Sometimes called being in the zone, flow state isn’t just an experience for record-breaking athletes. Anybody anywhere can apply the triggers for any task. And the amount of time someone spends in flow has a massive and powerful correlation to life satisfaction.
The Science Behind Flow state
When a person is in a state of flow, all five potent neurochemicals massively amplify the immune system.
Stress-causing hormones are flushed out of body in flow, and the autoimmune and nervous systems go haywire. Flow state brought me from seriously subpar back up to normal, and it can bring normal people to Superman.
Flow is the most desirable state on earth, but it’s also the most elusive.
Adventure sports athletes are better at hacking the state of flow than anyone else in history. Athletes rely most on environmental triggers and the same principles can be applied to business.
Here’s how you can hack into your state of flow to create incredible results:
Take More Social Risks
Flow follows focus, and taking risks drives focus into the now. For adventure athletes, risk can be serious injury or even death, but in the workplace it doesn’t have to be as extreme.
The brain can’t tell the difference between physical consequences and emotional risk. Taking social risks is the same as physical risks. Speak up at meetings, share creative ideas, approach a stranger or tell the truth when it feels awkward.
In Silicon Valley, the idea is to fail fast or fail forward. If you’re not giving employees space to fail, you’re not giving them space to risk. Move fast and break things. Engage in rapid experimentation. High consequences will drive flow and you get further faster.
Up the amount of novelty and complexity in your work
The atmosphere around you can trigger flow, and novelty, unpredictability, and complexity will get you there.
In business, the idea is to get out of habits and routines. Automatic pilot is efficient and routines save the brain energy, but it doesn’t put you into flow. Instead, shake things up. Vary your route. Even brush your teeth with the wrong hand. Against-the-grain tricks will demand focus.
Pixar is a great example of a rich environment. Steve Jobs designed an atrium in the center of its offices, positioning the meeting rooms, cafeteria, mailboxes, and bathrooms around it.
Steve Jobs artificially created the environmental conditions that massively upped the amount of novelty, unpredictability, and complexity in the environment because people across departments and disciplines started running into each other and having conversations. As a result, flow, innovation, and creativity went up.
Use All Your Senses
The final external flow trigger happens when you pay attention with all sensory streams, listening, looking, smelling, tasting, and touching. Action and adventure sports demand deep embodiment. A kayaker, for example, pays attention to the environment with his whole body, becoming literally part of the flow of the world.
Montessori education is another example, promoting learning through doing and engaging multiple sensory streams. You can emulate its effect in the business world through whole body experiences and mindfulness. Meditation, balance, and agility training, and even video games will get you there.
Flow shows up when we’re stretching, pushing our skills to the max. It’s an uncomfortable place to be in the moment, but the payoff is a deeper life satisfaction.