Stop Living In The Past

Stop Living In The Past

Flow Performance Skills Sports

Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California have discovered that our minds are lying to us. There is a limit to how fast our brain can digest information. To make things easier on itself, it predicts what will happen next.

Think of a plane flying overhead, it’s not going to suddenly start flying backwards, so our brains predict the path of the plane and that’s how we are able to see what is going on in the present. But what happens when something does change in an instant? That’s where the flash lag effect comes in (to test this out try a simple Google search). The research in this area has revealed a delay of, on average, 80 milliseconds between something happening and the mind being able to process it. Meaning that we spend our life living in what has actually just happened, not what is actually happening. Let’s take a second or two to pause – we are never actually present in real time! Really?!

Thinking of planes again, this time at night when the lights on it are flashing, the flash of light often appears to be behind the plane. That’s because your mind has predicted, correctly, where the plane will be, but the sudden flash of light was an unknown. The 80 millisecond delay in processing means that you see the light flashing behind the plane, where it was 80 milliseconds ago.

Red Arrows

The intriguing thing for us, as flow seekers, is what if we can reduce that 80 millisecond delay? This article from Salk specifically says that the time delay is an average and it’s likely that someone like a fighter pilot has a shorter delay – and so lives less ‘in the past’ and more ‘in the now’. This comes as no surprise that a fighter pilot is likely to be in a state of flow most of the time when pulling off incredible manoeuvers, whilst flying at mach 3. However, how can we reduce this delay in our everyday experiences and performances?

“Practice dear Watson, practice!” (Sherlock Holmes)

Our visual awareness seems to change in flow, as we become highly aware of all the small detail that gives us the much needed feedback we require for perfect decision making. We know that we get a feeling of time standing still during flow, does this state actually reduce the lag of our experience? In our interview with Nick Troutman(Kayaker), he talks about a run where he starts turning the wrong way down a waterfall and had to correct himself mid-air. If he made this adjustment any later than he did, or not at all, the result could have been catastrophic for him. Nick is able to make these important changes with millisecond precision as a result of being in flow – by his own admission.

Although we don’t know exactly what the millisecond delay may be during flow, we know that the experience is a lot closer to a 0 millisecond delay than our everyday experiences. In flow we become aware of everything instantly, process information instantly and are able to react to what happens immediately – is this living in the present?

“Elementary dear Watson, elementary!”

For years people have called a flow state ‘being in the zone’, although this is not entirely accurate (I sense a different article coming), would a more accurate term be ‘being in the now’?

Neuroplasticity and Brain Training

Neuroplasticity and Brain Training

Flow

 

The subconscious mind is an incredible entity with talents we are only beginning to understand. It is highly adaptable and surprisingly flexible in more ways then we can fathom. To use an IT analogy, we are born with our hardware but grow up installing different programmes within our program, but ultimately we are our own architect and can choose what software we want to run. We sculpture our lives by the software and programs we run, so why do we not pay more attention to how we wire our brains.

The body is coordinated and driven by neural control. our nerves run through our muscle mass stimulating and firing signals to activate specific muscles and fibres at precise times to achieve exact functions and movements. Our nerves combine to make neural circuits allowing signals and messages from the brain to flow more efficiently. With repeated messaging and traffic we create neural pathways that act like motorways or highways allowing the traffic of signals to flow faster. These pathways shape how we move, act and think. In turn we can alter these structures through thought, action and belief. When we are in flow, our subconscious is using these neural pathways to perform the actions it is required to do. Conscious thought often interrupts our state of flow and sending different signals through our neural connections, disrupting the traffic flow and resulting in behaviour such as tight muscles, choking or confusion. Just as we can alter our flow negatively we can change our subconscious processing through repetitive conscious thought. By repeatingly interrupting unwanted behaviours such as mal coordination with new messages of coordination, we create new signals, new circuits and new neural pathways. Eventually when the body uses the new pathways more frequently, the old pathways become redundant and therefore inefficient and consequently seize to be used. Changing behaviours is often about learning new ways to adapt and behave rather than focusing on changing the old.

The mind body connection has been used to change personal history, cure patients from diseases only thought to be curable by modern medicine, and increase the speed of rehab. We often hear the term, ‘use it or loose it’, referring to using the brain or allow it to become lazy and use simpler neural pathways. The brain is like a muscle it needs training if we are to use it for a particular aim. We are very lucky in that the subconscious is far more creative and intelligent than we will ever give it credit for. If we can alter our conscious attention to dedicate time to directing the required training of the brain, it will respond ten fold. If we ask our mind and body to create a state of flow and perform as it best knows how, it will. Sometimes we need to take responsibility, become our own master, and use the conscious brain for its original purpose, to direct the subconscious. Like all great leaders if we understand our limitations, and allow ourselves to trust our team, the unit will perform more powerfully. If we have the maturity to let go and trust our more powerful and creative processing unit of our subconscious, it to will respond.

 

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