Everyone is a superhero, we’re just searching for our cape.
If you’ve seen Limitless, surfed the perfect barrel or finished a book in one day, you know what it feels like to be in the zone. Time stops. Senses are heightened. Performance improves tenfold and you feel invincible.
Science calls this Flow State.
What Is Flow State?
Flow is technically described as the ‘optimal state of consciousness‘, in which we perform and feel our best.
Our mental and physical abilities go through the roof, our brains take in more information per second and we process everything around us more deeply. It’s like Limitless, without Adderall or MDMA.
Flow State releases neurological dopamine. These are the same chemicals found in ecstasy, speed, cocaine, marijuana and heroin. The differences are that it’s legal, it’s healthy and it increases life satisfaction for longer than an hour.
Contrary to popular belief, flow is not exclusive to adrenaline junkies. Psychologist and flow pioneer, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has spent the last 40 years uncovering its universal benefits. Research shows flow correlates to happiness, productivity, creativity and accelerated learning.
When we’re fully immersed in something we love, it’s ecstasy by our own definition.
Whether it’s nailing that bass guitar solo or baking an intricate cake from Cake Boss, flow takes us to the next level. When we get a sense of self-achievement, it converts this intrinsic reward into optimum happiness.
Productivity & Creativity
In flow, you’re unconsciously working at the highest levels of concentration. You become one with the activity. Like a cyclist’s legs that become part of the bike, a writer’s fingertips oozing stories onto the keyboard, or the hands of an artist that’s an extension of their imagination.
Remember when your parents threw you in the pool to teach you how to swim? Something was activated and you swam to the edges like a marine.
We work smarter in flow. It unlocks lateral thinking and we become better problem solvers. Research shows the myth of ’10, 000 hours to master a skill’ is cut in half, and a sniper’s precision is 230% more accurate in flow.
As we continue to achieve and push past our limits, overall life satisfaction increases.
Ultimately, flow adds more life to your years, not just years to your life.
3 Ways to Hack Flow
Set a Challenge
Rock climbers make the next boulder because its flow or die. Footballers make the right play to avoid injuries.
To hack flow, three factors need to come together:
- Skill: What’s the activity?
- Goal: What am I trying to achieve?
- Risk: What’s my biggest fear?
Public speaking = More confident at work = Anxiety attack in next month’s presentation.
- Challenge: Join Toastmasters and commit to attending at least once a month.
The key is to set achievable challenges. As your sense of achievement compounds, you naturally get into a rhythm of momentum and flow.
Explore Your Senses
Flow is a sensory experience. The more attuned you are with your senses, the easier it is to hack.
When you tap into different areas of the brain, you strengthen creative skills. It enables you to join the dots more freely and allows you to stay in flow longer.
If you don’t know where to start, here are some examples:
- Listen to an album from a completely different genre
- Brush your teeth with the other hand
- If you normally lift weights, try a yoga class
- Take a woodworking class
- Watch a foreign movie or TV series
- Write a letter to yourself 10 years from now
The trick is to do things you normally wouldn’t do. As you start exploring the unfamiliar, you make it easier for flow to catch fire in high pressure moments.
Change Your Environment
“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” -Alexander den Heijer.
Novelty and unpredictability force you to focus. Ever wonder why you were more productive with a laptop at the beach vs. the office? Environmental triggers ignite flow. Here are some examples:
- Stand up desk ,eg. kitchen bench, the top of the piano, hallway table
- Work from a random lobby’s cafe eg. bank, library, supermarket
- Take a hike this weekend instead of hitting the treadmill, or swap the gym rowing machine for some real rowing lessons
There’s no shortage of human curiosity to help you feel and perform better. Whether we run a marathon, write an original song or spend three months at a monk monastery, we’re driven by an intrinsic motivation to experience something bigger than us.
So explore the infinite possibilities of your mind and body. Allow flow to take you to invincible.