The Flow Mindset
To find flow more frequently in our lives, we must rewire the brain so that is aligned with the characteristics of flow. The first stage is ensuring we have the appropriate mindset.
Flow is a psychological phenomenon and if we try to reverse engineer it artificially this will not create lasting change. To make real leaps forward we need to delve into our mind and look at the underlying psychology that generates flow.
“We have gathered 40+ years of research within positive psychology, sports psychology, performance psychology, neuroscience and psychophysiology, and combined these learnings with anecdotal evidence from over 40 elite performers, including over 15 World Champions. We have condensed our findings into 12 steps and tested this model by training people on these 12 steps to flow”
Jackson and Csikszentmihalyi (1999) described flow, theoretically, as an optimal mental state in which the mindset accompanying flow pushes people to their maximum performance limits. Additionally, scientists report that elite athletes (Durand & Salmela, 2002), musicians (Sawyer, 2006), entrepreneurs (McGrath & MacMillan, 2000), teachers and learners (O’Brien, 2012) all adopt a particular mindset during their greatest moments.
Indeed, as early as 1998 Williams and Krane found that individuals with a psychological profile aligned with flow, correlated with peak performance. Therefore, if we were a flow coach or scientist with unlimited power to wire a mind however we wanted, then surely we would create a mind that is aligned with the deepest and most obvious characteristics of flow.
Whilst some choke or tighten up, others seem to have a mental resilience about them, move into a state of flow and rise above the rest, even against all the odds. We admire those performers who excel above all others, we mimic the way they dress, act and train. Yet rarely do we copy their mental preparation, or adopt the mindset through which they have so frequently acquired flow.
So what is a flow mindset?
Back in the 1950’s legendary psychiatrist and Holocaust-survivor Viktor Frankl taught us that focusing on a ‘higher order’ can transcend an individual to deal with incomprehensible scenarios. This message of finding meaning and a higher order focus echoes around the libraries of well-being, performance, creativity and innovation literature. When it comes to our performances and excelling in our life, flow experiences are undoubtedly the highest order of a performer’s experience. However, rarely do we focus on achieving this state outside the pressure cooker or emergency situations. Though, it is this exact focus on embracing a flow mindset that can change the ordinary into the extraordinary and make everyday life a very interesting place to be.
Carol Dweck, a researcher at Stanford University who has spent 30 years studying motivation, and Ross Bentley, a racing car driver coach, found that racing car drivers acquired faster lap times with a positive growth-mindset. Bentley explained that “car races can last hours and drivers may lose their concentration at pivotal points, making it possible to lose a race by only a few seconds. The objective of coaching is to help drivers recover quickly and maintain an optimal state of flow”. This study showed that, by adopting a growth-mindset, these drivers were able to sustain their states of flow, therefore improving their results.
Here at The Flow Centre we have gathered 40+ years of research within positive psychology, sports psychology, performance psychology, neuroscience and psychophysiology, and combined these learnings with anecdotal evidence from over 40 Elite performers, including over 15 World Champions. We have condensed our findings into 12 steps and tested this model by training people on these 12 steps to flow.
So far the results have been nothing short of staggering. We have found people’s flow ratings have improved, performance has improved, and qualitatively people have felt better and enjoyed the experience. Through a process of education, adopting a flow mindset and practicing specific flow enduing skills, people are up-skilling, and increasing their ‘wow’ moments.
So, what does adopting a flow mindset involve?
Adopting a flow-mindset is more than thinking about flow, it is about re-wiring the way we think to be aligned with the characteristics of flow. When performing, there is no time to change our thinking, habits or underpinning beliefs to be congruent with flow; we are too busy reacting to what is in front of us. Any changes that are required, need to be done before the event, starting now.
If we want to find flow frequently, we must first adopt a ‘flow-fit’ mindset just as we would adopt a ‘get-fit’ mindset. We are often happy to spend hours, weeks, and years physically, technically and nutritionally adjusting our habits, yet how long do you currently dedicate to training your mind? Training the body into a high level of fitness takes time and energy, and the mind is no different. Thankfully, training our mind can be done anywhere at anytime, and is a lot more fun than burning those calories, so let’s start now.
The Flow Centre offers a wide range of services, all designed to help you push your boundaries, take your performance or skill beyond your goals, and reach your innate levels of excellence. Whether you’re a world champion skier, executive or remarkable 14-year-old pianist, we’ll be committed to seeing your dreams become your reality.
All our training and coaching is research based and facilitated by distinguished scientists and experienced practitioners. Our experts on flow set the quality and standards by which this global and leading flow training organisation is recognised.