CrossFit South Rockland

Sunday, June 27, 2010

6 Steps to Get into the FLOW

6 Steps to Get into the FLOW
By Dr Jill Ammon-Wexler
Pioneer brain/mind researcher
You've heard about how a musician loses herself in her music, or how a painter becomes one with his painting. Time stops, and only total focus on the activity remains.
This is "flow," an experience that is both demanding and rewarding -- and perhaps the most enjoyable and valuable experience you can have.
Learning how to enter into the "flow" has the potential to immediately improve the quality of your life.

**The Father of “Flow.”
Hungarian-born psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced "chick-SENT-me high") thought about the meaning of happiness beginning in his early childhood in wartime
His pressing question was: Why, despite all the conveniences and comforts and opportunities of our modern times, are so many people so very unhappy? And why do they “end up feeling their lives have been wasted -- that instead of being filled with happiness, their years were spent in anxiety and boredom?”
He resolved to get an answer, and spent twenty-five years interviewing literally hundreds of people all around the world from all walks of life -  from artists and chess masters … to janitors and the homeless. He asked each of them to recall the happiest moments of their life -  then to describe what created those moments.
He discovered an amazing uniformity in their answers. “The best moments,” he writes in his best-selling book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
“Such experiences are not necessarily pleasant at the time they occur,” he continues. “The swimmer’s muscles might have ached during his most memorable race, his lungs might have felt like exploding, and he might have been dizzy with fatigue -  yet these could have been the best moments of his life.”
** Characteristics of the Flow State.
Csikszentmihalyi describes the experience of being in the flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost.”
He determined that flow occurs when we are totally absorbed in some activity that is neither too easy nor too difficult for us. If the activity is too easy, we fall into boredom -  while if it’s too difficult, we become anxious.
But it the activity is just right we find ourselves in the state of flow, just like children at play.
**How Flow Builds Brainpower.
Csikszentmihalyi found that being in the flow actually increases your brainpower, and that the longer you remain “in flow,” the more complex your mind becomes.
The easiest way to understand how flow increases mindpower is this: When you perform a task that is too easy, your mind wanders from your work, and you have low mental focus. When something is overwhelmingly too difficult, on the other hand, anxiety and frustration set in.
Neither boredom nor anxiety lead to good mental focus.
Most often we move in and out of flow without realizing it. Any stimulating activity that completely fills your conscious attention can put you there. But the minute you feel worry, boredom or insecurity creeping in -  you are out of the flow.
Here's a reliable method of achieving and sustaining a high state of flow in your life:
Step 1. View your task as a game. Like any serious game, you need feedback to keep yourself challenged -  and the most basic form of feedback is keeping score. Establish the objective of your selected task as an actual goal, recognize the challenges to be overcome, and decide on any rules and rewards.
Step 2. Decide on and focus on your purpose. As you play your game, constantly remind yourself of the underlying purpose that is driving you. This goes beyond the goal - it is the reason for the goal.
Step 3. Practice focus. Become aware of your thoughts. If you find your mind drifting or filled with anxiety, you have moved away from the zone. Refocus on the task at hand, and adjust the difficulty until you become fully engaged in the details of the task.
Step 4. Surrender to the Process. This is perhaps the greatest mystery of the flow process. As you practice Step 3, you will find yourself enjoying the process of simply focusing completely on the task without straining or undue efforting. As you do, you will begin to experience periods of timelessness.
Step 5. Embrace Ecstasy. The most interesting part of this process is the natural result of the previous four steps. You are going to be suddenly hit by surprise with a feeling of ecstasy. You’ll recognize it. When it happens, you are solidly in the flow.
Step 6. Peak Productivity. The state of ecstasy is actually a whole brain phenomenon in which your entire cortex vibrates at one coherent frequency. It is unmistakable. You will have the sensation of creating without thinking, and your productivity will attain unheard of heights.
**Flow and "The Zone" 
The state of flow has direct ties to the state of being athletes call “the zone,”  the experience applies equally well to any endeavor, however simple or complex. Think of the minute complexity of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, and the intense mental focus required to perform it correctly.
If you want to immediately eliminate boredom or anxiety in your life, pick a task and teach yourself how to enter into the flow. But remember -  it’s a game, and you are to be rewarded, and not criticized or judged by anyone (including yourself).

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