The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.
The problem arises when people are so fixated on what they want to achieve that they cease to derive pleasure from the present. When that happens, they forfeit their chance of contentment.
Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.
Flow is described as a state of 'effortless effort,' where we feel like we're propelled through an activity, and everything else seems to disappear.
More specifically, flow refers to moments of rapt attention and total absorption. You're so focused on the task at hand that everything else seems to disappear (this is why time seems to fly by).
Researchers have discovered 22 catalysts that can help you prepare your environment and quickly drop into a flow state.
A few of these include distraction management, dopamine triggering, and concentration.
From the author of The Art of Impossible Steven Kotler.
"Flow is often described as a state of kind of effortless effort. We feel like we're propelled through the activity. Everything else just seems to disappear. Time is gonna dilate, which is a fancy way of saying it's gonna pass strangely where five hours goes by in what feels like five minutes."
Occasionally it'll slow down. You get a freeze frame effect.
Anybody who's been in a car crash, for example, intuition tends to get turned up a lot. When a basketball player in the zone, seeing the hoop and suddenly it's as big as a Hulu and our frown muscles tend to be paralyzed.
And what that frowning is, is a sign that the brain is doing work. This is, uh, this is a constant issue. And by my, where my wife thinks I'm mad at her or somebody, and I'm like, no, no, I'm just thinking, this is just me thinking I'm in robot mode.
It refers to any of those moments of raptured attention and total absorption. You're so focused on the task at hand. So focused on what you're doing. Everything else just seems disappear.
But one of the things that athletes talk about a lot is what they call 'The Voice.'
You either do what the voice is telling you to do, or you tend to crash.
The challenge skills balance is often called the "golden rule to flow."
We pay the most attention into the task at hand when the challenge of that task slightly exceeds our skillset.
So to do this work and to get good at it, you have to get good at being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
So you want to stretch but not snap.
To prepare yourself and prepare the environment to drop into a flow state.
Determine your ideal work time and block out 90 to 120 minutes for uninterrupted concentration practice. You want to avoid distractions (email, internet, etc..).
If you look closely at the days that you feel like you got nothing done, odds are pretty good that your day was full of distractions. For me personally, working from home is a challenge because my home is full of distractions. I'm easily distracted when I'm at home and this is especially true when my wife is working from home the same day.
It's not impossible for me to avoid distractions at home, but I have to take some extreme steps. For example... I can't allow myself to go into the kitchen unless it's a meal time. What I find is that the kitchen is far more to me than just a place to find food! It's a place where I can easily get consumed by cleaning and preparing.
I think to a large extent, working from home is hazard for me because the moment I get bored, there are so many other things I can justify doing.
So you want to turn off your phone, turn off email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, et cetera, all your messages, all your alerts. There was a study where they found that coders and flow. They get knocked out by distraction and knock at the door, a text alert or whatever it can take. 'em 15 minutes to get back into flow. If they can get back in at all.
Flow only shows up when all of our attention is in the right here right now, one way to kind of explore flow triggers is a cluster of them that are predominantly dopamine triggers.
Dopamine drives focus, attention, alertness, and excitement.
Ways to get dopamine: * Novelty * Unpredictability complexity * The experience of awe. * Solving a puzzle: You get a little rush of dopamine (pleasure) everytime you get an answer right.
The reason you usually get a couple of answers right in a row is because the dopamine that is now in your system is amplifying pattern recognition.
We get that same dopamine from risk taking, and this could be physical risks, emotional risks, social risks, and intellectual risks, possibly spiritual risks. The reward is the motivation itself!
"I control.” It is important to people to feel like they control and have a choice regarding their participation. Autonomy in the workplace exists on a continuum – from jobs where employees have none and are told exactly what to do, to jobs where employees have all the autonomy they want, whenever they want it, as long as the work gets done – and everywhere in between.
“I improve.” Getting better at things is satisfying on a number of fronts. For some employees, it means the job gets easier. For others, it brings the psyche emotional and possibly financial rewards that come from doing something that a) couldn’t be done before and b) not everyone else can do.
“I make a difference.” Every employee needs to feel like they’re making a difference and that their efforts and accomplishments have meaning.
“I achieve.” People respond well when they see that they are making progress on a goal - something they care about - whether in the workplace or in life.
“I connect with others.” Humans are innately social creatures, and we want to connect, interact, affiliate, care and share. We also want to be recognized, and appreciated.
The most basic to human motivator is curiosity. One of the things we get from curiosity is focus for free. When we're curious about something, we don't have to struggle. Curiosity is designed biologically again to be built into passion. You see it when you fall in love with someone. You can't stop thinking about them. That's a tremendous amount of focus for free.
While passion is incredibly useful, but as a motivator, you can go one better, which is purpose.
I have a purpose and it's this big altruistic thing. And it's good for the world. And all those things may be true. But from a peak performance perspective, it's very, very selfish.
Once you have purpose, the system demands autonomy. I want the freedom to pursue my purpose. And once you have that freedom, the system wants the last of the big motivators: mastery - the skills to pursue that purpose.
There's a shared collective version of a flow - a group performing at their best. This is called group flow.
Studies have shown that the people who score off the charts for these characteristics who score off the charts for overall wellbeing and life satisfaction, are the people with the most flow in their lives.
Why is a full yoga class particularly satisfying? Because we get into a state of group flow! Bliss follows.
Motivation is what gets us into the game. Learning allows us to continue to play, creativity is how we steer and flow (optimal performance) is how we amplify all the results beyond reasonable expectation.
We're all built for peak performance. Flow is universal in humans, actually universal in most mammals.
Hundreds of books refer back to the book Flow written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Indeed is his life's work, an example of an author who discovered a purpose greater than himself which fueled years of effort to produce a landmark contribution to personal growth.
Mihaly used his book Flow as the vehicle to positively impact millions of lives in a significant way.
A state when you are so engaged in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The experience itself is the reward - where the enjoyment stems from sheer sake of doing it.
Is it possible to engage in your life in this way? Meaning that you are so engage it life itself that the enjoyment of it all stems from engagement in totality of it all?
I'd suggest reading some of the shared Kindle highlights of Flow here.