I’ve touched briefly on the mysterious, powerful, elusive and yet familiar Flow State experienced by many athletes, writers, musicians and other creative types in this previous blog post. By way of reminder, psycologist and researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identified and coined flow as the “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”
Neuroscientists have found that the brain releases large quantities of natural feel good chemicals norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, anandamide, and serotonin during moments of flow. Thus, the amount of time a person spends in a state of flow almost certainly leads to a better life by creating a greater overall sense of happiness . While you can’t force yourself into a flow zone, you can invite it to occur more often, even in areas of life where it might seem unlikely.
I recently listened to the TED talk, Your Creative Genius, given by Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert is the author or the widely acclaimed novel Eat, Pray, Love and her presentation endeavoured to demystify the creative experience which can be so psychologically daunting for many great artists. Interestingly, her prescription or answer for how to overcome the mental hurdles associated with the creative process and tap into genius closely echoes the findings of Csikszentmihalyi’s findings on flow. Basically, Gilbert suggest 90% of the battle is showing up. Drawing on inner grit to commit to a process even when doing so can be drudgery. Putting the hours in to refine your own skills. "Magically" creative genius tends to find artists while the are toiling away, making the space for inspiration to arrive as they hone the skills of their craft.
Elite tennis coach Craig W. has witnessed similar traits and habits among his champions. “Champions understand deeply that 100% perfection may not exist, yet they are nevertheless mindfully absorbed in a relentless quest for perfection to get as close to the 100% flow state as is humanly possible. Equally they understand that it may not be realistic to be ‘in the zone’ all the time, but they can certainly increase their chances of time spent in the zone by doing a number of factors:
Everyone who spends to in a flow state appreciates how intrinsically rewarding and addicting it can be. It is a state of mind one wants to replicate not only to feel great but because it results in a better life. While seemingly magic, true performers understand genius comes to those who posses inner grit and make space for its arrival. Who find the thing they enjoy, commit to their process and do the hard work necessary to unlock their own limitless potential.
“If you just set people in motion they'll heal themselves.”
- Gabrielle Roth | Creator of 5Rhythms