The Best Athletes In The World Train & Compete In A “Flow State”
Elite athletes manage their fears, doubts, emotions, tempers and anxiety much better than everyone they compete against. I had to find out if there was a way that I could manage these feelings too. I started to look deeper. Here’s what I found.
As I kept doing research on the so-called “flow state” I finally found what I had been looking for:
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (chick-sent-me-high)
The Man. The Myth. The Legend. The Granddaddy of the Flow State.
Professor Csikszentmihalyi is famous for researching and discovering the secrets of the flow state. His research enabled athletes, artists, brain surgeons, entrepreneurs and everyday people everywhere to perform at levels higher than anyone thought were humanly possible.
Here’s what he discovered about flow:
People are happiest when they are in the flow state.
We perform to our top potential when we’re in the flow state.
In fact, one study showed that golfers in a flow state were about 20% more accurate than those who weren’t. AND, especially important, when we are in the flow state, we learn faster. Another study showed that novice marksmen were able to cut their learning time in half.
So how does any of this apply to you? Well, I’m glad you asked. Let me explain.
When you enter the flow state and start to practice you learn and understand better. You concentrate on a deep level. Your brain kicks production of the following chemicals into overdrive:
- Norepinephrine – increases focus & muscle reaction time
- Dopamine – also helps increase focus, muscle reaction time and pattern recognition
- Seratonin – produces calm & invokes happiness
- Anadamine – helps relieve pain & enhances lateral thinking
- Endorphins – relieves pain & enhances social bonding
This is a another way of saying, the next time you end up in a certain situation in practice or a competition, your brain knows subconsciously how to handle the situation, without you even having to think about it.
Your mind and body will react quicker because your brain is wired to understand the situation and perform the correct action. This is HUGE for fighters, rock climbers, soccer players and adventure athletes.
Imagine not having to take that extra half second to think about which strike to throw, or how to react in the heat of the moment – your mind automatically knows and does it for you.
“Flow is being swept up by the river of ultimate human performance.” – Steven Kotler (Author of The Rise of Superman)
All of the feelings you have of nervousness, anxiousness, doubt vanish before your foot hits that arena. The butterflies subside and disappear, allowing you to get excited and feel confident for the upcoming battle. This greatly increases your enjoyment and overall confidence, which can greatly improve your chances of winning.
Your body sometimes naturally slips into a flow state when certain triggers happen at just the right times. In order for this to happen you must experience these steps in the right order
- Struggle – you find difficulty in a task which is a little beyond your capabilities
- Release – you let go of the thoughts that are holding you back, and finally…
- Flow – your conscious mind gets out of the way and your subconscious takes over for you.
When this happens the chemicals in your brain shuts off parts of the prefrontal cortex – we feel this as liberation, as freedom.
Only the essentials remain – this is what quiets your nagging neighbor. Your brain is able to focus and processes relevant information at a much quicker pace.
It will feel like time speeds up, slows down, or doesn’t exist in a process called time dilation.
You also feel a rush of positive energy that invigorates your entire body.
Flow sits squarely of the intersection of challenge and skill. You have to be doing something that you’re good at and, at the same time, you have to be challenged past your comfort zone, right to your breaking point – walking that razor line of I’m not good enough and I’m THE BEST!