You've likely had those moments in time when you felt completely lost in your work. These were those moments when you didn't even feel like you were working. Everything just flowed from you without conscious thought of the effort it took to do it.
This is what we call a flow state and it's something anyone working at an elite level has achieved, whether you're an athlete, entrepreneur, high-level executive or anyone else driven to perform at their very highest level.
“It was like I couldn’t miss,” “Everything just came without even thinking about it.” These are the words from anyone who's found themselves in a flow state.
You’ve probably heard comments like these from professional athletes after a legendary performance. In sports, they call it being in “the zone”. Entrepreneurs and other high achievers experience the same thing. But how? What goes into achieving your flow state?
A flow state happens within a peak performance state, not alongside it.
Over the last few decades a considerable amount of research has been conducted on the factors that lead to what is now referred to as a flow or peak performance state. In this podcast episode, we explore what science and research has taught us about achieving our flow state.
Are they random events that are a gift of Divine grace, or are there specific factors that lead to their construction. The research shows the latter. And engaging in these practices consistently can create peak performance and flow experiences with a greater level of consistently.
“The most powerful motivating force is the mastery of a skill or craft.”
Are you focused on the outcome or your mastery?
Ask yourself, are you more focused on the outcome of your work or in the mastery of each task you perform? Most of us are working towards some kind of external reward such as money or recognition, research shows the most powerful motivator the internal rewards we feel. The feeling we get from mastering a skill or craft has proven to be more powerful than any outward reward.
For most of us, even our outward rewards are tied to an internal feeling we hope they will bring for us. We want recognition because it helps give us a feeling of significance. Even monetary rewards bring with them an internal feeling of self worth and importance.
But our greatest reward is always going to come when we feel proud of ourselves for the work we are doing.
The Difference Between Flow State and Peak Performance State
Although the term peak performance and flow states are often used interchangeably, the research showed them as being somewhat different. Flow states were always found to be present within a peak performance state, but being in flow did not guarantee a peak performance state.
In order to understand this distinction more clearly, let me define each of them for you. A peak performance state is one characterized by exceptional functioning where one is able to obtain their maximum potential. A flow state consists of an optimal mental state that involves total absorption in the task or activity, which is described by a sense of self, full focus, complete involvement, a loss of personal ego, and total confidence.
Some of the consistent practices of top performing athletes are:
- Attentional and focus skills
- Daily internal imagery
- Emotion control skills
- Competition stimulation
- Relaxation techniques
- Positive self-talk
- Goal setting
- Commitment to excellence
Athletes and performers who engaged in these activities regularly experienced more consistent flow and peak performance states. This confirms what we suspect, if you practice these things regularly, you are capable of encountering flow states and achieving your maximum potential with a greater level of frequency; you don’t have to wait for lightning to strike.
The Simple Formula to Greatness
No matter what your goals are, regular engagement in the previously mentioned practices can facilitate tapping into your full potential. Furthermore, remain focused on a mastery orientation, rather than external rewards. The simplest formula to greatness is to identify something you love and to put in the necessary time and effort to become great at it. Simply for the sheer feeling that comes with experiencing flow and peak performance states in and of themselves.