What if I told you there was a short-cut to accessing your maximum potential? Something that could turn Clark Kent into Superman. Moreover, that this ability resides inside each and every one of us. You may have experienced it occasionally throughout your life and not given it much thought but enjoyed the experience.
Perhaps, you’ve gotten lost in a great conversation and lost track of time for several hours. Maybe, it was an exceptional performance in which you exceeded what you and others believed what you were capable of. Things were effortless, creatively flowed easily, and self-consciousness disappeared. Separation between you and what you were doing vanished.
The key is "flow"
What I am referring to is what is known as “flow”. Athletes refer to it as being in ‘the zone’: “I couldn’t miss or fail,” they frequently say. Performance goes through the roof. At times, it may be experienced as a sense of unity with everything for spiritual practitioners. An artist my call it Divine inspiration. However it is defined, it seems to come from beyond oneself. This is largely due to the fact that when you are in flow, the brain shuts down the area of the brain that allows you to experience a sense of self. You are totally absorbed in the activity.
Furthermore, it deactivates the brain region that controls impulse and causes self-doubt or self-monitoring. The result of this is a lack of any fear of failure or second guessing, just immediate action in response to an inner voice of self-expression and guidance; there is no time to think, just react. And the reactions are almost always right and effective.
Discovering the conditions for creating flow
Until recently, encountering flow seemed like a gift from the gods that only a select few experienced. However, since the early nineties, psychologist and neuroscientists have been extensively studying the phenomenon and gaining a vast understand of what is actually occurring in the brain. In addition, the have identified the conditions that create flow.
The exciting thing regarding what they have discovered is we are all capable of achieving flow; it is our birthright as human beings. Moreover, it is the key to achieving our peak capacity in all areas of life. Research shows the individuals who are most happy and fulfilled are those who have encountered flow most often.
While there is work involved in creating the environment for flow, gaining access to flow requires letting go; both challenging oneself and trusting oneself are necessary. The conscious mind is the impediment to flow. Fear, anxiety, shame, and self-doubt are the blocks to flow.
Steps to flow
Hacking flow requires overcoming these emotional obstacles, putting in the work to acquire the necessary skills for whatever the task you are attempting to master, challenging yourself to push just beyond your current ability (as little as 4 percent according to research), and letting go and allowing your implicit system, or subconscious, to take over.
Flow is the pinnacle of evolution. It is the next level of what we are truly capable of accomplishing. Innovative companies, such as Google, Apple, and Facebook, or working with those like myself to create environments and conditions to assist their employees in accessing flow states. They understand that a person in flow can not only generate unbelievable levels of creativity, but is also five times as productive.
Although flow was first identified and studied with athletes, it has a profound impact on performance in every field of endeavor from CEO’s to musicians to teachers. Research on peak performance shows every time someone achieved their peak level, they were in flow. If you are in pursuit of the maximum you are capable of, flow is a must.
The ultimate hack to human performance
The leading practitioners of flow are extreme and adventure athletes. There has been more advancement in this field in a shorter amount of time than any other. The reason for this is flow. “For these athletes,” says Steven Kotler in his book, The Rise of Superman, “it’s flow or die.” As a result of studying their success, we have learned a great deal about how one enters a flow state. What is encouraging is you don’t have to place yourself in life or death situations to get into flow, but it does require taking risks.
In today’s culture, everyone is looking for an edge to the fast track. Without a doubt, flow is the ultimate hack to human performance. I hope this wets your appetite for learning more about flow. In future articles, I will go deeper into the dynamic effect flow has on the brain and the body, as well as how to create the necessary conditions from within and without for experiencing flow.
John Hawkins Jr., M.S., L.M.H.C.
John has helped thousands of clients overcome the hidden internal blocks which had kept them from achieving their maximum potential. Furthermore, he has assisted them in gaining clarity of their true life purpose, identifying their gifts and talents, and developing lives of greater meaning and significance.