you love and are passionate about, so much that you have invested huge amounts of time, effort and money into what you are about to accomplish? If so, then you are more likely to trigger all the parts of your brain required to perform in a flow state. If it is boring, inconsequential or a chore, then ‘the magic’ simply won’t happen.
Autonomy: selfish as it sounds, flow state is a mental state that exists within you. You are entirely responsible for success and the consequences of failure, which creates the pressure outside of your comfort zone required to enable flow. Science says, as little as four per cent out of your comfort zone, relying only on your competencies and decisions, is enough to trigger a flow state. Take ownership, don’t wait for others, dive in.
Mastery: you can’t get into flow if you are second-guessing yourself, and confidence comes from mastery. Fumbling around trying to find the strings on your guitar fret is not going to get you into the flow state experienced by jazz artists who have been practicing their art for decades. Flow appears later, as you become competent at something to an extent that your subconscious takes over and it seems like you are playing ‘on autopilot’. That ‘effortless’ feeling of doing something challenging like you could do it with your eyes closed, is exactly what flow state feels like.
Curiosity: is a powerful condition that is required to trigger the parts of your brain to light up in flow. Newness, whether it is your environment or situation, helps you dial in and focus on what you are about to accomplish. Curiosity about change and challenge shifts our mind from ‘hijack’ to ‘proactive’ that enables flow. If we fear the moment, flow gets blocked. We are curious about the challenge, and flow can happen. This challenge – skills ratio is a fundamental flow trigger and the decision to take on an otherwise scary challenge with curiosity makes all the difference.
Want to get more flow? Engineer these five conditions into your life and hold on tight!
For more information on flow state and team flow training, visit www.upyourlevel.com
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