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

 

 

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.

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

Flow Interview- Ari Iso Autio

Flow Interview- Ari Iso Autio

Articles To Inspire Flow Performance Skills Tips and Training

Before we start, I would like to Introduce you to Ari;

Ari is a yoga teacher and co-own Lumi Power Yoga in London; His background is in business, in corporate. He spent 20 years as a management consultant, working around the globe. Then he discovered yoga, initially as a way to deal with burnout, and then he got hooked and got deeper and deeper into it, and eventually it took over.

He is from Finland and grew up on a farm.

Elena: When I was reading about yourself, you were saying that you are an unlikely yogi.

Ari: Unlikely yogi yes! I think that’s right. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be having this kind of conversation with you, I would have said,  “You must be crazy,” it just wasn’t in my awareness. I was very focused on climbing the corporate ladder, very logical, very rational, very driven and successful in that, and I always thought yoga was something a little bit weird. But then, as with many things, I got into yoga through burnout and just hitting barriers in my life; professionally I was hitting walls, I was going through a break- up, I was living in a different country, it all came together, and then someone said,  “You should try yoga,” you know, one of those things where your friends say,  “You really need something,” and I went, and before I knew it I was practically living at the studio, and it took over.

Elena: Amazing. When do you think was your first flow moment that you can remember?

Ari: I was reflecting on that question, and I can certainly remember when I started yoga, a few months in, I did what was then called a ‘Personal Revolution Bootcamp,’ it was an intense week of yoga, and I remember I was new to yoga, and about halfway through I just remember this one particular practice where I really felt alive and present, and after the practice I remember just lying in a pool of sweat and just thinking,  “I’m happy. Everything is just working, everything is good,” and I guess I don’t know if you call that flow, but that was the first sort of sense of me being complete, complete and full in the moment, like nothing was missing, and that really stands out. Since then there been lots of different experiences, but that what opened the door I think.

Elena: Listening to this, it sounds like one of the dimensions of Flow, the perception of time disapears. During the practice, you were like,   “Wow, what just happened?!” like you mention,  “I was covered in sweat and the activity was totally finished, but I didn t realise what was going on during the activity.”

Ari: Yeah, that is right, and since then there been many different instances, but I think for me it actually becoming more aware of what is happening with me. What yoga gives me is this awareness and therefore I can probably recognise when I am in a flow and when I m not in a flow; I can put feeling, emotions, words, descriptions, distinctions around it, and I think that one of the big tools of yoga.

Elena: Being fully aware and fully present?

Ari: Yes, and being able to Flow can be quite conceptual, and it is a concept in a way, but it also a collection of different things that happened, and in order to see that those are happening, I can feel like you need a different level of awareness to notice whether it happening or not, and I think that what yoga has given me; whether it me being with my kids, whether it me practicing yoga, whether it teaching yoga, whether it leading trainings.

Elena: I like what you are saying, and I totally feel connected and aligned with that. Because also one of the dimensions of the flow state is to be fully present, fully aware of what going on, and yoga, as you say, helps you with that. What would you say helps you to be in that state of full connection and awareness?

Ari: Well, actually the way I think of flow is that flow is an outcome and flow happens when a lot of things come into place, and so what helps me get into flow is conscious practice of those things that need to be in place. If I think of my yoga practice, it is very simple; the more I come on my mat in a purposeful way, and the more I practice the physical practice, the more I practice my breath, the more I practice my gaze, the more likely it is that I will then enter into a flow. It almost like those things have to be in place, because otherwise I will always be caught up in the technicality and in the doing of it, but worrying about “Am I doing this right?”

Elena: Yeah, that other dimension, when the self-talk or self-consciousness disappears when you are fully present, there is no questioning “Am I doing this right? Am I doing this wrong?”

Ari: It might feel easy in the moment when I’m in it, but there is a lot of work that goes into it, to be able to be in that state, whatever the activity is. If I think of myself as a parent of two small girls, initially that certainly wasn’t a flow; I needed to learn, practice and figure out how things work.

Elena: Yes, so it is a process and it also a choice.

Ari: Exactly.

Elena: Obviously you teach many students here in the studio. What advice would you give to them about being aware of the flow state and also how to get into that state? What do you think would be the top three pieces of advice that could help them?

Ari: Well, the first one we already covered, which is just practice; there is no substitute for it. The second one I think Flow, by definition, is from somewhere to somewhere, so having an intention for your practice. It might be for that practice in the moment, or it might be for that day or it might be for your life. It needs to be something that you are moving towards and consciously creating in your being, in your movement, and in your breathing; it is all there. A final piece of advice: there is practice and there is intention, and then there something about just surrendering, like being able to just let go of anything else and surrender to what is, not aiming to make it perfect.

Elena: When you say surrender, you mean acceptance?

Ari: Yes, it is an acceptance, an acceptance that all of these things are happening right now.

Elena: Good advice. You were explaining your trajectory and how you started in the corporate world and how you ended up here, as a co-founder of the studio. What would you tell to your younger self who was starting in the corporate world?

Ari: I would like to say a couple of things. One is something about trusting my intuition more initially, to making things my own way, rather than feeling like I need to follow others or do things in a certain way. Related to that, what I would say is life is short. Don’t waste a second; get clear on what you want and move quicker towards it.

Elena: You have a very calm and peaceful voice, and transmit a lot of calmness and tranquillity. Do you have any techniques that help to ground you, if you are stressed or you’re doing multiple things at the same time? What do you do to calm down or relax?

Ari: Well, for me it the obvious things: it getting on my mat, it’s practicing, it’s breathing and it’s moving. The other thing I do is journaling, setting intentions in the morning, and reflecting in the evening. It can be two minutes, it can be five minutes and it doesn’t take long. That helps me get a grip of the day, if you like, in a moment. I also walk a lot. I know it might sound obvious, but I walk everywhere and also I walk with purpose. I often listen to something inspirational, that I can learn from, that puts me in a good state, and I use every bit of time that I have. So when I walk from this studio home tonight, I will have about 10 minutes and I’ll put on something inspirational, I will listen to someone talking to me, giving me something that fills me up and it kind of grounds me and lifts me up.

Elena: What inspires you?

Ari: I’ll tell you the main thing that inspires me, and it is being able to make a difference in people lives. Whether it is just someone coming to a yoga class and just having a 60 minutes time-out from their busy life, just time out, just space, or whether it they’re going through something and that 60 minutes gives them a new angle on things or whatever it is. Being able to give back what I’ve got from yoga and share that gift of presence, clarity, intention, and that inspires me. Yeah. That what makes me get up in the morning.

Elena: That your purpose?

Ari: Yes, it is.

Elena: I like it. Maybe you use the same techniques, but after long days, long practices or maybe stressful moments, do you do something to recover? Does yoga give you that recovery, or do you use other methods?

Ari: I’m a reflective type, so that helps me recover, I need my own space; I’ll quite happily go into a cave for an hour and that helps me recover. The other thing that helps me is being taught or trained or inspired by somebody else, like letting myself be a student and maybe going out to do a workshop or do a training, and getting filled up and recovered in that. Yeah, sometimes you just need to refill.

Elena: Would you like to share anything else?

Ari: My teacher is Baron Baptiste and in his book he talks about flow, and there a sentence which I wrote down because I thought this was so spot on. He says, “Yoga is the point where many aspects of a person merge together in one flow towards some new point,” and I thought, “That’s it!” It is bringing the physical, mental, and spiritual, out of all of us. When I’m in practice or in flow, bringing it all together and then moving from there towards a new point. That’s what we talk to in classes, flow, we call it Viny─üsa and it is one of the pillars of the practice.

There is a lot of value in just flowing, like physically moving and flowing, without trying to get it right. There is an energy that comes through in that and there is a release that can happen. The word ‘Flow’ has so many different meanings, but to me that is how it manifests itself on the mat.

I started to write down the characteristics of flow; there’s presence, direction, purpose, clarity, body and mind integration.  Sometimes it is imperfect, in the sense that I will go in and out of the flow. So it’s not necessarily this unique, blissful state that always magical.

Elena: I agree, you cannot be 24/7 in that state, you can go in and out. The more tools you have or the more practice, you will get more into that. And in the end it is a choice, so if you also have that intention at the beginning of the day, you will see it more often.

Ari: Yeah. And it is really being aware.  I’m doing a lot of work in training other teachers and running workshops. That  requires being in front of people and leading things. I am able to notice when I’m in a flow; I like engaging the audience by delivering my message and sensing what is going on and being in that flow. It is great to be able to bring tools physically of the practice into teaching and leading.

“Am I breathing? Are my two feet on the ground? How am I standing? Where is my mindgoing to now? What am I focusing on?” bringing all of those things and being able to see that.

Everything becomes three-dimensional and quite vivid when I’m in that state. I also notice when I go out of that and I go into the mentality of ‘needing to look good’ or trying to say things in the right way and then stepping back. I just find it fascinating.

Elena: When was the last time you were in the flow state?

Ari: When I teach, I think that’s where I always look for a flow state. It was when I taught, two days ago.

Elena: That’s good. Thank you so much!

Ari: Thank you! Good questions.

 

Thank you Ari for your time and wisdom, see you on the mat.

Flow Interview – Homero Diaz – Redbull Enduro Rider

Flow Interview – Homero Diaz – Redbull Enduro Rider

Enduro Flow Performance Skills Pilot Stories Tips and Training

Roaring around on a motorbike since the age of four, Mexican Enduro rider Homero Diaz has built a whole life around the world of off-road, two-wheel racing ever since. He’d already won his first race by the time he was eight and is not only a three-time National Mexican Enduro Champion, but also a three-time Latin-American title holder.

We had the chance to interview him to know more about how he gets into flow:

Cameron: I guess we start off with what might you know about flow, and what your experience is to date, and then maybe go into questions you might have around the state, and then go into a little bit about what we can do in the future, and the rest of it. Sound good?

Homero: Yep.

Cameron: What’s your current understanding of flow? Can you explain a flow experience that you’ve had?

Homero: Well, I ve been thinking a lot about this since the first message that I got from you, and I think it relates to that moment. Well, I guess the connection we have, you and I, is because of the sport I practice, right? So, I think the main thing about flow is that moment when you stop, when you stop seeing stuff and you start feeling stuff. Like, in my sport it’s during a special test or a track or whatever, and you feel more alive. Like, the way you enter into a turn, or the way the bumps feel, or the jumps feel, or the ~rides~ or whatever; it’s more about feeling than seeing I guess, and it also translates into everything being in slow motion I guess, but it doesn’t mean you’re going slow; it just means that your brain is really, really clear, that it makes you comprehend the experience really well. That’s the reason why you feel everything in slow motion, because you comprehend it really, really well and so clear.

Cameron: Yeah. And can you explain a moment or a previous experience that you might have had, either at a tournament, or just you your biggest or best ever flow experience?

Homero: Probably when It comes up a bit more as a surprise when you are starting to become a better rider, and all of a sudden you start figuring it out. Now with more experience it easier to get into that flow, but when I was starting to become a better rider, close to 2003 and 2004 when everything started, when I was racing ~the Worlds~… It would have been like on a very, very long special test during an enduro race, where it was [03:00] probably a 12- or 15-minute special test, which in our sport is a really long special test; a 15-minute special test is a really long one.

When you get out of the special test, and you say “Oh man it went through reall fast!” or “It went through really easy!” that when you understand that something happened. At that time I didn t know what had happened, but now with more experience I know that I had gone into a really good flow or a really good sense of concentration, and now I can get it really easy. But it takes time, it not easy, it not an easy process to get into that state of mind. So, probably during those stages. Usually I remember that the Scandinavian races were the ones that had the longest special tests all the time.

Like, a really short one was eight minutes and the really long one was a 15-minute special test. That took us about, I don’t know, about 12-15 minutes to ride on the motorcycle. So, being on the same level of flow from the beginning to the end of the special test is really hard, and usually I used to get it from the mid-point on, but when you start getting it from the start to the end, that when you know that things are happening the right way, you know.

Cameron: Yeah, for sure. And what helps you get into that space? Is there anything specific that you focus on beforehand, during, after, or you kind of manage in your mind the motions, or externally?

Homero: Well, I guess being relaxed, and trying to focus on that exact moment, although what I like to do is just think on that precise special test. I don’t try to think about the whole picture, I want to focus on that moment only.

Well, in our sport we walk the special tests before, and we’re not allowed to use any vehicle. Like a bicycle, we cannot use a bicycle to walk the special test it has to be by foot. So, when I get to the special test now on the motorcycle, I like to focus on what I walked, what I saw, and then try to use little pieces of that special test, and then connect. Like, if it was a 10-minute special test I would probably remember the first three minutes, and then from then on I would remember the second three minutes, and so on.

Because sometimes it just too much information to learn right away, so when you know how to divide a whole in fractions, it really easy to become one with the track and one with the motorcycle, and that way at the end you start flowing more and more. You know, as I told you before, it’s hard at the beginning, at the beginning of a sports career, but then with more experience you learn how to connect each and every dot with more accuracy and more speed.

Cameron: So you break the course down into small little steps, remembering each one. Do you visualise what your perfect route between it, and then the next bit and then the next bit, and then add them up as you go along? Is that what you re saying?

Homero: Yeah, exactly. And the way I do it is I try to relate little things which can make me remember the whole course. I don t know, let’s say if I was walking the test with one of my buddies and he started all of a sudden talking about the party he had a few years before or one week before, I say “Okay, this is this straightaway where we talked about the bar or the party, you know, and then I relate that session to memorise the next thing. And then we say “Oh, look at that tree it looks like a bird!” or whatever, and then I say “Okay, okay this is a turn right before the tree.” Then we see whatever, or we hear a sound, “This is the downhill right before we heard the sound.”

It’s a bit hard to explain, but once you start connecting all those little things that happen, all of a sudden you’re going to remember a 12-minute special test; exactly where you need to break, where you need to ~stand~, where you need to accelerate, what kind of obstacles you need to avoid or what obstacle you can use to increase the speed on a little section, you know. I’ve done many, many races all over the world, and I know how to relate to make it easy to remember.

Cameron: What do you do just before the race starts? Are you focusing on those small little chunks and visualising your way around the course, or what are you doing? Because obviously the heart beating, you’re getting aroused. What allows you to plug in?

Homero: Well usually we talk about before a race as like 30 minutes before or so, but I like to talk about before a race the night before a race, which is one of the most important moments, because the way you sleep is going to be the way you race most of the time. So, when I go to bed before a race I try to remember all the little things that I saw during my ~walk out~, you know, and that the way I fall asleep. I close my eyes and I start remembering the whole track or the whole course, and if I fall asleep before I finish the track that’s good, that’s no problem.

But you have to start getting into your racing mode before the race, and that way the next day you wake up and you’re starting to get more ready and more ready and more ready. It’s like going into a room, and getting ready. When you start getting closer you start feeling it; every step you feel it more and more, and you need to be more concentrated. I mean, most of the riders that I know, the professional riders, we get into a sense that, I don t know, either you get more serious, or you get louder, or you smile more… It all depends on how you approach your race.

For example, I just get I mean. Outside the races I like to be very smiley and a very funny guy and everything, but when the race goes, when I’m starting to get close to the race in racing mode, I get really serious. That’s when I guess that sometimes when the people know you, they know you when you’re racing, and they say “Oh, this guy is really cocky, and this guy is really serious.” Because that’s ~our office~, you know, that what we do for work. I’m going to work to the races, and I’m just being serious, because I take it really, really seriously. And that’s a state of mind also, because we’re used to getting serious when it’s time to work, you know.

Cameron: That kind of leading up to so maybe from 30 minutes until before you start, do you have any kind of preparation? Do you try and listen to music, do you try and zone out, do you try and have a laugh, do you just try and relax, or you focus on doing your equipment? 

Homero: No, I most of the time I have rubber bands hanging on the canopies or the tents on our team, and I start warming up, doing a lot of moving. I usually start from the bottom up ankles then calves then knees and so on until the neck and I’m I don’t know, I have this idea that I need to start sweating before the race starts, and that’s how I want it to be. It helps me get in the mood a little bit easier. I’m already having my muscles a little bit ready, my heart rate is a little bit up, and then everything starts to click in, and then when we put our bikes in the impound, we impound our bikes 30 minutes before, so we have those 30 minutes of free time to warm up or do whatever we want.

So, from the moment we impound I start doing all my warm-up, and I prep my goggles and everything I prep all that just to have something to do during my free time. And then once the race starts it just I mean, again, go with the flow, you know, whatever happens, happens. But I try to concentrate on every special test, you know, I take it easy. Like, when I go to the special test one, I remember special test one that’s it; I don’t have to start remembering about special test two. Then when I get to special test two I remember only special test two. I like to divide everything by fractions. Then if we’re going to be doing 16 special tests at the end of the day, you know, it’s just that; just remember pieces, little pieces of the whole thing.

Cameron: And what do you do in the last 30 seconds before the lights go on, or you’re ready to go? What are you focusing on, what are you preparing?

Homero: Well every single time right before starting a special test I put the bike in neutral. Let me show you what I do. [laughs] I’m like this, and I do my hands like this and I rub them, I rub my hands to create a little bit of energy that way, and that way if you start thinking more about energy and becoming one with your own self and all that, and especially when I was taught by my dad that when you do this you cannot be sad, you know. Like, if you go like this you always smile, and you create energy, so that’s one of the things I do. I clap my hands, I clap my hands really hard, then I rub them, and then I start. You’ll see me do that in every single special test from 2004 to today.

Cameron: Yeah, nice! Perfect that’s a really good cue!

Homero: Yeah. [laughs]

Cameron: Yeah.

Homero: That’s my secret! [laughs]

Cameron: Yeah awesome! Have you ever tried to feel that energy? So, when you rub your hands, and then you keep rubbing them, can you feel like almost as if you ve got two different magnets pushing against each other?

Homero: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Cameron: Can you feel that?

Homero: Yeah.

Cameron: So then do that, and then try and widen it and get it kind of bigger, and you might need to push in to feel that resistance, so almost you can feel that energy. Can you feel that?

Homero: Yeah, yeah.

Cameron: Yeah? And then try and get it big so it like a football.

 

Thanks Homer for this interview