Flow Interview – Tom Carroll – Legend & World Champion Surfer

Flow Interview – Tom Carroll – Legend & World Champion Surfer

Articles To Inspire Flow Performance Skills Quotes Sports Stories Tips and Training Videos

This year World Surf League Margaret River Drug Aware Pro 2015 was a truly special event. Not only did I get to spend some time in the Competitors VIP Tent talking with the current best surfers in the world, but I also got to see some insane surfing in some of the best conditions this leg of the tour has seen in years. Some highlights of the event can be seen here.

I met up with Tom Carroll at the event to chat about flow and understand how it has been instrumental to his life and surfing. For those that don’t know Tom Carroll he has been voted as one of the top 10 greatest surfers of all time and been crowned World Champion twice. Even today, at the age of 53, he continues to push limits, searching the globe to ride the world’s biggest swells for his TV series ‘Storm Surfers’. In fact, when I met up with him, he had just taken a huge beating, injuring his hip, at the intimidating Boat Ramps surf break – a break not for the feint hearted, especially on a day like today with massive swell.

After speaking to Nat Young and Josh Kerr about flow, whose responses echoed the sentiment ‘flow – I’m always in flow, it’s what a I live for’, the legend himself talked about how he sees flow and how he plugs-in.

 

tom carroll surfing

Cameron: How did you feel when you’re in it (Flow) and what was your top experiences like?

Tom: Well, I had my first really clear flow movement experience when I was 13 years of age. Obviously I’ve done a lot of surfing, to that point, I’ve been already surfing since seven years of age. I was on a board that I absolutely loved, that really fitted into my body at that time. I was surfing a right-hand point-break which I hadn’t experienced before, but it was a very comfortable place to surf, or something that I loved surfing a long wave where I got to do a lot of maneuvres on the wave. It was probably for the first time I’d actually rode a wave where I could do that many maneuvres on, so I was pretty excited. You know, just excited to be out there, loved the board, so I was in a very nice environment. And then, towards the end of the session I will never forget, taking a wave a little bit longer and further down the beach and getting drifted down the beach to a whole new wave. There was no one surfing on it, I was by myself so I got into the flow moment, which I recognised as a moment in time where nothing could go wrong. All my timing was absolutely perfectly in harmony with the wave, perfectly in harmony with my body movements and my timing and my understanding of what was happening at that time. I couldn’t fall off the board even if I tried. That was a really clear moment, and I can feel it now, I can sense it in my body at this point I’m 53 now so it a long time ago! So yeah, you re looking at 40 years ago I can sort of get that real clear emotional response in my body to that.

It was a really lovely feeling, and I just wanted to stay out there and keep in that space, but obviously you’ve got to come in, you know, it’s getting dark. It could’ve lasted, I can’t remember exactly the length of that time, but that’s because of the nature of surfing. I’m paddling out, looking for waves, feeling what’s the best wave to take, feeling the drop, feeling the move on the wave, and feeling totally in sync with how the wave was moving, the board and how I was moving on the wave. I probably came in and out of the experience through that hour or two, but it was long, elongated, suspended a suspended feeling of flow.

Cameron: Yeah. Describe when you were actually in it and on the wave, what were the highest points?

Tom: Yeah, yeah. I’d noticed clearly that I couldn’t fall off, that I was totally in sync. I could move wherever I wanted to, I knew with a sixth sense that I was able to push it, I was able to push my board to its limit and I could push myself to my limit at that time. There was no separation between me, the board and the wave, it was all connected and it was all kind of one thing, not separated at all; I was linked up. 

The second really clear instance of flow was in competition, a moment at the Pipe Masters in 1991, I had two days of getting into the flow moment during competition. I’d had a big year of competitive experience that year, I was fine-tuned emotionally, physically, and you’d have to say spiritually at the same time. My wife was having our first child and she was full of little Jenna. She’s 23 now by the way and also a ballerina, so she felt the flow [laughs].

In that time at the Pipe Masters I had several moments where I was just doing and not being, or I guess I was being and not doing, I don’t know how to separate that. I was in flow in the moments where my body, the wave, the board nothing was in the way. Everything was in sync, everything was in clear focus and I wasn’t thinking things through, I was just doing it and being it. There was a move that was recorded you know, they call it the snap heard around the world, there was that move that was done in the preliminary round, in the first day of competition, and then I ended up going on to win that event the next day. In the final I scored a 10-point ride, I got a very, very late drop where I couldn’t think about it I was just doing it and I was able to sort myself, sort my body movement, sort everything out without needing to think about it.

 

tom carroll surfing

It was all second nature, it was all sixth sense, and most definitely for me that day I was at the top of my game. So, yeah. They were two really clear examples, but there probably has been hundreds of moments where I’ve felt the flow, and even to the point where I felt it the other day [laughs] here at Margaret River just practicing surfing, just for fun!

Cameron: Obviously the critical elements of surfing, the big wave and the consequences of it hurting when it goes wrong help us to kind of push into that pocket and out of our brain and into that moment where we find flow. Is there anything else that you feel is a big help to kind of plugging into that? Is there anything that you do, maybe not consciously, or maybe preparation that leads up to it the morning of, or just before you’re about to paddle, or when you’re looking at the waves before you head out?

Tom: I think connecting with the breath is probably the biggest thing for me. Connecting with my breath at the deepest level, like right down into the hips, and really push my breath. Being aware of my breath and doing a number of breaths very, very consciously brings me further into my body, and that’s where I need to be. Quite often my scattered and very short attention span takes me out of my body, so coming back into my body is grounding. One particular exercise I used to do whilst competing was a chant, that where I used to say the four Ps which was power, precision, performance, perfect.

Cameron: A mantra.

Tom: A mantra yeah! Whilst I was paddling, each paddle I’d say “power, precision, performance, perfect” so my mind would remain focused on what was coming up next for me on the wave. On the wave everything sorted out because I’ve got to respond, I can’t think, the wave always draws me to the present. I don’t have time because mother nature ain’t going to wait for me. [laughs] She’s not going to wait, so what I’ve got to do is respond to her so that everything is sorted out for me once I’m standing up on the wave, as long as I’m out of the way. I’d learnt that working with a mantra helped a lot in bringing myself to the moment and keeping myself focused and not attending to distractions like drifting off on to what the other competitor’s doing, what the scores were, I mean, I need to know what the scores were, but that’s secondary to my performance really.

I’m the only one on the wave, I’m the only one on my board, and I need to be connected to that. I don’t sort of seek constantly and consciously to always be in the flow, I wouldn’t say that’s my main aim, I would say that I do look for it for competitive excellence, but it’s not something that I always, always go for. I do allow myself space to be, you know, just to be allowing my brain to move and be elastic, because I think that’s absolutely crucial for flow.

Cameron: How do you think flow can help other people?

Tom: I think it helps anyone just to be present in what they’re doing, it’s pretty much another kind of meditative state that we get to where our body and mind and attention is really placed upon the most important thing- the right now. We seek to pay attention and be a lot more present in our basic everyday task, whether it’d be doing the washing-up [laughs], whether it’d be opening the car door, being more present in our relationships, being more present in our life in general. I think it’ll help us become more able to make clearer decisions and actually help ourselves and others at the same time. It has such a multiple sort of faceted kind of plus to our lives when we get more present. This has been my experience and it helped me a lot.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Tom Carroll for his time and words on flow and look forward to hearing his experiences and wisdom on flow in the future. Thanks to you also for reading this post, we hope you enjoyed it!

 

 

Aucamthor: Cameron Norsworthy – Performance Director

 

Flow, happiness and the future of positive psychology

Flow, happiness and the future of positive psychology

Articles To Inspire Flow Performance Skills Quotes Videos

Martin Seligman, one of the founders of the positive psychology movement, recently gave an important TED talk (which can be viewed below). In his overview of what humans require in order to attain more life satisfaction, Seligman outlined how flow is a major part of the Holy Grail.

The talk starts by explaining the successes of traditional psychology. Psychology was originally born out of the disease-led model and existed to find solutions to mental illnesses that were rife in society. It has succeeded to date by successfully treating fourteen disorders and curing two. More importantly it has provided a scientific approach towards understanding mental illness.

We have been able to measure previously fuzzy concepts such as depression, alcoholism and schizophrenia, and learned about the various causalities. We have also been able to invent and test treatments, and have successfully been able to make miserable people, less miserable, as Seligman puts it.

However, one of the main failures has been the focus on making the average person happier or improving normal lives. This traditional approach to psychology has not found out how to nurture talent or which positive interventions are more successful than others.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 10.02.33 am

Positive psychology has taken giant strides in the last decade towards rectifying this issue. Interestingly it has found that the happiest people are not those that have more money, a religious affinity or a more comfortable life. But there is one significant correlational result; “the happiest people are those that are social. Each of them is in a romantic relationship and each has a rich repertoire of friends,” says Seligman.

Happiness is also a vague concept that has been used and abused over the years, and is often very misleading. As a result, happiness has been defined into three types of lives:

Firstly is the pleasurable life, which is attained by creating pleasure and as many positive emotions as possible. This is the type of life Hollywood sells, as do the many marketing campaigns that so readily litter our environments. Although these positive emotions are pleasurable they are very habitual; meaning that “it’s all like French vanilla ice cream, the first taste is a 100%; by the time you’re down to the sixth taste, it’s gone” as Seligman puts it. He goes on to say that the pleasurable life is not very malleable and heritable.

The second life is a good life. Now listen up, because this is where flow comes in. This life is about engagement, total absorption in what we are doing. It is void of positive emotion, as time stops and we become connected with the task at hand. To attain this lifestyle we must identify our signature strengths and re-craft our life to use these strengths in our work, love and play. Interestingly, people who experience these flow moments that make up the good life are not consumed by positive emotion that the many marketing campaigns will desire us to search for.

Lastly is the meaningful life where we use our strengths for something bigger than ourselves. These altruistic actions leave a lasting level of happiness way past the actual event.

Seligman goes on to say that to understand life satisfaction we have studied these three types of lives: “And we’ve done this in fifteen replications involving thousands of people – to what extent does the pursuit of pleasure, the pursuit of positive emotion, the pleasant life, the pursuit of engagement, stops time for you? How does the pursuit of meaning contribute to life satisfaction?…. Our results surprised us, but they were backward of what we thought. It turns out the pursuit of pleasure has almost no contribution to life satisfaction. The pursuit of meaning is the strongest. The pursuit of engagement is also very strong. Where pleasure matters is if you have both engagement and you have meaning, then pleasure is the whipped cream and the cherry. Which is to say, the ‘full life,’  the sum is greater than the parts, if you’ve got all three. Conversely, if you have none of the three, the ’empty life,’ the sum is less than the parts.” He goes on to say that life satisfaction is more significantly found through finding flow and meaning in what we are doing.

So to attempt to summarise a 20-minute talk into a sentence and relate it to us flow seekers out there: Keep going. Keep searching for flow in everything we do and along the way find our own meaning to what we are doing. If we can experience flow for a meaningful purpose, then we are on the road to the Holy Grail of happiness.

 

 

Flow Interview – Andrew McBride – performance coach

Flow Interview – Andrew McBride – performance coach

Articles To Inspire Flow Performance Skills Sports Tips and Training Videos

Andrew is a performance coach currently working in New Zealand at the U21 Football World Cup. He kindly agreed to an interview with The Flow Centre so we could pick his brains about how he helps top athletes to plug into flow and peak performance.

Cameron: What does flow mean to you?

Andrew: Flow is a skill itself. It is a state that we can train for and experience in our everyday lives. When we think about flow as a unique mental state, that is not combined with notions of luck or some illusive magic space that finds us at random, we can then empower ourselves to find flow frequently in our lives. If you want to find flow in your performance, practise it in training, but we also need to practice under pressure.

Cameron: Your words echo one of The Flow Centre’s core messages; if we want to experience flow, then we need to train for it. What was the philosophy of your company Brain Builder?

Andrew: Living above the line everyday, day in and day out. We need to adopt a ruthless mindset to succeed and leave nothing to the ‘too hard basket.’ It is a phrase that we can use to instantly assess how we are doing at any given situation are we above the line. We must replicate the performance environment in our training and life as a whole. Performing at a high level is not a magic switch that we turn on and off, preparation is key, you have to guarantee you are doing the best you can in everything you do. We have to be above the line on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, not just on game day.

Cameron: What is one of the primary issues for athletes?

Andrew: Performing under pressure. Pressure is a concept and it is different for everyone, when you put your whole self into the performance, and approach pressure with our competitive fire never give up attitude the pressure reduces. It’s very hard to make it as a professional so if we are not willing to make our bed in the morning how can we expect to make it in professional sport?

Cameron: Do you think finding flow is available to access for everybody?

Andrew: If you put yourself above the line you will be amazed how many flow opportunities become available. It is absurd to think flow is reserved for the elite few, I see students enter flow everyday. Flow is not a magic tablet, it takes practice but we can experience it multiple times a day.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 5.41.57 pm

Cameron: What do you think is the key to maintaining one of Csikszentmihalyi key principles of flow: intrinsic motivation?

Andrew: Play and fun are the key to maintaining intrinsic motivation. You can’t find flow in something you don’t enjoy.

Cameron: How can we practically experience flow more frequently in our lives?

Andrew: Control our breathing. If we can take a moment to invest ten seconds to control our breathing and really focus on that, we can control our thoughts a lot better. My second piece of advice is to detach from the situation. Understand whether the pressure is situational pressure or pressure from within. Once we understand the situation better we can gain clarity and control.

Cameron: What is the difference between good/ the best performers and great performers?

Andrew: In a one word answer: mindset. For me, this means an unshakeable self-belief. No matter how the odds are stacked up against us the greats have a never give up attitude. The greats always find a way because they have an unshakeable self-belief. Willingness to put yourself out of the comfort zone and not be afraid of failure builds layers of self-belief.

We would like to thank Andrew for his time and thoughts on flow and peak performance. If you would like to find out more about Andrew, then please get in contact and we will connect the dots, or you can find him on Twitter: @mcbride_andy

Thank you also for reading this post, stay tuned as we interview more extraordinary people on how they find and utilise flow in their area of expertise.

 

 

 

Aucamthor: Cameron Norsworthy – Performance Director

 

Flow and Learning   When It All Comes Together

Flow and Learning When It All Comes Together

Flow Music Performance Skills Sports Tips and Training

 

The beauty of learning a new skill exists in bringing it all together. There is an almost tangible threshold after which you can suddenly feel your mind expanding and integrating your new skill in a profound way. This is part of the path to mastery and a definite access point to flow.

The process described here is known as chunking . Without being too tangential or abstract about this concept, let me give you an example: To learn a new skill you start with the basic motor patterns. You slowly execute and rehearse these patterns of behaviour day by day until you get proficient at it. That action gets locked in the subconscious as motor memory.

This pattern gets chunked in your brain and accessed as a block of information which is a whole rather than split into its sub-components. When learning to play guitar for example, initially we consciously place each finger on the correct fret in order to play a chord. Slowly as we rehearse placing our fingers in the correct location, it becomes automatic – part of our motor memory. When first learning chord A, we would place all our fingers in the correct position, then strum the chord. It takes a whole lot of brainpower to accomplish this, until slowly it becomes integrated into our subconscious and chunked in to our brain so that whenever we see it coming up on a piece of music our fingers automatically arrange themselves in the correct pattern.

What is fascinating about chunking is that initially complex tasks actually get packaged in a form that is much easier for the brain to handle. The result is less energy expenditure for higher-level tasks. Chunks can exist in multiple hierarchies. The next chunk for guitar playing could be playing a chord pattern that becomes automatic after rehearsing it a number of times. For example, musicians play chords A, D, E, A in order without having to think about the minutiae of the chord changes.

flow learning

The ultimate experience and gateway to flow occurs when we transcend the motor components of our skills and get into higher-level thinking. We are able to think of the strategy, enjoy the moment and get a greater view of our surroundings if we are on stage we are not thinking about how to play the chords or the song structure.

Instead the experience becomes about engaging with the crowd, feeling the music and communicating with the other band members. Jazz music is a perfect example of this as musicians subconsciously communicate with the band members allowing the improvised patterns to find their own flow. Transitioning from one solo into another becomes an effortless task. Good jazz groups seem highly connected as if they are playing as one. In jazz this is known as being in the pocket . Scientifically, we call this flow. The greater the challenge and intensity of this experience the deeper the flow experience for these musicians.

In kitesurfing, this happened to me when I finally mastered the kite and board combo to the point where I no longer had to think about it in detail. I was then able to take a meta-viewpoint on the situation. Suddenly I was able to enjoy the wind in my face, the view of the ocean and take charge of the direction of travel. It became a whole new experience. Once you stop having to Think and you are able to just Do, it is possible to let go and naturally flow will occur.

The bottom line is that there are many layers to learning and mastering a skill. It starts with the basic parts and slowly things integrate into chunks of information, to the point where you are finally able to transcend the skill itself and enjoy the activity on a whole new level. Flow comes naturally to those who forget about the How because the conscious thinking part of your brain switches off as you take your skill to the next stage. Keep persisting through the challenging stages when learning a new skill as the real fruits of your labour lie further down the path to mastery.

 

joos-small Aucamthor: Dr Joos Meyer – Flow Seeker
Editor: Cameron Norsworthy – Performance Director

 

 

Whiplash – How To Reach Perfection

Whiplash – How To Reach Perfection

Music Performance Skills Stories Tips and Training

After watching a fantastic film called ‘Whiplash’ I feel almost obliged to inflame a topic that is wide open for debate in many modern day performance arenas. How do we push people beyond their limits?

The film brilliantly depicts the relationship between an ambitious student jazz musician and an abusive, yet highly respected instructor. The student, Teller, is seeking to be more than just a great drummer, but ‘one of the greats’. His teacher, Simmons, equally is only looking to shape and mould the next musical genius. Simmons methods of coaching are outrageous and would send most psychologists into red alert, as his abusive conduct produces heart-broken and dysfunctional teenagers.

His position as Head of Music for the most prestigious school in the country is undoubtedly the reason these students remain in his class despite being physically, mentally and emotional abused in the hope that one day they will graduate as a name to remember. Teller’s remarkable talent is questionably furthered by Simmons who pushes him to his limits and in the process opens up much food for thought and topics for debate surrounding performance.

 

perfect

 

His methods of gutting their confidence, and putting their heads under the guillotine every time they play installs a fear induced motivation that ironically leaves the musicians driven to train harder and faster than they have before. Simmons uses his power to great effect and yields nothing but exceptional results, yet causes the musicians a life of discontent, isolation, and madness. Simmons power-plays back Teller into a corner where he is either forced to perform or crack. Teller like most of us does both over time but at the end his anguish and determination ignites a mind-blowing peak performance just when he needs it most.

The story is fitting with much of the training that we associate happening decades ago and is still publicly rife in places like China, as they arguably abuse young athletes until they reach a level of perfection. The obvious commentary is that these methods are not only inhumane but also unsustainable – the performers are the ones who have to live inside their twisted minds and bodies long after the lights go out.

This approach leaves behind many broken minds and bodies that given alternative training may have blossomed into something quite unique and amazing. However, Simmons argues the point in the film, that anything else will simply not produce the next genius that will be remembered for generations. This strategy of work harder, faster, until you drop, at a lesser extent is undoubtedly a typical go to response for most coaches, even today. I see it on tennis courts, in fitness instructors, and corporations reminiscing a hangover from World War II that never went away. Although coaches have adopted the social norms and limits that counteract these extreme teachings the underpinning philosophy still bubbles underneath the surface – I see fear installed in many students and workers all around me.

As performers or coaches it forces us to answer the question: How do we go about pushing our limits and of those around us? Do we use fear as a motivator, which always seems to get short-term results but continuously fails to generate lasting desire. Telling ourselves to pull our socks up and do better for the fear of looking like a fool or being somehow belittled is no doubt one of our go-to strategies. One that many of us have been brought up with and use on a day-to-day basis. If we are to not use this strategy, and change a lifetime of conditioning, then what do we use?

With flow as our central ethos there is another method, one that produces self-generated motivation, fulfilled performers and doesn’t reduce the bar of excellence that is needed to be ‘one of the greats’. When our focus is 100% committed on being the best version of ourselves, do we expect anything less than hard work, determination and resilience? Absolutely not. If we do then I would question whether we are seeking flow or an excuse to go easy on ourselves.

Being in an intense state of flow requires our mind and body to be completely congruent. That means every fabric of our body being aligned to achieve the same goal. In this space there is no room for conflict, fear or separation, instead we are completely immersed and at one with the task at hand. To attain this state repeatedly, it would seem logical we need to have our minds and body congruently primed in our training and life as a whole. If otherwise, these conflicts no matter how small will act like splinters, which will undoubtedly lead to cracks in the system and when the pressure mounts most likely cause us to crumble.

We can reach flow through fear or hatred by erupting to a point where we snap and either find our true magnificence or a road to destruction. This snapping point tips us into a place where we transcend out of our body and into the zone that is ironically free from fear and anger. The fear can increase our arousal to a point where we are forced to plug into the moment and let go or be crippled by it and fight, fly or freeze. Although this strategy is possible, dare I say, still commonplace, an alternative more sustainable, fun, and contagious option is readily available flow.

 

 

Aucamthor: Cameron Norsworthy – Performance Director

 

Flow and the Success of Entrepreneurs / Executives

Flow and the Success of Entrepreneurs / Executives

Flow Performance Skills Tips and Training

Arguably, one of the most attractive features of working as an entrepreneur is the freedom that comes with it. The ability to choose your own schedule, work as much or as little as you like, and make your own decisions can result in amazing output or lead to disaster depending on the individual approach. One of the most important elements in how this freedom is used appears to be productivity.

In the entrepreneurial world, efficient time management and the ability to delegate or collaborate is well documented to yield great effects. There are countless productivity hacks, and tools to help you organise every second of your day. Yet there is an important element missing in all of this. What do you do in the actual moment you are supposed to be productive? It all planned out, the calendar is set up, the to-do list notifies you what needs to be done. But in the moment of execution, are you being as productive as you could be? Is your actual output in the moment at it full potential? In addition, as an entrepreneur we constantly face curve balls almost daily, which make our previously well organised plans redundant what happens then? And how can we make the most of our time in these situations? business

How we perform during these periods is critical. Thankfully, for all entrepreneurs listening there is a way for us to maximise our potential for success through the improved productivity that comes with flow. Flow, is a concept that can provide some of the answers. Hungarian professor of Psychology Mihali Csikszentmihalyi initially described the notion of flow in his seminal work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, where he describes it as a state of complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation, a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. Since his initial description and exploration in the 1970 , flow has been utilised in elite sports and in the offices of top executives alike due to the profound effects it has on performance. A 10-year McKinsey and Co. study on flow and productivity found top executives 500 % more productive when in flow. Let just take a moment ..that is five times more productive. Meaning if we worked all day in flow on Monday we could take the rest of the week off. Any takers?

Being in a flow state or ÔÇ£in the zoneÔÇØ allows for deep concentration and ultimate immersion in the task at hand. This allows for complete attention on a subject and maximises productivity and output in a given time frame. This is important for the entrepreneur or CEO who must not only manage what they do with their time, but also maximise the benefit of the actual time allocated to various tasks.

Time management is about prioritisation and what you do when. But flow is about the how you do what you do. Using flow in your day-to-day means devoting 100% of yourself to the task at hand. Flow is about doing one thing, doing it undistracted, and doing it well.

Productivity is not only vital for the individual but for teams, and entire organisations. In Forbes magazine, James Slavet of Venture Firm Greylock Partners suggests a new metric to measure a great start-up team. He calls it the Flow State Percentage , which is the proportion of the day employees are in flow as a measure of performance. He argues that every team comprises of jobs that require a lot of brain power and that our current work scenarios are not providing the optimal platform to maximise efficiency and output. Ideally 30-50% of a productive day should be spent interrupted. Things such as emails, phones, meetings, colleagues all snap us out of flow when we are really starting to get things done. Studies show that getting back into flow once interrupted takes 15-20 minutes, if possible at all. James Slavet challenges us to measure this in our teams. How much time is spent interrupted and in flow in a day? Divide this by the number of work hours and this is your flow state percentage.

So, how do we minimise distractions when you are in productivity mode? John Reed, the former CEO of Citigroup kept his office door closed from 7am to 10am every day, refusing to take any calls or visits until he opened his door. Follow Reeds lead and get creative. Set up your working environment for yourself and your team to achieve maximum output and flow. Look to find flow on a daily basis or get a flow coach. The difference between finding flow frequently or not whilst working, not only is the difference that makes the difference to success, but also makes the job a whole lot more fun.

 

 

joos-small Aucamthor: Dr Joos Meyer – Flow Seeker
Editor: Cameron Norsworthy – Performance Director

 

Gradually Becoming Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Gradually Becoming Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Flow Performance Skills Sports

An important factor to enabling flow is being at ease in your environment. You need to be comfortable and relaxed. Though practice, it is possible to gradually get comfortable with the uncomfortable, allowing you to transcend fear and access flow when it counts the most.

Consider your comfort zone as a series of well demarcated circles around you like a target with you in the centre. As you push your boundaries ever so slightly, and step over the outer lines of the circles, you expand the circles diameter as a representation of growing the realm of what you are comfortable with. Pushing comfort zones brings things you once thought to be uncomfortable into your accepted reality. They allow us to stretch our boundaries and give rise to a new capacity that we have previously only dreamed of.

Let take surfing as an example. Many people start by surfing smaller waves in a safe environment. As they become comfortable with these waves they might drop into something a little bit bigger. As they keep testing the limits of what is comfortable, they integrate the experience of the larger waves into their normality. Before long they are surfing head high waves that they once looked upon with awe. It possible to keep surfing bigger and biggesurfingr waves, as they too get integrated in to what is considered normal. These continuing sequence of consistently pushing the bar and taking the challenge to the next level is the reason why adventure sports has been such a focus point for peak performance in this last decade. Each time they upgrade and widen the circle there is an element of fear to be overcome. It’s a fear of the unknown; a variety of manifested feelings derived from a multitude of what if scenarios.

These fears are no more real than an oasis in the desert. When we apply the flow elements and maintain an honest reality of the situation we see the desert for what it is; we see the situation without the fear it once ignited. When we keep it real and acknowledge that any uncomfortableness is simply a resistance to learning, or for some accepting that we are already more capable than we would like to think, we free our minds of the anxiety and fearful thoughts that would normally have us turning back. When we become comfortable with being uncomfortable, our perspective changes and we stop thinking and start doing. It is in this mental space that we find the release valve during this struggle and plug in to flow. As long as our skills have been adequately trained, this uncomfortableness is actually the perfect prequel to finding flow.

By regularly pushing the outer circles of our comfort zones, this feeling of unfamiliarity is something we get used to. If we are to strive for excellence, it is only a matter of time before we become uncomfortable, at which point it is essential we become at ease in this environment and enable flow to occur.

So, in practical terms, regularly do things that are out of your comfort zone. Learn to become comfortable with the uncomfortable, and learn to access flow when it counts the most.

 

joos-small Aucamthor: Dr Joos Meyer – Flow Seeker
Editor: Cameron Norsworthy – Performance Director

 

When Did You Stop Being in Flow?

When Did You Stop Being in Flow?

Flow Performance Skills Stories

An artist was once asked in an interview, ÔÇ£when did you start drawing?ÔÇØ He responded: ÔÇ£That’s not really the right question, the real question is, when did you stop drawing?ÔÇØ We all drew pictures as children and expressed ourselves creatively in one way or another. At some point however, many of us stopped. But why?

This sketch is a great analogy to our ability to access flow. Believe it or not, kids are in a small state of flow when they are drawing. They are in the moment, immersed in the task at hand, completely uninhibited and fully expressive of who they are at that particular moment. So when asked, ÔÇ£when did you start accessing flow?ÔÇØ, the real question is, ÔÇ£when did you stop?ÔÇØ

As we grow up and are influenced and shaped by our differing life stories, there is often a common thread. Many people loose the ability to let go and just be in the moment in flow. What causes this? Underlying most of the obvious answers are a series of mental constructs that end up acting as barriers to flow.

The same reasons that caused you to stop drawing are quite possibly the same barriers stopping you from accessing flow. Perhaps at some point you thought you weren t good at it. Something or someone projected that being good at something is important. Perhaps it became evident that you could not make a living off drawing. The reasons for your enjoyment might have become tied up in a multitude of factors other than the enjoyment itself. It is different for everyone, but at some stage we create a mental construct (belief/value/mindset) that prevents us from playing for the sake of playing we tell ourselves to get on with the real world . play

When we were drawing as kids we were not seeking outcomes, results, or comparing ourselves to others, We were not seeking validation, trying to impress, trying to be good, labelling the action, or assigning value to our work. We drew or played for the sake of playing because we enjoyed the process. This enjoyment of the process and outcome independence is vital in flow.

Being in flow doesn’t magically make you an expert in your arena. Yes we can learn faster in flow, but it’s the rehearsal and work that goes into your practice that ultimately determines our skill level. Being in flow does however, provide the platform for the ultimate expression of your skill or task. The state of mind of the child drawing, where nothing but the experience of the moment matters, is the same for an athlete about to break a world record. The difference is their life experience up until that point, and the practice and training that has gone into their work. Should this child keep exploring drawing in this free, uninhibited way, there is no reason why they couldn’t produce amazing works of art in the future. But what usually happens? External factors get in the way. The child is often forced to question what they do and frame it in the context of what society values: socially defined outcomes, validation, skill, and monetisation.

So what does this mean for your own flow? Try to identify your own mental barriers. Do you still draw? Why not? Answering these questions could give you an indication of some of the barriers that exist for you. Think of the reasons that you are doing something. If you surf, it likely you do it for the love of the sport and not much else. It just so enjoyable that you just do it for the sake of doing it. It this attitude that can help you get into flow. You can do this when giving a presentation at work, or studying for an exam. You just have to remove all the other reasons you might be doing it, which are acting as mental barriers, and focus on the one. Find a reason to enjoy it. There always at least one.

 

joos-small Aucamthor: Dr Joos Meyer – Flow Seeker
Editor: Cameron Norsworthy – Performance Director

The Correlation Between High Stakes and Flow   The Importance of Challenging Yourself

The Correlation Between High Stakes and Flow The Importance of Challenging Yourself

Flow Performance Skills Sports

If everyday life was always easy, we would regress as human beings. We are all driven by the challenges in our lives as well as the great challenges of the world. We are problem solvers and thinkers and the obstacles we overcome are part of what makes us feel alive.

In today’s society it is easy to get swept away by the current of day-to-day life. It is now possible to sit around and literally do nothing all day, and there would be minimal consequences. Some might argue that this is a positive step in humanity as we can now afford the luxury of minimising our energy expenditure and just enjoy the stimulation that is provided to us by mass media and consumerism.

For me this is not living. Living requires energy expenditure. Living requires us to get up and do something with our days. My proposition in this article is that humanity has reached a point where we must now actively choose to challenge ourselves. It is time to choose: live a marooned life within the bubble of your comfort zone, or embrace the plethora of challenges that are readily available.

The times of greatest expansion and growth occur in us during the times we are pushed beyond our physical and mental comfort zones, outside the bounds of every day life and beyond what is in our views of normality. These are the times we gain new insights of what is possible and expand our views of what the world is.

Creating challenge in your life involves creating high stakes. This means there is some sort of outcome, purpose or reason attached to what you are doing. For example you might enter a running race, competitive sport, or give a presentation at work. All of these activities have the potential to push you out of your comfort zone because of the high stakes. By increasing the stakes, you are creating a reason to push your limits.

As you enter these uncharted waters outside of your comfort zone, your mind is forced to engage. There is no option but to be present as you are snapped out of the autopilot nature of day-to-day life – here lies another avenue into the flow state.

For example, you might be training for a marathon. The intensity you bring to the training sessions will far outstrip the energy you would bring if you were just jogging with a friend. By having the difficult goal in your life creates high stakes that urges you to commit, engage, and be forced in to the present it is in this space that flow can be accessed.

This is one of many ways to tap into flow. For those with a competitive nature, try creating high stakes in the areas of your life that you are working on. Maybe it your fitness, maybe it your work, maybe it your sense of adventure. For those who dread the idea of doing something uncomfortable, remember it not about grand gestures. It is about slowly learning to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Just try one small thing each week that might push the boundaries ever so slightly. Before you know it, you ll be addicted to the sense of life it gives you.

 

 

joos-small Aucamthor: Dr Joos Meyer – Flow Seeker
Editor: Cameron Norsworthy – Performance Director

Should We Always Be in Flow?

Should We Always Be in Flow?

Flow Performance Skills Sports Tips and Training

Flow is a place where external and internal elements align to create a state of peak performance. Purely by definition it is impossible to always be in flow.

For some, flow is an elusive state of being that they may have experienced once in their lifetime. It all happened so fast, was so blissful and almost indescribable in nature. And somehow it has been impossible to get back into. Often in these cases, it was pure luck that the necessary ingredients were available to create a flow state in that person. So in some ways you could argue that on a population level, flow is a statistically rare event. But it not to say that we can t be in flow more often using the concepts applied through The Flow Centre.

Everyone goes through cycles of expansion and contraction. Taking a close look at your day I m sure you can pinpoint the times you are the most alert, most active, and most productive. You could also pinpoint the times you feel more relaxed and calm. The same cycles appear on a weekly level where you might feel different on a Monday compared to a Friday. Now consider the seasonal changes in your state of mind. Winter is different from summer. These are all part and parcel of the normal ebbs and flows of life. Hence it not a reality to expect flow all the time, but we can definitely increase our chances by creating the most optimal platform during those times our mind naturally expands.

Using concepts from The Flow Centre it is possible to do two things. First is to increase the number of opportunities to access flow by creating the conditions to cultivate it. The second is to maximise the number of times we enter flow by seizing these opportunities when they present themselves.

So do we always want to be in flow?

As a flow seeker and a person who also seeks balance in life, for me personally the answer is no. For me, flow is an amazing state of being that is a very important component to a fulfilling life. It is these peak experience, which give life purpose and meaning. But at the same time I value and understand the importance of down time.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 2.19.43 pm

We all need time to recharge, centre, and collect our energy. In fact this is a huge component to creating the foundations of flow. If our minds and bodies are constantly drained of energy, how could we expect to enter peak performance states? Part of the balance is to nurture important parts of life including relationships, physical health, emotional health, career and personal goals. This takes down time. It ok to cycle through periods of contraction. Often it important to let nature take its course and allow the process to happen. Consider these times as the foundations for your next expansion, which you can use as a launching pad to get more flow down the line.

 

In summary, getting caught up and anxious that we might not be feeling 100% all the time is counter productive. Expand, contract, and join us at The Flow Centre to get more flow in your life.

 

 

joos-small Aucamthor: Dr Joos Meyer – Flow Seeker
Editor: Cameron Norsworthy – Performance Director

 

Extreme Exercise and Flow   Stop Thinking and Plug into the Moment.

Extreme Exercise and Flow Stop Thinking and Plug into the Moment.

Flow Performance Skills Sports Tips and Training

Tapping into flow is addictive. Thousands of people around the world are hunting it down day-after-day without even understanding what they are searching for. This is part of the reason The Flow Centre exists: to explore the different ways people tap into flow and use this to generate the body of knowledge to allow anyone anywhere to access its power. This article is about extreme exercise and how this can be an entry point into flow.

Not everyone has accessed flow through exercise before. It definitely not easy and takes both physical and mental training to achieve. Flow in athletics is commonly referred to as the zone or peak performance . For events such as marathons, bike races, triathalons and Ironmans, flow is accessed through the extreme stresses put on the body. If you have taken The Flow Centre course you will understand that part of the break down of our mental states is when we engage in fight, flight or freeze responses during pressured scenarios; as opposed to adopting flow. These pressured scenarios and responses we choose to adopt are as applicable in the extreme exercise realm as any.

plank

 

There are a number of mental hurdles that occur as you go through progressively more intense phases of exercise. I ve experienced this myself and have occasionally accessed flow states. The times that I have were absolute bliss, which is part of the reason I am addicted to, and passionate about bringing intensity to sport. Lets go through the barriers that exist before you even get close to achieving flow or the zone though exercise.

 

Fitness first

A huge part of being healthy and active is physical fitness. You hear it every day and know it well. But flow is the next level reason for why you should get fit. Without a baseline level of fitness it will be impossible to traverse beyond the first barrier of exercise and flow. The first barrier is the initial physical discomfort of training. As you train, your brain is getting massive amounts of input. It is continuously processing our experiences in order to make the next decision. Breathing right, moving right, fatigue, muscle soreness are all part of the package of neural input your brain is processing. If it’s new to you, the initial physical discomfort will dominate your mind. All you will be able to think is when is this going to be over , how much more do I have to do , or I want to stop . This is all a normal part of getting into shape. This first barrier is unfortunately where 80% of the population stops. We are evolutionarily wired to take the path of least resistance so it only natural to expect that most people stop here. Hence the constant on and off phases of exercise, diets and fads that people go through.

 

For those who are lucky enough to persist and get past this phase and gain a baseline level of fitness, a multiple or further physical barriers will present themselves. These barriers are where athletes might believe that they are not capable of anything beyond this point. However. these hurdles are actually more mental than physical. The human body is capable of amazing things but mental barriers must be pushed through to achieve them. Each time a new mental barrier presents itself you are faced with a few different options. Fight, flight, freeze or flow. Only through practice and persistence will you be able to choose flow more often; assuming we already have the necessary fitness required to complete the task.

 

After pushing through a number of these fatigue barriers and experiencing a number of second winds your mind becomes more engaged in the moment. Higher centres for conceptualising and planning are no longer important so they are shut off. The priority becomes getting through the current circumstance or event so extreme presence and flow is accessed.

 

Tips to finding your flow in exercise:

  • Look for extreme pressure/intensity in your exercise as a way to plug you into flow
  • Actively choose flow over fight, flight and freeze. Do so using a simple exercises that plugs you into the moment. Focus on your breath.
  • Make sure your fitness is above adequate for the task
  • Look for flow through all your exercises
  • Know your body first, then push your limits. When the body says stop keep going. Do this gradually to avoid injury.

So there you have it. Find your flow through exercise. Push through the barriers and choose flow over flight, fight, or freeze responses though practice and perseverance.

 

joos-small Aucamthor: Dr Joos Meyer – Flow Seeker
Editor: Cameron Norsworthy – Performance Director

 

Flow Training – Rich Environment – Awe

Performance Skills Tips and Training Videos

We know that experiencing a rich environment is one of the primary triggers to flow, so for those that are not in the wilderness or experiencing awe form your surroundings, then here is a video to help you get there from your living room. The more we fill our lives and our minds with these almost shocking environments, the more we allow flow to enter our lives, so watch it as often as you can! Make sure your sound is on, and activate full-screen HD for the full experience.

 

This magical short was filmed over the course of seven days at El Teide, Spain highest mountain. It is a famous location and renowned as one of the best places in the world to film the stars and see our beautiful skyline. BIG RESPECT and THANKS!

 

Flow, Time, Now

Flow, Time, Now

Performance Skills

 

Many athletes describe the experience of flow as if time just stopped, they were out of their mind, and there was no concept of doubt only implicit trust and absolute confidence. Understanding time is key to allowing states of flow to occur.

The reality is time is a human concept that doesn’t exist except in our minds. It is a convention that us humans adhere to in order to make sense of this world, and manage our lives.
The universe has no real concept of time. Astronomical theories even believe black holes hold different parallels of time, a ship could spend one day in a black hole and come back to our galaxy only to find hundreds of years have passed. Clearly time is a matter of perspective, that we barely understand.

Even amongst our race we have measured time differently; for example the Chinese use a different annual calendar from ‘western’ calendars. As an individual our perception of time differs when we are a child when every hour seems endless, to when we are aged and weeks seem to fly by. Time flies by when we are having fun in the moment, but seems to last forever when we are watching the clock utterly bored. So time really only exists in our heads and in the apparatus we have created to measure it. Yet we have become obsessed with it. We plan our days by it, carry it around on our wrists, and get a sense of comfort and order from it.

Our conscious minds revel in the realms of time. Time has become a fuel for conscious thought. Our conscious mind lives in the past and future and struggles to exist in the now. If we take time to examine our thoughts we will find that most strings of thought can be connected to future projections or past experiences. It is very rare that we find ourselves simply enjoying the present, with no attachment to past experiences or future concerns or agendas. This obsession with living in our minds swinging to and from the past/future is one of the main culprits that hinders our states of flow.
Planning, reminiscing, and projecting are all symptoms of conscious thought, taking us away from the now. When we take our awareness into the future or past we create anxiety, doubt, worry, taking us further away from the resolute trust so apparent in flow. The future and past create a place for our fears to exist and survive. It empowers our fears to thrive and become real, taking us ever further away from our flow.

Understanding that the past and future only exist in our minds and time is a man made concept that we invented, helps us to understand that we are actually always living in the present, albeit not in our minds. Our body is a great reminder of this, although we can spend most of our waking hours in our own thoughts, the body lives and deals with what is now.
The subconscious manages and coordinates the body at an incredible speed. Every second the subconscious directs our blood flow, manages our neural messaging, processes our conscious thoughts, and a whole lot more in incredible efficiency and synchronicity. Considering our conscious mind struggles to process a handful of thoughts whilst our subconscious manages hundreds of highly complicated tasks effortlessly, I’m always amazed why we spend so much time letting our conscious minds pre-occupy our being. Although for the majority of our lives we are enslaved by our conscious mind our body is a constant reminder that a greater intelligence and processing already exists inside us, and only deals in the now. The body lives in the now and realises that there is nothing but the now. Our understanding that time is an illusion and is in fact very limiting, allows us to let go of our obsession with time and realise our natural state is actually congruent with flow. Which beckons the question, how come we don’t allow ourselves to be in the now and in flow more often?

Understanding what the now is, is often easier by understanding what it is not. Imagine (or do it) drawing a timeline down on a huge piece of paper, with our birth at one end and our death at the other. Now put a mark down on the time line where we are right now, reading this book, this second. Now as we take our awareness away from this book and in to our day, our week, and our thoughts that go through our brain on any given day. As a thought arises put it down on the timeline. Establish to what time period this thought is associated to. If it is 5 seconds in the past put it down just behind the marker of now. Are we thinking about something we should do later, or something that happened this morning? Keep doing this emptying the mind of your thoughts. When we have no thoughts left or at least 10-20 thoughts down on the paper, lets take a look at where they are on the timeline. If your like most of us humans, we can see very few, if any, of the thoughts we put down are actually in the now, in this second. So the now is not our thoughts, as they are directly or indirectly connected to time. Being in the now is being present with our awareness and senses to what is happening, without mind.

 

For more info please get in touch or purchase our book on flow.