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Get To Your Zone: Understanding Flow State and How To Achieve It

Now just think about a time when you were competing and you just had this incredible mental state and you were on top of your game. These moments in the mental performance space are known as "flow states" otherwise known as being in "the zone" It's tough to explain but:

1. Did you feel like the game was coming to you?

2. Did you feel the game more than think it?

3. Did you just let go of everything and find yourself successful and happy?

4. Did you "black out" and not even know what was happening outside of your game?

That's it. That's flow! Now don't you want to feel that state again and probably more often? How do you get that? This highly sought-after state of mind, was first introduced by a Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Me-High Chick-Sent-Me-High).

Woah, woah, woah... Who?!

Trust me once you learn how to pronounce it you can't forget it. His work, much like his name, is extensive and very thorough, but for the sake of time we can clarify his definition of flow state into 9 characteristics:

9 Characteristics of Flow State:

1. Total immersion and focus on the task at hand;

2. Time speeds up or slows down;

3. Clear on goals;

4. Perception of challenge and skills are both high;

5. Feels like effortless effort;

6. Sensation of complete control of the task;

7. Immediate and unambiguous feedback;

8. An autoletic experience (meaningful);

9. Loss of self-consciousness;

Alright I got it. I can remember what that was like. So how do I get there again and more often?

Well it's not easy. If it were then we would all be flying high in most of our competitions:

1. The truth is we only hit this state a handful of times (let's say 10%)

2. The majority of the times we compete we are just below it (let's say 80%)

3. And a handful of times our competitions are just dreadful (let's say 10%)

These percentages are not grounded in data or research because there are so many variables that play a role in how much time you spend in which "zone." However we would like to get to that top zone or "flow state" more often. Here's some advice on how to get there:

1. Don't seek it: The more you seek flow state, the further away it will feel. You need to let flow come to you, release any and all expectations. It is not something you see or think into existence, it is just something you effortlessly feel and welcome.

2. Task focus: Flow state is a consequence of a variables lining up well in your favor including the proper focus. If your focus is on getting to flow state, you're not focusing on the task.

3. Being present: The concept of time is not prevalent in flow state because you are so present, you cannot think about anything else in the past or future. When you are present you can't think you just do. The subconscious takes over and is in the driving seat. Practicing mindfulness exercises and meditation will help you become more familiar with what it is like to be present.

The flow state is a pinnacle of performance that athletes aspire to achieve. By cultivating task focus, present mindfulness, and letting it find us, athletes can increase their likelihood of entering the flow state.

The benefits are far-reaching, impacting performance, satisfaction, and intrinsic motivation. Mental performance consultants and psychologists like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Steven Kotler have provided valuable insights into this extraordinary state of mind, guiding athletes towards unlocking their full potential. By integrating the principles of flow state into their training and mindset, athletes can elevate their performance to new heights and experience the true joy of sports.

If you enjoyed this blog please share with your friends, teammates, coaches, and colleagues.

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For more SPECIFIC information that can pertain to you and your sport, sign up for a consultation and I'd be happy to discuss with you how you can level up your state of flow!

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