Have you ever found yourself so entrenched in an activity that you became detached from the events as if you were an observer seeing through your own eyes but somehow from a different perspective? In this state, time became distorted, speeding up or slowing down. Your confidence and skill level skyrocketed to a level of mastery that simply amazed you. Perhaps it was during a sport or being engaged in a form of art. Maybe it was when you were talking to someone you were really fond of, or while giving a presentation of some sort. Regardless of what led to this phenomenon, most would agree that it is an incredible experience. Various individuals and groups have referred to this state as being in the zone, being in sync, being dialed in, or being in the flow. These titles or descriptions seem to correlate with the characteristics of simplicity and effortlessness in which knowledge and skill seem to blend seamlessly with intuition and opportunity, thus allowing someone to simply flow in their ability to perform even the most difficult tasks.
For this reason, many find themselves longing to experience this state of excellence and devoting time to learn how to do so with consistency. However, in trying to achieve flow state many find it to become even more elusive. The reason behind this could be because it is a state of mind one enters as they let go. It is a state that requires one to simply trust and let things flow. If you have ever found yourself in this state and are like most you simply found yourself there, only noticing you were in the state after already having been present. If you try to analyze it you actually begin to descend from a peak performance state to a level of marginal skill more aligned with what you control on a conscious level. It is much like the elusiveness of happiness when someone tells you to try to be happy. Trying implies that you are not already in that state, which in itself will keep you from experiencing the state of which you place your aim.
The flow state is a subconscious function linked to your nervous system, governed by thoughts and beliefs. This is why one of the first things performance coaches and sports psychologist address is negative self-talk and limiting thoughts, and also why visualization techniques are so important. When one can visualize themselves doing something, one begins to make neurological connections to what it is that he or she is visualizing thereby allowing the person to begin to formulate ways of bringing that into conscious awareness. In a sense, people are always rehearsing. The question becomes, is the person rehearsing for success or failure?
So some simple things to keep in mind when striving for peak performance in any field are to…
1. Remain optimistic- Coaches all over the world in various sports and professions speak about having mental toughness. They desire their players or clients to possess a certain level of tenacity, allowing them to thrive in the face of adversity. This requires a certain hopefulness or optimism to be present. People that are optimistic tend to be much more resilient, being able to bounce back after being knocked down believing that something good will usually come out of any situation if they keep an open mind. These individuals also report feeling less stressed and more empowered.
2. Check the words you use with yourself- Critics are everywhere. Enemies, friends, family, coaches, and bosses can all be critics. Some provide constructive criticism while others tend to tear you down with verbal jabs. Even the most well meaning person can bring you down, so why not take the time to speak to yourself in the way you wished others would? Tell yourself how great you are and that things will work out. Comfort yourself when needed and celebrate your successes. This builds a stronger connection with your subconscious sending positive messages that will be carried into your actions sooner or later. It also trains your mind to recognize the good in things, which will set triggers to create more good to be recognized (see 4: Find things to be happy about).
3. Rehearse your success- What would it be like for you to actually achieve the goal you have sent in your heart and mind? To actually find yourself in that place, I’m sure would feel absolutely amazing! Who would you want to be there to share that moment with you? What sounds would you want to hear? What might you say? Get in the habit of training your mind to grasp the idea of you succeeding. You may be pleasantly surprised. When you spend time in play of this type, you allow yourself to enter a feel good space. As those positive emotions surface, they bring about a spike in endorphins and send signals to your subconscious to begin to create situations like this because it feels good and you want it to happen.
4. Find things to be happy about- isn’t it strange how the happiest people are usually the ones that good things just seem to happen for? Good things almost literally fall into their lap. Why is that? Perhaps it’s because they have trained their mind to come to expect good things by searching for things to be happy about. It’s like wanting a new car, then everywhere you go you see the same car in the same color you so deeply desire. Our mind begins to make associations and your awareness becomes heightened based on the connections you have created.
5. Let go- this may be one of the hardest things for people to do when they are trying to increase their performance, but it absolutely the most rewarding. When you let go of the results and surrender your ability to a more masterful and intelligent part of yourself, you begin to notice that the same force that controls all those unconscious processes that keep you alive can also perform some miraculous feats in the realm of performance enhancement if you allow it to. Just practice letting go of the results and instead just trust your body and mind to deliver. Soon you will realize the power within releasing control.
Flow state is not about competition. It is not attained through force. It is achieved through acceptance and a belief that you are capable of performing in a miraculous way. Reflect and act on these simple suggestions and you’ll soon find yourself in the flow state more and more.