Flow Therapy – An alternative remedy for PTSD and mental health issues

Flow Therapy – An alternative remedy for PTSD and mental health issues

Performance Skills

Soldiers are often forced into Flow or die situations during intense training, or in real-life battlefields. Situations which call for the most focus and attention one can muster and pour their every being into the task at hand, engineering survival. 

Soldiers have reported that they feel more alive in Flow than in any other moments in their lives. So much so, that they tend to have a desire to re-experience this sensation which can drive soldiers to return to the blood-soaked battlefields despite the awareness of its dangers. 

War has its prices, especially on the soldiers who experience tremendous levels of stress often leading to PTSD. The consequent mental conditions can be so debilitating and due to its nature, prevent many from being able to live and experience moments in the here and now. Traumatizing flashbacks and vigilant thoughts often pull PTSD victims straight out of the present moment or prevent them from focusing solely on the task at hand. 

Unfortunately, there are still no known treatment options which can consistently alleviate symptoms in PTSD patients. Prolonged exposure therapy (P.E.) — the treatment option considered to be the most effective — faces the problem of high drop-out rates as it involves the gradual exposure of the patient to a traumatic stimulus. Seal et al. (2010) showed that only 9.5% of 49,425 U.S. veterans attended the recommended nine treatment sessions during a 15-week program. As an alternative to P.E., medication options for PTSD have been shown to only slightly reduce symptoms across several studies. However, these options may leave patients at high risk of experiencing side effects or becoming addicted rendering treatment options ineffective for these disorders. Therefore, it is important to look at alternative treatment options to help alleviate the suffering of these patients. 

This is where Flow therapy may be an interesting research field for PTSD or other mental disorders alike. Eleonora Riva from the University of Milano outlines how Flow therapy aims to instil the principles of Flow into the subject’s life to help foster positive change in their behaviour and approach to life. Flow therapy has been successful in both group and individual interventions with participants displaying an understanding of Flow experiences, and are able to proactively manage and produce Flow experiences. Studies have shown that finding Flow has played a crucial role in treatment adherence, treatment outcomes, and improved functioning in daily life among individuals undergoing programs in physical rehabilitation, eating disorders and obesity.

A great case study for Flow and mental health is the work by Clemens Ley, a researcher at the Institute of Sport Science in Vienna, Austria. She is fascinated by the idea of using Flow-inducing interventions to alleviate PTSD symptoms. She conducted a three-year study with torture and war survivors, who had come from various conflict-torn countries. Twice a week for three months the participants engaged in a sport and exercise therapy program which included Flow-inducing games and activities such as basketball, dance tasks and art therapy. Ley found that despite their mental health problems, in a short time the survivors were able to experience Flow and not only find relief from their everyday trauma but relished the flow-inducing activities. They reported that the intervention facilitated an experience full of pleasure, a distraction from their regular illness-related distractions and thoughts, and allowed them to truly be in the here and now. 

It is no wonder programs such as ‘Operation Surf’ an organisation that teaches wounded soldiers how to surf has had such success. Studies from this program reported that military participants have decreased their PTSD symptoms by 36%, depression by 47%, and increased confidence by 68%. 

The integration of Flow as a framework for therapeutic solutions is in its infancy, but it certainly offers great hope for current and future mental health patients. 

If you are interested in learning and cultivating Flow into your life experiences, or providing solutions to mental health, contact us. We have an excellent team of experts who have dedicated their lives to understanding and teaching flow in others. 

We offer one-to-one coaching as well as evidence-based online courses updated constantly based on cutting edge flow research. 

Join our community, become a Flow Seeker. 

Think less, be more. 

Aristotle’s call to society – A rich and meaningful life

Aristotle’s call to society – A rich and meaningful life

Performance Skills

Centuries ago an orphaned boy spent long days pondering within a grove of olive trees that were dedicated to the goddess Athena. There, he would question the teachings of Socrates and debate the meaning of life with Plato. All in his search for the answer to the meaning of his own name, ‘the best purpose’.

This curious boy is described as the “First Teacher” by Medieval Muslim scholars and “The Philosopher” by Christian scholars; his name was Aristotle.

Aristotle identified eudaimonia (translated to mean human flourishing) as the optimum activity of the soul and the objective of all human deliberate action. One of Aristotle’s prominent messages was his clear distinction between action and production. He proposed that the greatest rewards for man came from actions which were driven by a search for our greatest self and not by productivity.

This call for individuals to recognise and live with their ‘daimon’ or ‘true self’ demands that we follow our interests and realise our full potential.

Aristotle’s wisdom is till this day reiterated in modern guides to a fulfilled life. Yet, when it comes to the practical path to this enrichment, it is obscure, making it difficult to live up to.

By now, many of us believe that we have the potential to perform better, be happier, be more creative, but we continue to fumble and trip over our own laces.

We deny ourselves from the richness of our greatest self.

This is the case even at the elite executive level. A survey conducted by McKinsey Global Research Institute asked leaders across all industries what they thought was most missing for them and their colleagues. They invariably replied” a strong sense of meaning.

This research found that in these 5000+ executives, they were five times more productive in Flow, but they were in Flow well below 10% of the time. The executives asserted that the reason for this bottleneck was not intellect or emotional barriers but rather, the ability to add meaning.

What these executives needed more goes beyond defining direction or attaching a virtuous goal to the workload, something which has already been continually applied in organisations. Rather, the experience at work needs to be richer, more complex, and of higher quality. Experience in which people can play with their edges, explore their potential, and that is intrinsically rewarding and fulfilling in themselves despite its outcomes and company benefit.

This call for finding more depth and meaning to human experiences are not reserved for elites but rather a call to action for the whole society, to each and every individual.

There has never been a more vital time to develop personal skills for Flow. Despite the byproducts of optimal functioning, creativity and well-being, that most of us seek, Flow experiences are invaluable experiences in their own right. Flow is the pathway to both our personal and professional prosperity, not just about innovating the next best invention or winning the next challenge. Although those are great by-products of Flow and the reason for most to seek Flow training.

It’s important to keep in mind that Flow is much bigger than, even those, remarkable outcomes. The concept of Flow initially arose as the answer to the study of optimal psychological experience. The answer to the driving questions of what gives life meaning?

Flow can blast us out of the humdrum of our everyday life, into deeply fulfilling autotelic experiences where we are redefining our own perceived limits. Research has highlighted that when individuals associate their tasks at work with flow, they report a more positive and complex quality of experience in all its characteristics.

How?

If you are interested in learning and cultivating Flow into your life experiences, we have an excellent team of experts who have dedicated their lives to understanding and teaching flow in others. We offer a suite of courses to help add meaning to your life, and one-to-one coaching to help you do just that.

Join our community, become a Flow Seeker.

Think less, be more.

What makes a life worth living?

What makes a life worth living?

Performance Skills

In the 1970s, a world-famous psychologist and World War II prisoner, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, had a strong curious drive to answer the question, “what makes a life worth living? He studied countless people carefully searching for how and why people do what they do. What drives them? What is a life well-lived? 

If you were to do this study and asked an artist, “what brings you true joy and fulfilment in your life?”, what answer would you expect? It would probably be the satisfaction of seeing the piece of work they spent weeks on finally being completed, right? 

Interestingly, across the tens of thousands of people he studied, he found that it was the PROCESS that gave people a true sense of purpose. For the artist, the sense of fulfilment and focus during their painting exceeds the satisfaction of seeing the end-product. When their actions flow seamlessly from one to the next was when they felt at their best. There’s more to this experience. 

He discovered that during these experiences that people described as fulfilling and brought them true joy, there were several consistent and fascinating descriptions which he compiled together into this following definition.

Csikszentmihalyi describes this state of ‘flowing’, now known as ‘Flow’, as

“Being so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like jazz music. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost…The experience itself is so enjoyable that people will repeat the act even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

In short, it was this rich experience of Flow that led to people’s fulfilment and drove them to repeat the activity. Consequently, Csikszentmihalyi wrote the book, ‘Flow: The psychology of optimal experience’. 

This research was hugely significant in the post-war shift in the field of psychology.

Psychology up until this point was predominantly focused on “curing” people that were “damaged”. This was largely the case because most funding came from the American government who wanted to cure the affected war veterans. However, when Martin Seligman became President of the American Psychological Association, he changed the orientation of the treatment to focus on the most positive qualities of an individual in what many called ‘positive psychology’.

He and many others believed that to live a rich and fulfilling life, it is not as simple as removing the negatives. We must actively seek out the positive qualities which make up a fulfilling life. In his words “curing the negatives does not produce the positive”. 

Of course, many researchers believed that there were more important and pressing issues such as poverty, obesity, or mental illness, which require more time and resources. However, the positive psychologists felt that this perspective was short-sighted and believed that it is often in one’s ability and interest to recognize and employ their strengths that can help to resolve these pressing problems.

Both Csikszentmihalyi and Seligman asserted that happiness could be learned and nurtured by cultivating our signature strengths as opposed to shoring up our weaknesses. Empowering the individual and therefore the community, to become proactive in their mental health, happiness and fulfilment in their lives. 

Led by Csikszentmihalyi and Seligman, research shifted the profession’s paradigm away from pathology, victimology, and mental illness to positive emotion and virtue. 

Csikszentmihalyi explains that “Flow is important both because it makes the present instant more enjoyable, and because it builds the self-confidence that allows us to develop skills and make significant contributions to humankind”. This approach echoed the assertion of Thomas Edward Lawrence’s (Lawrence of Arabia: one of the most iconic figures of the early 20th century) that happiness is not an end in itself, rather “a by-product of absorption”.

Since then, Flow experiences have been linked to our most optimal experiences that not only helps us perform optimally from moment-to-moment, but leaves us feeling remarkable and motivated to repeat the experience. This self-determined and intrinsically motivated approach to engagement with tasks and the development of skills accelerates growth and fulfilment. 

In the 1970s, in one of the biggest psychological studies ever undertaken spanning over decades, Csikszentmihalyi found that this state was consistent across a wide range of people including and not limited to rock climbers, surgeons, students, jazz musicians, artists, Navaho sheep farmers, Italian grape farmers, elderly Korean women, Nobel Prize winners, Japanese teenage motorcycle gangsters, Detroit assembly line workers, a range of athletes, and many others from different walks of life. Since, Flow has been rigorously tested and confirmed across ages, cultures, activity type, skill level and demographics.

If you are interested in learning and cultivating Flow into your life experiences, we have an excellent team of experts who have dedicated their lives to understanding and teaching flow in others. We offer one-to-one coaching as well as evidence-based online courses updated constantly based on cutting edge flow research. Join our community, become a Flow Seeker. 

How can Flow Enhance Resilience and Happiness?

How can Flow Enhance Resilience and Happiness?

Performance Skills

“To overcome the anxieties and depression of contemporary life, individuals must become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer respond exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments…

…To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to herself…

…She has to develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience 

The benefits of the Flow state is not only applicable to performance. Countless studies have linked Flow with happiness and well-being. 

Daily experiences of Flow have been associated with job satisfaction; positivity and commitment in employees; life satisfaction in primary students and school teachers; high self-esteem, low anxiety, and well-being in employees, athletes, musicians, primary students, undergraduate students, teachers and the elderly. These benefits are seen consistently and throughout the entire population. 

How could this be? 

Flow enables us to reinterpret challenges which you may have deemed as unmanageable and therefore anxious when thinking about them. When in Flow, difficulties are embraced. There is  no fear of what others think or conflicting and doubtful thoughts that you might otherwise willingly take on the challenge.

The stress which arises from resisting such difficulties and procrastinating or avoiding these challenges diminishes. Instead, we see these challenges as stepping stones to higher functioning, we see these as opportunities to stretch, grow, and test yourself. 

When we don’t recognise life stressors as threats to our comfort or competence, but instead as positive opportunities, then there is no reason for our brain to stress. Which is how the Flow state allows us to embrace challenging situations and thrive through the stressors of life.

It is a natural and sustainable coping mechanism for stress. 

Let’s get a bit more specific.

No matter who we are, we all experience stress in our lives, whether through overworking, lack of skills, or illness; stress finds us all. Within every minute of everyday, our mind is constantly thinking, continually experiencing stress whether we are aware of it or not. This is because as the most intelligent beings on this planet, we have evolved this incredibly powerful and highly intricate processing system that is our brain. 

Our brains, unlike any other species, can see into the future, revisit the past, imagine any scenario possible, all while doing the dishes. Whether it’s looking at the work schedule for tomorrow or worrying about what we said to someone, we all feel the mounting pressures of the thoughts which arrive from trivial daily challenges. These thoughts enter and exit our heads constantly. In doing so, they typically make our mind and body tight, if not rigid at times. 

However, it is precisely because of our stress response that we have survived and evolved. Our stress response heightens our senses, increases our heart rate, releases energy and circulates it to our extremities, and primes our body to fight or flight. 

Stress is actually beneficial in many circumstances, even in exams! In a study conducted on college students, results showed students who had more circulating cortisol (stress hormone) performed better. However, when stress is perceived negatively or becomes excessive, it leads to anxiety and negatively affects your performance. The key differentiating factor being how you perceive the stress, whether you use it to embrace the challenge, or crumble under its pressure. 

Understanding the power of your own psychology to harness stress for its benefits will ultimately boost not only your performance, but your well-being. 

The stress response is what keeps animals alive, but it is not designed to be activated constantly. As the only creatures who can stress about something that’s not actually happening to us nor may never happen, we can easily become victims to the power of our incredible brain. 

Here is a list of things to work on and think about to help you employ a better mindset for stress, and allow you to dip into Flow more easily. 

  • Stress is there to help you overcome challenges. Remember this next time, and try not to become stressed about the fact that you are stressed. 
  • Reappraise the meaning of the events. These challenges are not threats to your competence or ability, they are challenges to help you grow and surpass your perceived limitations. 
  • Practice your craft and continue to learn. The more resources you have to call upon during these challenging moments, the more you can rely on yourself. Stress can’t teach you how to surf or speak another language, you must continue to develop your skill set. 

Learn how to turn your stressful experiences into Flow experiences where you are functioning at your best. If you are interested in cultivating Flow into your life, we have an excellent team of experts who have dedicated their lives to understanding and teaching flow in others. We offer one-to-one coaching as well as evidence-based online courses updated constantly based on cutting edge flow research. Join our community and become a Flow Seeker. 

Think less, be more

Flow – Integral to the Future of Education

Flow – Integral to the Future of Education

Education Performance Skills

In a world in which 65% of primary school students will work a job that has not yet been created, one of the most important abilities to develop in order to be ready for the future is one’s ability to self-regulate towards Flow. 

For the past 200 years, it is widely argued that linear curriculums have adversely affected the outcomes of many educational systems. Instead of teaching kids HOW to learn and succeed, we seem to be brainwashing them with predefined content in order to hit predefined targets. We have encouraged parrot-like repetition for the sole purpose of achieving state-led targets and producing “A+ students” at the cost of their curiosity, their love of learning, and their desire to think for themselves. 

Students are not the only casualty, equally, teachers are often conflicted and pressured into top-down teaching specific content rather than fostering inspiration in their students and facilitating bottom-up learning. “State education departments and their surveillance systems, along with the “national” comparison assessment systems, in combination, have made many schools ‘stations of anxiety”. These demotivating ‘anxiety cultures’ are getting worse and have resulted in student mental health an all-time low. The teaching profession is suffering with teachers leaving in droves, including principals. “The current ‘education narrative’ is toxic and focusing on Flow would be a major step in the right direction”, explains John Hendry. John is a distinguished professor who was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his outstanding work in education and transforming Geelong Grammar School into Australia’s most sought after school. 

Let’s take a look at why and how we should use Flow in education. 

The characteristics one experiences when in the Flow state are extremely conducive for optimal learning in education. As a state defined by extreme focus, zero distractions, and creative problem-solving ability, Flow has been long associated as the state for optimal learning and engagement. Not only does Flow induce short-term benefits such as enjoyment, gratification, creativity and a sense of mastery from overcoming the challenges inherent within learning tasks, but Flow also has longer-term benefits. 

The positive feelings of Flow have been researched to encourage academic confidence and develop an individual’s desire to seek out further education; traits hugely important for academic success and an enjoyable academic experience. 

The benefits of Flow doesn’t stop with helping students. 

Flow within music teachers has been reported to induce higher levels of motivation, greater control of their actions, and a deep sense of satisfaction and joy. In 2014, David Shernoff, Director of the Center for Math, Science, and Computer Education at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and his colleagues reviewed much of the research on Flow in education. They decided to assess, first-hand, how a variety of instructional activities designed to facilitate Flow would affect the learning experience. Their results were consistent with previous literature in that optimal learning environments were indeed created through facilitating flow. Student engagement occurred more frequently and for prolonged periods during conditions in which  Flow had been intentionally incorporated into the activities. 

Interestingly, the occurrence of Flow seemed to go beyond the individual benefit. 

 A study examining 178 music teachers and 605 students across 16 different music schools, concluded that Flow is contagious; meaning it crosses over from the teachers to the students. The studies concluded that the teachers, and specifically their own ability to find Flow, may play a more pivotal role in establishing student Flow than first thought. 

In order to apply Flow into education, educational entities must ask themselves, what type of human being are we creating? 

Are the current learning methods the best way to engineer learning? 

Students can certainly be disciplined into memorising spelling and grammar through traditional top-down driven learning, but does this make them competent at writing a good story or a persuasive argument? Does it make them a writer? 

No.

The educational institutes which flip the equation and place a student’s experience and learning first, aim to develop students’ intrinsic desires and passion to learn. As a result, students are better able to self-regulate their motivation to learn, manage their concentration and derive meaningful takeaways from their learning. In this manner, organisations  that put Flow first actually reap the results of high engagement that most learning organisations suggest that they desire. 

Interestingly, schools examining Flow reported that students’ Flow scores at the end of semester 1 were predictive of academic performances at the end of the year. In fact, researchers such as Jean Heutte, Professor of Education at Lille University in France, even advocate measuring Flow in addition to the usual exams at school that traditionally assess memory retention and cognitive thinking. The logic being that understanding a students ability to find flow gives great insight as to a student’s current capacity and self-determination to learn; a great benchmark for future grades and performance. This has already been adopted in preschool children and onwards in Denmark. 

Even if a systemic change is unlikely in your organisation, perhaps examine whether it would be fruitful to assess how much Flow is already experienced. It may well be the difference that makes the difference. 
If you are interested in cultivating Flow into your life experiences, we have an excellent team of experts who have dedicated their lives to understanding and teaching flow in others. We have provided several academic institutes with the knowledge and training to facilitate Flow in their classrooms and workplace. As well as one-to-one coaching and evidence-based online courses updated constantly based on cutting edge flow research. Join our community and learn more about how the Flow state can help you and become a Flow Seeker.

Think less, be more.

What Flow is NOT

What Flow is NOT

Performance Skills

There are many misconceptions surrounding the Flow state. 

Flow research hasn’t been around a long time and Neuroscience much less so.  However, when it comes to rigorous scientific research, first, flow must be defined clearly and specifically, if we are to understand what we want to engineer. Otherwise, how do you know if you are training Flow or another muscle? 

The Flow state is our optimal state of functioning, our ideal mental and physical state to generate peak performance. It is denoted by absolute absorption of the task at hand to the level of time dissociation, as well as effortless ease throughout  the performance. 

In understanding Flow it is important to note that Flow is not ecstasy, where we feel great but cannot apply ourselves optimally. This feeling can certainly share similar characteristics with Flow, such as the distortion of time, distance from self-consciousness, but more often than not, this feeling is antagonistic to the awareness of surrounding objects and the proximal environment. It is epitomised by the loss of self-control (to an extent) and is capable of neither optimal actions, communication or decision making. 

Flow is not the experience of total absorption induced by hallucinogens or stimulants. 

These drugs can help reach a state of bliss, heighten creativity, and open doors in the mind to reveal remarkable insights. They may also be energizing and absolutely thrilling, but they simultaneously dampen other senses and functions that are necessary for optimal functioning. For example, someone under the influence of these drugs would not be able to catch a glass that has been knocked off the table. Neither could they tackle complex situations and make optimal decisions instantaneously. The absorption and excitation experienced due to drugs are often not controllable, meaning it is just that, the feeling of absorption and excitation no matter the context. Although these exogenous chemicals can temporarily relieve us from the dominating conscious-thinking ‘monkey mind’, these momentary uplifts will only leave us crashing back down to earth as the mind and body recover from the cognitive fragmentation and artificial chemical invasion. 

Contrary to this, Flow leaves us feeling surprised, creative and fantastic. And obviously, there is no threat of becoming dependent on the “drug” after repeated encounters with Flow.

It is a natural state, afterall. 

You may have heard of the recent rise of nootropics, otherwise known as smart drugs. Scientists are trying to reverse engineer a neurochemical cocktail which has been associated with enhanced cognitive performance. These drugs are designed to activate the parts of our brain that increase our ability for certain specific cognitive tasks. However, these drugs also fail to be beneficial in situations requiring the engagement of other facets of the brain such as empathy, and do not necessarily lead to optimal physiological functioning. In short, they amplify certain abilities at the cost of others.

Although many of these drugs are researched to avoid physical dependence, psychological dependence is unavoidable. Any supplement you take to enhance your ability will only leave you feeling inadequate without it and anxious when you need to perform without it. These external means are not only less effective in terms of overall sustainable performance but also unnecessary if we instead manage to generate an internal ability to change our states beyond our normal conscious experience. 

Determining a natural and sustainable methodology to finding flow is surely of greater importance even to the ‘short-termists’ out there.

If you are interested in cultivating Flow into your life experiences, we have an excellent team of experts who have dedicated their lives to understanding and teaching flow in others. We offer one-to-one coaching as well as evidence-based online courses updated constantly based on cutting edge flow research. Join our community and become a Flow Seeker. 

Think less, be more. 

The Secret to Peak Performance?

The Secret to Peak Performance?

Performance Skills

Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant, renowned not only for his outstanding physical ability and basketball prowess but for his absolute focus and “Mamba mentality”, had reported on his experience with Flow on several occasions. 

“It’s hard to describe. You just feel so confident. You get your feet set and get a good look at the basket—it’s going in. Even the ones I missed I thought were going in.”

He went on to share that… 

“everything becomes one noise” and that “you don’t think about the surroundings”. 

An expert on extreme focus and optimum mindset, Kobe had excelled in increasing his propensity to achieve Flow. Therefore, he frequently achieved moments of peak performance, more so than his opponents. However, even Kobe Bryant struggled to maintain it, stating that “you can lose it in a second”. 

In elite sport, the difference between winning and losing is often dependent on whether the athlete can reach their peak physical and technical performance when they need to, and under immense pressure. At the pinnacle of the sport, athletes train at their maximum ability day in and day out. They have access to the latest technology and training based on biomechanical perfection. These are undoubtedly advantages, but they do not define whether one becomes a champion or chokes. 

The factor which truly defines athletic performance is often the ability to remain absolutely focused, and limit the mental barriers in between your ability and execution. An ability to focus on performance when distractions want to inhibit your execution. 

When you can control your racing thoughts and attain absolute psychological absorption on the task at hand, your performance is ultimately greatly enhanced because there is more available attentional bandwidth in which to make decisions and execute. 

During heightened states of contreation , you may also experience an effortless ease in your movements and an intrinsically rewarding sensation throughout the activity, regardless of the outcome of your performance. When these elements of deep concentration and a fluidity of action come together, it is highly rewarding, highly memorable. Indeed, many people refer to this mental state as being in the “zone”, however, in the scientific world it is referred to as the ‘Flow’ state. 

When we take a look at our physiology, optimal functioning in Flow seems to be inevitable. 

In flow, our mind and body display a rare state of internal synchronicity. In our brain, vital areas responsible for attentional and cognitive control amp up and sync up. Not only do functions relevant to the task power-up, brain areas which induce conflict and self-doubt such as, “Can I do this?” and “What are others thinking of me?” become increasingly inhibited. This synchronicity results in extreme focus and limited distractions by our inner and outer critics. Brain systems which ordinarily fire when our comfort or competence is threatened become down-regulated enabling further energy to be expended towards the task at hand. 

That’s not all, in Flow, we can consistently and continuously make and execute effective decisions and perform confidently, despite the rising pressure. This is because parts of the brain which emotionally bias our cognition and distract our decision-making processes cease to have the same impact. This frees the mind to think clearly and make faster decisions.  

In essence, Flow allows us to bypass our usual stumbling blocks, allowing our previous hard work or training to be reproduced undistracted without hesitation. This is an undeniable and very tangible advantage in competitive sports. Just imagine an F1 driver who hesitates on a bend due to emotional bias and self-doubt, compared to one in Flow. 

The advantages of Flow in our performances are not just limited to the effortless replication of learnt behaviour. In Flow, we often find another gear or utilize our skills unexpectedly and creatively. Once the shackles are unlocked, the brain naturally utilizes the optimal system for the task, moment to moment, and the conflicting parts of our brain are bypassed. The brain becomes free to maximise the best of our innate biology, and the net result is that our decision-making abilities and capacity to perform jump through the roof. 

Flow is surely the state responsible for the pinnacle of one’s performance, yet the current adoption and prioritization of Flow is rarely present in performing circles. We only need to look past the podiums of the world’s performance arenas to see a plethora of anxiety-driven, demotivated, burnt out, choking, and frustrated performers in need of restorative psychologists. 

Flow needs the attention it deserves, so we can harness its power and perform better than we ever thought possible. 

In understanding what permits you into the Flow state, we must first dissolve the delusion that our optimal performances are an act of talent (full stop). An act exclusive to the beholders of natural talent. 

To the contrary, we’ve all felt Flow before; whether you were a child helplessly absorbed in a puzzle or a writer whose pen is flowing effortlessly. It is a very natural state that is attainable for all. A state that has been scientifically studied for decades.

When purposefully seeking the state of peak performance, however, it is incredibly hard to find and even harder to maintain. Which is why we exist, to help everyone find and sustain Flow in their lives.

If you are interested in cultivating Flow into your life experiences, we have an excellent team of experts who have dedicated their lives to understanding and teaching flow in others. We offer one-to-one coaching as well as evidence-based online courses updated constantly based on cutting edge flow research. Join our community and become a Flow Seeker.

Think less, be more.

2020 – the year of your great transformation

2020 – the year of your great transformation

Performance Skills

What will the year 2020 hold for you? 

If you asked futurists from the past, it would involve nuclear fuelled vacuum cleaners, antenna hats, disposable socks and mail sent via rockets. If the movies predicted the future, humans would be on the way to Mars, facing the end of the earth via apocalyptic climate change or being invaded by Aliens who can only see us if we make a sound. 

Hmm…some of them might be true…

But 2020 is unique.

2020 is a once in a 359 year event. It is a time where Saturn, Jupiter and Pluto come into planetary alignment. In Lunar circles, this begins a period called the Great Transformation and with it predictions of great change.

But these are once again purely predictions. Educated guesses with varying Bayesian probabilities. 

On a personal level, we also link predictions to calendar events. When the clock ticks over to a new year, we look ahead to a year of hope and possibility. 

We have the chance to press reset and to dream big. And for a while we drive with zest and the best intentions toward these goals.

But so often this is not enough. 

We exhaust our limited willpower to stay strong and shift our everyday habits and end up often back where we started, or sometimes even further back. 

Change is hard.

And transformation is even harder.

So how do we create the future we so desperately desire. How do we write our own narrative? It first begins with our mindset. As Pema Chodron writes in “The places that scare you”, we have two choices: 

 

“Either we accept our fixed versions of reality – or we begin to challenge them.”

 

Change is constant in life but from a physiological point of view, we battle a body determined to protect us and maintain homeostasis.  A growth mindset, as popularised by Carol Dweck, gives us the freedom to see that development is possible, growth is not linear and that mistakes are purely attempts that haven’t worked. Adding the word “yet” to any utterance of defeat completely reframes it. 

I can’t do this…YET

It’s not working…YET

A growth mindset helps us frame change with compassion. We will fall over. We will make poor choices but how we respond to these instances is what determines the next steps. If you beat yourself up, you reinforce your previous fixed version of reality. If you practice compassion and see growth in the moment, you will learn and grow. Heck, even the GOAT himself (Greatest Of All Time), Michael Jordan made mistakes. He missed 24,537 shots throughout his career but people hardly remember any of the misses. It was the shots he took after the misses that are always remembered. Coupling a growth mindset with deep introspection enables us to be open and curious, to live life from a “Yes And” position.

So “Yes And” to that shot, “Yes And” to that move and “Yes And” to growth. 

This is exactly why we are creating a rare gathering of Flow enthusiasts in a mind-blowing location. This exclusive gathering brings together flow enthusiasts, experts, entrepreneurs, athletes or other professional performers. We will come together to unlock the mysteries of flow, synergise, and make a difference to ourselves and other. Join us….yes, that means you!

15th, 16th & 17th January, 2020 – Indonesia

Get ready to swim with manta rays, meet kindred spirits, and embrace a better future. Your precious few days will be packed with provoking workshops, interesting stories, and immersive activities that you will remember for years to come.

To register your interest simply click this link. After that buckle your seat belt, and lock in for a memorable couple of days.

Until then, ask yourself two questions:


What would I like to happen in my life? 


What am I pretending not to know?


These questions require deep introspection and a willingness to face the raw truth. They are also how renowned Harvard Adult development expert, Robert Keegan, explains that we zoom out from our lived subjective experience and view life objectively from above. Keegan calls this the Subject/Object shift and viewing life from above allows us to see the nuance of our own experience objectively. We can be less reactive. We can see our blind spots. We can create our own narrative. This leads of a development in complexity. We are becoming more self aware.

It is always comforting to remember that the universe is conspiring to help you, not restrict you, when you are listening.

 

 

Written by Steve Brophy, edited by Cameron Norsworthy

Motivation 101 – Becoming Inspired

Motivation 101 – Becoming Inspired

Performance Skills

Work more, Earn more, Buy more, Show more… Sound familiar?

Why is society stuck in a cycle of more, more, more? Does keeping up with the Jones’ actually lead to fulfillment? Does ruthlessly driving to achieve each tick box every day actually make us feel more content? If we know the answer is no, then why do we continue to behave this way?

Why do so many of us continue to work until we are ill or spend money we don’t have to keep up with the status quo, when it doesn’t seem to make us happy.

The majority of us are stuck reacting to our stressors and ‘doing what needs to be done’ to pay the bills. Indeed surviving, rather than thriving, has become normalised whilst we continuously miss out on feeling fulfilled and performing to our best. Yet with a simple paradigm shift we can change these habits.

Well, if we want to break this cycle all it takes is a little introspection to understand our motivation…

Take Charge of Your Habits

Taking charge of our habits is critical to a happy and meaningful life. Managing our states, or ‘HOW’ we act, determines not only what we do and how well we do it, but how we feel whilst doing it. So often we look to external things or people to feel better; we will even change our job, friends, or where we live in the hope of feeling better. We take our attention externally, when the answer lies on internally managing our motivational habits.

Before learning about managing our motivational habits, it helps to first explore the psychology of motivation. It can help to explain why we think the way we think and why we do what we do. Let’s start at the beginning.

Motivational Psychology 101

Early understandings of motivation were dominated by mechanistic theories, such as psychoanalysis and behaviourism (i.e. Pinder, 1984). Freud (1915/1927) believed that humans are driven to engage in behaviours from our basic instincts and the interaction of these instincts with the environmental constraints. For example, humans are driven to reproduce, and therefore may communicate with certain people over others because it is perceived as being their best chance of reproducing.

Behavioural approaches went on to emphasise the associations between stimuli, responses, and reinforcements (Skinner, 1953, 1971). Essentially behaviour was explained by our desire to seek out pleasant outcomes or/and avoid punishing and unpleasant consequences. It was thought that without extrinsic drivers’ humans would become quiescent. This approach explained a lot but largely excluded our internal processes as reasons for driving behaviour.

Later animal studies contributed towards an incline of research surrounding internal drivers for motivation. For example, White (1959) looked at how certain animals had a desire to explore and effectively interact with the environment. In line with this thinking Woodworth (1918, 1958), in his ‘behaviour-primacy theory’, and then Allport (1937) with his notion of ‘functional autonomy’ posited that humans can engage in certain activities for intrinsic reasons only. This train of thought led to Maslow (1954) distinguishing between an individual’s hierarchy of needs. From the basic motivational drivers of sex, food, and safety, to the higher-order drivers such as competency and self-actualisation, an individual was deemed to have a multitude of drivers that were both extrinsic and intrinsic. Fast forward fifty years and the most widely accepted theory of motivation, ‘Self-Determination Theory’, still focuses on an individuals’ intrinsic and extrinsic motives that are engineered to facilitate our basic needs of (a) competence (i.e., to control one’s environment and experience mastery); (b) relatedness (i.e., to interact and connect with others); and (c) autonomy (i.e., to be self-determining and the causal agent of one’s life).

Still with me?

Intrinsic motivation is defined as engagement in the activity for inherent satisfaction (Ryan & Deci, 2000), whereas extrinsic motivation is apparent when motives or goals outside the activity exist. Like many deCharms (1968) proposed that engagement in extrinsic rewards or motives diminish one’s intrinsic motivation because it shifts the locus of causality away from the individual to the extrinsic reward. In short, although certain kinds of external regulation, such as affirmation or feedback can help to facilitate intrinsic motivation if fulfilling deeper needs of perceived competence or a sense of autonomy, both performance and well-being increase when intrinsic motives are high.

Practically speaking, motivational psychology 101 helps us to understand that if we can proactively assess why we are doing what we are doing and find an intrinsic motive for engaging in the activity, then we can amplify our performance and enrich our experience.

So how does Flow fit into all of this?

Flow and Intrinsic Motivation

Well Flow is often seen as the pinnacle of intrinsic motivation. Classified as an autotelic experience (derived from the Greek words auto (meaning ‘self ’) and telos (meaning ‘goal’)), one of the main outcomes of Flow is that the experience is intrinsically rewarding and people return to the activity for the sheer pleasure of participation. The painter paints, not to have multiple paintings, but because painting is immersive and fun. The climber climbs the mountain, not to get to the top, but because of the climbing. Thus, Flow research became a phenomenon in academia in regard to understanding intrinsic motivation. And it is why finding Flow in our lives is so important. Flow is central to our performances and finding a sense of well-being in our lives. 

So how can we build a strong sense of intrinsic motivation in our lives? How can we become so inspired that we don’t even have to think about our motivations?

Learning to be inspired may be the key to gaining control over your motivational habits, yet for many, being inspired is not a habit we proactively foster. Being inspired brings out the best in someone. At the polar opposite of being depressed, inspiration lifts us out of our day-to-day habits. It lightens our mood and invites us to engage without the inner critic playing havoc. For those precious inspired moments, we let go of the normal stress that grips our lives and have the opportunity to act with focus and commitment – and find Flow.

Although there is no magic pill we can pop to sustain our inspiration, we can create positive habits that give us the best chance of finding our true inspirations. So that you don’t go away empty handed we have created a list of practices for you to integrate into your life. Practice these positive habits and allow yourself to become inspired.

  • Meet new people
  • Travel
  • Always be learning
  • Follow what you believe
  • Find solitude and silence
  • Integrate the self -belief that ‘Anything is possible’
  • Assume the position that ‘There is no failure only feedback’
  • Slow down
  • Manage your state before starting an activity – Always
  • Use images over words to explain your goals and dreams
  • Follow your curiosity

The next time you find yourself questioning what you are doing. Check-in. Are you being driven by extrinsic rewards or reasons? If so, find some inherently satisfying aspects to the task and focus your attention on it.

Written by Jess Stout and Cameron Norsworthy

3 Tips to be Resilient

3 Tips to be Resilient

Performance Skills


“Just because you can’t plan everything, doesn’t mean you can’t be ready for something.” – Charles Hunt (TEDx)

Life challenges us everyday. From minor setbacks like spilling coffee on our shirt before a meeting, to the more tragic and traumatic events that stop us in our tracks, adversity demands change. And as we well know, lacks the courtesy of showing up in predictable, well-measured doses.

Individually, and as a society, we struggle with the curve balls of life, and perhaps now more than ever. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed anxiety as the most prevalent mental health condition affecting, on average, 1 in 4 Australians and depression affecting, on average, 1 in 7 Australians.

These statistics indicate we may not be coping as well as we’d like when it comes to managing our increasingly complex, and demanding lives. And yet, there are always people who astound us with their ability to overcome extreme trials and tribulations, and ultimately, better their lives. Having fallen down a hole, these people have learnt how to get themselves out quickly and efficiently. They have cultivated resilience.



1 – Challenge your Thoughts

Dr Franz Alexander, “The fact that the mind rules the body is…the most fundamental fact which we know about the process of life.”

You may be familiar with the saying that nothing is ever as bad as you think it is. Therefore, it is worth examining your thoughts before blindly accepting them as truth. Where do they come from? Who put them there? Our beliefs about our ability to cope with the struggles of life are influenced (more than we know) by our environment; not only by the thoughts/opinions of our family, friends and loved ones, but by the values and expectations imposed on us by society (Olsson et al, 2003). Leading media and advertisement author Jean Kilbourne reveals that we are subjected to over 3,000 ads per day. In essence, these ads always highlight the same thing: your life is missing something. You don’t have it all together, and how could you? You don’t have the perfect job, right education, fulfilling relationship, bikini body, winning smile or trendy wardrobe. When you believe the false messages that you are incomplete, you are encouraged to search outside of yourself for the answer. You reach to pills, the doctor, anyone or anything that can help you cope when adversity comes your way. Knowing that you already have everything you need to get you through any situation, is the first step towards resilience. In flow, we refer to this as control of your inner life, and it is integral to a happy, harmonious existence.

So for this month of March, make a commitment to yourself that when adversity strikes you will not get swept up by a whirlwind of toxic thoughts and dumped far out at sea.

Instead, give yourself a moment to stop, breathe, and critically ask, “By me feeling miserable about myself, who stands to gain?

Are the thoughts I am having going to help me grow, or help me stay the victim?”

Take control and guard your inner world.



2 – Flip it Around

Sometimes it just feels like we’re a target. One thing happens after the next in a string of ‘bad luck’ incidents and we find ourselves exclaiming, “Why me?!”

The important thing here is to learn not to perceive such incidents as personal threats. Don’t ‘own’ the problem. Things happen irrespective of whether they are convenient for you or not, and may in fact, be entirely unrelated to you and your actions.

If we take negative events personally, we often respond in fear. And fear is a paralysing, demoralising place to be because it strips us of feeling in control of our lives and our actions. It prevents us from coping in a transformational way.

On the other hand, taking a healthy, objective stance to a problem helps us stay connected with the ‘big picture’. Stepping away from our ego, allows us to consider that perhaps there was a greater purpose behind our setback in the larger scheme of things. Not only can this help to alleviate our burden and pain, but it enables us to remain in flow with life. Keeping perspective and staying present (not internally obsessed) means a solution will more readily appear.

Founder of flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, urges, “Almost every situation we encounter in life presents possibilities for growth.” See adversity as a challenge, not an attack.



3 – Stay Connected

The most important protective factor to stress and disadvantage that emerged from the current research was ‘connectedness’. In ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ Brené Brown described this as a ‘spirituality’ separate from religion or theology. Rather, a belief of shared connection with a greater, more powerful source and with other beings, rooted in love and compassion.


In recent studies exploring preventative measures for adolescent anxiety and depression, it was found that level of ‘school connectedness’ was the strongest independent predictor of future depressive symptoms (Ian Shochet et al, 2006). Here, school connectedness was defined as the extent to which students believed they were a valued part of their school and classroom.

Ultimately, the need to feel connected to others and to a higher purpose is not unique. And experiencing this ‘connectedness’ is more than just having a positive outlook. It is a deeply-held trust, respect and faith within ourselves and for others, that aligns us with the greater purpose of our lives.

Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross: “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only when there is a light within.”

Practice resilience and stay lit from within!


Written by Rachel Gobel

New Year – New Vision: Why to give up on goals.

New Year – New Vision: Why to give up on goals.

Performance Skills

I want to lose weight. I want to be more physically fit. I want to find the perfect job. I want to spend more time with my family. I want to quit smoking/chocolate/alcohol….the list goes on.

Yes, it is that time of year. Time for our New Year’s Resolutions. Time to set an ambitious goal and then weeks later, wonder why we even bothered. It is the time of year that gym memberships are on the rise, online courses are inundated, and possibly the only time that we hope to cure our hangovers by an inspiring march towards a new and improved version of ourselves.

BUT why does so much optimism and drive end up getting tossed to the curb?

We have all done it. We have all made a New Years Resolution and then felt like crap after realising that we are never going to realise it. We reflect: “were they unrealistic? not well thought out? or are we simply useless?”

Possibly, but as Cameron Norsworthy explains in this radio interview with FIVEaa below, it is not so much our enthusiasm that is misplaced but HOW we go about making and achieving these goals.

 

Don’t get fixated on the outcome – in fact don’t have an outcome

Often when we make goals we focus on a specific outcome. The prologue of goal-setting techniques such as S.M.A.R.T. fill our heads and we think we need to specify our outcome in order to make it happen. Well, research is now showing that focusing on an outcome is more likely to fail than succeed. Not only that but we are more likely to cheat, take shortcuts, beat ourselves up, and be in a state of anxiety as we are constantly being reminded of how far away we are from where we want to be. Not only is the experience, more often than not, ‘hard work’, it can make us miserable. It turns out that focusing on an outcome makes us more likely to give up than succeed.

Why?

A outcome focus goal encourages productivity over presence. Instead of being open to adapting to the status quo we are blinded by the parameters of our goal. As a result, we miss opportunities, develop a hamster wheel mentality, and all in all, we don’t have fun. Why sustain something that isn’t fun, right?!

Or worse, perhaps we find a way to grind it out and hit our target. Outcome achieved. Hurray! We celebrate for all of 10 seconds, and then go, “what next?” In this hamster wheel mentality, we don’t enjoy the process, the achievement yields only a fleeting spike in happiness, and then we are left with the same dissatisfaction that we started with looking for the next preoccupation to hook ourselves on to.

 

 

Furthermore, at the time of setting, we think the goal is going to change us, fulfil us, or give us what we want – it is why we make it. However, as time rolls on, we become different. We become a different person with different motives and adapt different levels of happiness. For example, perhaps a previous goal of saving $20,000 for a house deposit no longer becomes necessary. A month after making the goal, we suddenly realise that we are actually happy with only saving $15,000, as we realise that spending $5000 on our health is a bigger priority; something that will make us happier in the long run. Alternatively, we can fall short of reaching our full potential. If our goal is to reach a weight of 82Kg in 6 months and by month 5 we are already at 83kg, we may take our foot off the pedal and start indulging in bad habits that become hard to shake. In short, outcome goals can quickly become outdated, irrelevant, or limit what we are capable of. 

So what do we do instead? How do we capitalise on our positive ambitions?

Well, for starters we can spend 80% of our time on understanding why we are setting these goals or resolutions in the first place. Is it because we need direction, a structure to aid discipline, or because we want to impress others? By taking a real good look in the mirror, we can quickly understand our genuine underlying motives and disregard any goals or changes that we do not have a a deep inherent desire to do. If we are trying to smoke or drink less because we think we ‘should’ do, then any attempt to do so will not last and just leave us deflated and depressed when we fall back on the wagon. Any targets that are based on what other people want, or for extrinsic reasons, can also be dismissed as these will only yield short term compliance and add stress to our life. 

Instead, we can find something that we are really passionate towards, and then focus on building a vision around it.

 

 

Creating a loose vision is so much more powerful than a business plan on how to achieve our resolution. Why? Visions use imagery, which neurobiologically uses our innate implicit system. Meaning that imagery uses the same primal part of our brain that we were born with, as opposed to the cerebral conscious part of our brain that we develop as we grow older. In fact, our primitive cognitive system is 100,000+ times more powerful and efficient than our recently (evolutionary speaking) developed prefrontal cortex, which devised and wrote the S.M.A.R.T goal. Let me explain. When creating a vision we automatically build an experience around the benefits of it. It becomes a multi-sensory experience as we spend time visualising our success and knowingly or not, examine how it looks, feels, and even what it might sound or taste like. Once imagined the mind and body creates a psychophysiological blueprint of what and how to achieve it. When a vision is locked into our implicit system, our brain automatically starts to manifest it in our reality. It starts making daily decisions towards this aim without us having to do anything. All the subtle choices we face everyday that we are not aware of… i.e. whether to open our emails, BBC app, or research something about our vision when taking the phone out of our pocket… start to help us towards building this vision in our life. If we give our primitive brain a vision to follow, it will do this far more effectively than we can ever plan for!

Then as we stroll through life, we can simply pick the option that is most aligned with our vision. Having a true north such as this enables us to mould an intention towards our experiences. It gives a backbone to our decision-making, taking away the stress of analysing what might or might not be the best thing to do. Then if we find ourselves losing focus, we can play the game of mental contrasting. Meaning that we can contrast a negative vision of what life looks like without our vision coming true, against the positive experience of our vision blossoming. When we do this the mind and body is quickly reminded of what we want, what really matters, and thus what to think, feel, and do next.

Once our psychophysiology is primed with this vision, we are free to operate with freedom and a level of flexibility to meet this vision. As there is no fixed outcome, just a positive vision, there may be many ways to achieve it, most of them we don’t even know of yet.

Best of all, these positive visions make us feel good and they lure our engagement. We no longer have to be intimidated by a looming fixed benchmark. Instead we can become excited about the unknown journey ahead.

So to recap:

  1. Meet your new year’s resolutions with PURPOSE and then focus on the PROCESS.
  2. Decided on something that inspires you – something that you genuinely want to do.
  3. Build a positive vision of what your intended goal will give you. 
  4. Build a multi-sensory experience of the benefits. What does it look, feel, sound, and taste like?
  5. Realise that every subsequent thought and action we engage with is a choice; either taking us towards this vision or away from it.

Over to you!

 

 

Author: Cameron Norsworthy

 

 

Finding Your Tribe: Creating the relationships you deserve

Finding Your Tribe: Creating the relationships you deserve

Articles To Inspire Tips and Training


As we enter into the festive season our relationships tend to become focused at the forefront of our minds. December is a busy social month – catching up with friends and relatives, attending end of year work functions and Christmas parties, being invited to unexpected events by family and friends, all the while negotiating a busy home-life! 

If you’re starting to feel a little worn out by the interactions with those around you, it’s time to put down the tinsel and pick up the photo on the mantelpiece – we’re going to take a look at your relationships…

Our Need to Feel Connected

Research gathered by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, founder of Flow, suggests that one of the two most important factors in determining the quality of our life is the quality of our relationships (see: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 1990). Biologically, we are wired to seek connection with other human beings. Grounded in an instinctual tactic for survival, humans are no less dependent on each other now than what we were hundreds of years ago. Although this dependence may be less grounded in extrinsic needs like food and shelter, the need to feel included, accepted and appreciated have remained integral for our emotional, psychological and spiritual wellbeing.

In fact, findings from the longest observational study (75 years!) on adult development conducted by Harvard University, concluded that the quality of our relationships is a powerful predictor of how well we age in terms of our physical and mental health. That is, participants who reported being content in their relationships at age 50 had consistently better health outcomes at 80 years of age than those who reported being unhappy in their relationships (see: Harvard Study of Adult Development and the Grant Study). 

However, the problem remains that relationships don’t always work the way we want them to, and have certainly become far more complex than we have ever experienced. Romantic partnerships, parent-child relationships and familial relationships in general, are no longer structured around clearly defined rules set in tradition, religion, societal expectation and hierarchy. Gender roles are malleable and can be negotiated and challenged. As a result, competing ideas and values have become the norm resulting in disagreement and at worst, resentment; blocking us off from the experience of flow. 

So how do we set ourselves up for optimal experience in our relationships?

Communicate

Internationally renowned relationship therapist Esther Perel refers to communication as the “heart” of a relationship (see: Modern Love and Relationships, SXSW 2018). The distribution of roles, responsibilities and tasks unique to your relationship cannot be assumed; they must be discussed and agreed upon together. Csikszentmihalyi adds the importance of developing shared goals (as a partnership or family) that are motivated from within, in order to channel each person’s psychic energy meaningfully and productively. But when things don’t go to plan, you also need a constructive way to talk about it…

Be Generous

In her book ‘Braving the Wilderness’ Dr Brene Brown addresses the concept of generosity when it comes to our relationships. That is, recognising that in any situation there are multiple ‘realities’ and that our go-to interpretation may not necessarily be the correct one. So when something happens that leaves you feeling hurt or disappointed, instead of reaching for blame and accusation as ammunition, try asking, “[Insert name] help me understand what happened here, I thought we had a plan?” By assuming positive intent, you create an opening for conversation and connection with that person, that is grounded in a state of flow and mutual respect.

From there, difficult conversations can be tackled with grace through the introductory words, “The story I am making up about this is…” (see: The Gifts of Imperfection, 2010). By acknowledging that your truth is not the absolute truth, your thoughts and feelings will be better received by the other person as they no longer feel the need to defend themselves in fight/flight mode. The situation is diffused and you can productively work things out together. 

Give it a try this Christmas – show your loved ones how much you care by gifting them the benefit of the doubt when things don’t go to plan. You may find yourself pleasantly merrier.

Nurture Yourself

If you were to make a pie-chart (or Christmas pudding) of the time you allocate for people in your life, would you have an equal slice? Or even a slice at all? Or do you find yourself scrambling for crumbs – a few minutes here and there but nothing consistent?

Research has shown time and time again that change starts with no-one but yourself. Self-care is the practice you must cultivate if you truly want to make yourself, and the people around you, happier from being in your presence. If you can’t commit to huge chunks of time, why not make a little routine for yourself that makes you feel good daily? This could be as soon as you wake up in the morning or before you go to bed. As Dr Wayne Dyer wisely stated, “You can’t give away something you don’t have.” If you don’t have love and compassion for yourself, how can you possibly give that to others?

Ultimately, your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you could ever honour and invest in, because it determines every other relationship in your life. And if you are looking for acceptance and belonging from anywhere but yourself, you are unfortunately, wasting your time. A decade of research investigating people who feel loved and accepted versus people who don’t, revealed to Dr Brene Brown a single factor: worthiness (see: The Gifts of Imperfection). People who feel loved and accepted by others know that they deserve to feel that way because they experience love and acceptance for themselves – right now, exactly as they are, and regardless of circumstance.

There are no prerequisites for feeling worthy, but you must have the courage to love yourself in all your imperfection. Only then, can you extend the same grace to others.

Like what you have read? Head over to Masterminds and join others to share your journey with.

Author: Rachel Gobel

Sources:

Brown, B. (2017). Braving the wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. Random House.

Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you are supposed to be and embrace who you are. Center City, MN: Hazelden.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper Perennial.

Perel, E. (2018). Modern love and relationships. SXSW.

Waldinger, R. (2015). What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness. TEDx.
https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness?language=en

Flow in Learning

Flow in Learning

Education Performance Skills

Imagine a world where class time flies by because the students understand and engage in the information presented, are not distracted by other students in the class, and most importantly, enjoy what they are learning. Sounds too good to be true? What if we were to tell you that there is a way to foster this experience? Plus the onus isn’t solely on the teachers either, the students have the power to harness Flow and make this environment a reality!

Continue reading to find out more about Flow in learning:

  • Q1. What is Flow?
  • Q2. What are the benefits of finding Flow in education?
  • Q3. How do the characteristics of Flow interact with the learning environment?
  • Q4. How can Flow be increased in an educational environment?

Q1. What is Flow?

The term ‘Flow’ is translatable to many other contexts, not just exclusive to the sporting arena and is well established with over 40 years of research within psychology, physiology and neuroscience. Flow is an optimal state of functioning where there is concentration on the task at hand and total immersion in the moment. The present-focus replaces any self-concern with an inherent enjoyment of the moment. The experience feels effortless as within the act we are able to execute the exact skill set required with complete control.

Q2. What are the benefits of finding Flow in education?

Flow is more acknowledged during acts of excellence in pressured situations like  a high performance in an examination setting, but Flow can also occur in everyday learning experiences. Previous research suggests that finding Flow in education induces the short term benefits like enjoyment, gratification, and a sense of mastery from learning tasks for both teachers and students. Longer term benefits include academic confidence, a desire to seek further education, and a predictor of future academic performance.

The process of seeking Flow induces a growth principle. The student grows, develops and fulfills their potential by constantly extending themselves beyond their perceived ability, due to the pursuit of Flow. This process feels so good that the student is compelled to repeat this experience enabling continuous growth. Which is why finding oneself in an optimal state of functioning frequently is highly positively correlated with well-being.

As well as well-being Flow fosters motivation and creativity, but perhaps most importantly, a sustainable performance. When students are able to find Flow, learning becomes a rich and meaningful experience helping them to digest more information and increase their motivation towards their studies.

Q3. How do the characteristics of Flow interact with the learning environment?

In education, it is important to enhance the aspects of Flow that are most relevant to learning. In a classroom setting, the main goal is to create an optimal learning environment. Optimal learning environments are those that support a state of Flow within the process of learning. Research suggests that cognitive absorption, time transformation, loss of self-consciousness and an autotelic experience can all play a pivotal role within the classroom context.

  • Cognitive absorption is an increase in concentration and immersion in the task. This can be experienced by being transfixed in a particular topic of interest.
  • Time transformation is an alteration in the perception of time, often leading to a lengthened duration of immersion in the task.
  • A loss of self-consciousness or lack of self-concern is emphasised by a heightened awareness of the importance of the social aspect of learning.
  • Lastly, an autotelic experience refers to an intrinsically motivating and rewarding experience where individuals engage for the pleasure of learning, nothing more. This type of motivation enhances persistence and the desire to engage in the activity again.

Q4. How can Flow be increased in an educational environment?

The state of Flow can be increased by manipulating the individual’s culture, context and level of self-management. An in depth understanding requires some focused attention, and those interested may want to enquire about our ‘Learn and Flow’ programme dedicated for educational contexts.

From an individual level, self-management is critical. An individual’s ability to be self-efficacious about their skills directly affects their ability to meet the challenge and enter a state of Flow. Confident individuals approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than as threats to be avoided. So setting up the classroom whether physical or virtual and helping students to self-regulate their perspective when meeting a challenge and have a huge impact on whether the students may find Flow.

Importantly, Flow is accessible to any person in any field. The difficulty that most individuals’ face is persisting with the pursuit of Flow and not becoming sidetracked by other agendas that may seem more important on the surface.  To leave you with a thought – harness the yearn to learn!

If you are interested in learning and cultivating Flow into your learning experiences, The Flow Centre offers one-to-one coaching as well as evidence-based online courses updated constantly based on cutting edge flow research.

Learning About Flow   My Experience

Learning About Flow My Experience

Flow Sports

 

 

Do you ever have that moment where you are completely focused and involved in an activity? Where your whole world at that moment is focused on what you are doing and nothing else? Well, typically, these are descriptions of our optimal mental state of functioning otherwise known as flow. Founder Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi defines flow as that moment of complete immersion in an activity.

Learning about flow can be difficult. The concept itself is puzzling as it can elicit multiple descriptions. It can be inferred as a thought or a feeling but essentially flow is a state of mind.

I am recently learning about flow and as I learn I find that I am constantly able to relate it to multiple areas of my life and believe that others would be able to do the same.

Flow seems to show up in sport, education or in the workplace. In sport, athletes associate flow with some of their greatest performances. Within education individuals may experience flow as they learn and extend themselves beyond their perceived ability. Within the workplace employees often become so immersed in their tasks that it can create the feeling that that the act is no longer work, but it is play. Leading people to think that if they can reproduce this feeling, that they love, they will never have to work another day in their lives. Ultimately, anyone can experience flow in their desired field, its more their mind set in that field that determines whether they induce flow or not.

 

 

Flow is that optimal state of consciousness where you feel and perform your best. Your concentration can be somewhat tunnel vision, focusing on the task and letting everything else fall away. Individuals who experience the flow state often report that time can either slow down or speed up, heightening the performance focus.

As I continue to learn about Flow, I release that it is something I once had for the sport of rowing. I used to be a highly competitive rower in school. I knew that I loved the sport, waking up every morning to train in the rain and cold. Although after 4 years of rowing it wasn t just a love for the sport any more, it had turned into, what I now know as the foundation for a flow mindset. In short, I trained to learn and enjoyed each moment because I loved what I did. During rowing, I had that feeling of complete immersion and focus on what I was about to do. Each stroke wasn t a chore, they just came effortlessly, one after another. As the boat used to glide along the water and the coxswain yelled to the crew, I would find myself zoning out from everything, just focusing on hanging onto this strange but exhilarating feeling that I never wanted to end. After 4 years, I had gone from feeling the pain in each race, the feeling of my blisters rubbing against the ore and my body screaming to stop, to suddenly never wanting to stop. Every day I longed to get back on the water and dreaded the time when rowing would finish. Since finding those sweet moments of flow in my training, that moment of no longer thinking, but just doing, all the boring sessions and mental battles that would ensue during the early years of rowing became worth it. All the long hours of sweat and heartache had become a justifiable means to a rewarding end flow.

2 years later, whilst I still love rowing and training, I no longer perceive the state of flow when I m out there on the water. Many things have changed since the days when I was able to achieve the flow state readily. Nowadays, I no longer row at such a competitive level, I no longer have a strong desired goal, and I am not as committed to the club or people I row with compared to when I was representing my school with my best friends. I realise now, that through a combination of all these factors, I lost my flow. As a result of losing my flow I m less motivated to go to training, to committing to the workload and therefore my performance has decreased. It is easy to become complacent, once achieving flow believing it will always be there, but flow is much rather a state of mind, it isn t something that you achieve once and have forever from that moment. Multiple factors come into play in the development and maintenance of flow.

Having this experience of finding flow and then losing it, has allowed me better to understand the concept and further understand many athletes. Flow occurs when an individual has a clear set of goals, focused attention on the task, a feeling of serenity and timelessness, a feeling of personal control over the situation, and a lack of awareness of the physical needs that accompany the task. In retrospect, I had lost a lot of these descriptions. Many high-profile athletes can also loose the state of flow, impacting their performance and often causing their decline, although few gain the ability to understand and find their flow again, improving their performance better than it once was.

Now that I am on a journey to find my flow again, it has been important to me to note that flow occurs in the moment of the task at hand, therefore when attempting to achieve the state of flow being mindful of my thoughts in the moment and managing my feelings of stress and anxiety has been crucial – they can all effect one flow. When I m anxious or overly aroused I can now use relaxation techniques prior to the activity. Relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing help to increase my concentration of the task at hand and focus on what relevant, rather than allowing my mind to wonder. This allows me to be more engaged in the task prior to it beginning.

I m learning now, that no matter the area in which we experience flow, these experiences of flow can not only improve our skill development but also offer significant benefits to our performance. Finding flow not only improved my motivation to continue to get better, but because I was more willing to learn, I ultimately found the sport more enjoyable. As a result, I trained harder, faster and my performances improved.

The flow state relates to the term, in the zone , whereby we find an ego-less state of complete concentration and absorption. This state allows the us to be 100% positive, focused on the process committed to the execution. We take ownership for our responsibilities in the task, which ultimately improves our performance.

There is so much to flow, I m learning everyday. But for now, I m enriched by the knowledge that flow is a state of mind that it is not limited to any individual. It not dependent on one intelligence, ability, or status. Rather it is achieved when individual apply themselves to a task (no matter what it is) in a certain manor.

Learning about flow has given me hope, guidance and a level of confidence that those special moments that used to treasure so much are just around the corner.

 

Written by Gabriella Brown

Yoga and Flow

Yoga and Flow

Flow Performance Skills Tips and Training

Learning how to find flow is unbelievably beneficial to yoga. If you practice yoga regularly, you may already be very familiar with finding the flow state but perhaps not been able to label it until now. The time when our thoughts merge with our mind, and we enter a bubble where we only see and feel what is necessary to the pose. The space in which an intense act feels effortless, as if for a few seconds we are simply watching our majestic body reach further, higher and deeper than ever before. The usual struggle and limits are distant noises, our attention is 100% immersed in the present moment, and when we emerge from this space we feel elated and surprised by what our mind and body have just achieved. For these precious seconds, we clear our cognitive functioning of the ego-driven automated patterns of thinking that typically limit our performance.

By valuing these moments, lifting them up our priority ladder and becoming a flow seeker, we awaken the mind to find these special moments more frequently. By prioritising a flow mind-set, we are naturally led to engage in more flow states due to its cyclical nature. By becoming aware of the opportunities around us to find flow, we can turn a routine yoga practice into an ideal opportunity to find flow.

The challenging situations in yoga are prime for inducing a flow state. During a yoga practice, our challenge-skills balance is always being tested. We might possess the abilities to hold a certain posture, but in order to deepen and improve said posture, our skills must be pushed to the point of failure . As we attempt to deepen a posture, we become engulfed in what we are doing. If we are not, we fall out of the posture. In allowing this immersion into the pose, external distractions can disappear, past and future events are not considered, and the passing of time can become distorted. Sound familiar? We can become completely immersed in the present. It is here that flow is experienced, at the point where our skills are slightly inferior to the challenge, and where we perceive these challenges as opportunities to engage in positive risk, which fosters our growth, development, and improvement.

These moments feel so good they can knowingly or unknowingly bring us back to the mat again and again. But how do we reach this space called flow more frequently? Well, it starts by embracing a flow mind-set. Amongst many things, a flow mind-set involves understanding the experience and seeking it in our activities. We become a flow seeker. Embracing a flow mind-set encompasses focusing on the process and letting the outcome take care of itself. Flow is an autotelic experience; therefore, our desire for excellence and stretching our ability on the matt must be intrinsically motivating and rewarding, meaning we engage for the pleasure of the move nothing more. When this mind-set combines with clear goals, such as a clear understanding of the upcoming pose,, we enable our subconscious to develop a strategic plan of how we are going to achieve our goals minimising the need for conscious activity. This allows our mind to be present and visualise ourselves performing a posture to our desired level of excellence. As such, our mind is not consciously concerned about the result, and we become free to enjoy the journey. During this pursuit for mastery, our ability improves and we start getting excited about the challenges ahead, as we see them as our greatest opportunities to improve.

The mind-body connection that is so present in yoga is a vital component in finding flow. In this sense, engaging in yoga organically presents a gateway to finding flow. In turn, a focus on flow during our yoga practice gives rise to plentiful opportunities to improve, and more importantly, enjoy our yoga practice. This magnification of our mental state during our routine, allows us to pin-point the areas that need attention, obtain more relevant information and ignite our flame for yoga. It furthers our ability to achieve the purpose of yoga uniting the mind, body and spirit.

For more information on flow coaching or flow training or if you would like a flow workshop, please click here.

Authored by Cameron Norsworthy and Jack Hudson-Williams