The Extraordinary Level Of Focus, Known As FLOW
It’s time, it’s up to you, you’ve got to push yourself to the finish, but for some reason this is not difficult at this particular moment. Instead you feel invincible, on top of the world, nothing can stop your force… As a matter of fact you’ve got that tunnel vision, everything else doesn’t seem to exist… Did time stop too? no it didn’t but it’s definitely in slow motion, everything except YOU! It’s like a snap of the fingers and you’re performing better than ever… People would call this ‘in the zone,’ but it’s called something else… it’s called ‘finding your flow.’
What Is Flow?
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist in the 1970’s introduced this ‘flow’ concept as a state of being totally and blissfully immersed in a task, to the exclusion of just about everything, including one’s self. Flow is focus that happens on an almost sublime level, a place where existence is temporarily suspended. Time Magazine He believed that one can only reach the level of flow if they took joy in the activity… It has to come from a happy place, it has to be a passion! (flow equals happiness!)
The characteristics of flow are:
- Intense and focused concentration on what one is doing in the present moment.
- Merging of action and awareness.
- A sense that one can control one’s actions with a situation because one knows how to respond to whatever comes next.
- Loss of reflective self-consciousness, meaning loss of awareness of oneself as a social actor.
- Distortion of temporal experience (like time passing slow, or feeling like it stopped, OR even passing faster than it actually is!)
- Experience of the activity as a grand reward, not so much the end result.
Our Brain On Flow
So what happens to our brains during the process of Flow? great question! Research at Johns Hopkins studied the brain scans of jazz musicians (Csikszentmihalyi also researched Chess players, rock climbers, dancers, and other artists). What they found was that spontaneous flow was achieved during improvise. What happens to the brain during the flow state is the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex slows down (this is the part of the brain that plans and is our self-monitoring- it keeps us from saying something stupid at the wrong time!) In the meantime the medial prefrontal cortex comes to life, it increases it’s activity (this is the part of the brain that we use to express ourselves). So I guess you can say the state of flow causes our inhibitions to drop and our creativity to sky-rocket, our motions become close to subconscious levels… And on top of that our ‘feel good’ neurochemicals, such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, are released, causing us to feel awesome!
In the 1980’s a group of Italian researchers described flow as finding the sweet spot between high challenge and high skill, there inlays your state of flow. An activity that is too challenging causes anxiety or an activity too easy causes boredom. And if you think you can practice finding the sweet spot, your flow, think again… it is near to impossible… the elites themselves have experienced flow only 10% of the time over their lifespan.
Flow can not be willed or demanded. The best possible way to achieve ‘FLOW’ is to do what you love and in turn flow will find YOU!
Take care readers!
And anyone who can pronounce the psychologist name (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) I give you a high-five!
photo by: thafcc.wordpress.com
photo of brain by: keen awareness.blogspot.com