Flow

Create triggers and routines to help you get into “the zone.”

We all know what being “in the zone” means: a state of total focus and peak performance. You see it in sports, the workplace, and all areas of life. In psychology, being “in the zone” is called flow.

The term flow was coined in 1975 by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a Hungarian-American psychologist. The exact definition of flow is more in-depth, but for our purposes it describes a mental state where:

  • you’re totally focused on the task at hand
  • you’re free of thoughts and feelings unrelated to the task.

Flow is an enjoyable state and where we normally do our best work.

The trick to sustained peak performance over time is to create triggers and routines that trigger the flow state, rather than hoping it spontaneously happens.

An effective way to trigger the flow state is to create a routine or habit that coincides with being in a flow state. This is done by adding cues or triggers into the routine that normally leads you to flow. After time the connection strengthens such that the cue or trigger itself can induce the flow state.

Examples include:

  • Practicing breathing meditation, to the point where taking a deep breath will immediately lead you to a calm and mindful state
  • Listening to a song prior to sparring or competition, to the point where that song can induce a competitive mindset.

Also consider using adversity and frustration as an opportunity to trigger a flow state. Instead of letting your emotions and frustrations run out of control, become aware of them and use them as a motivator. Imagine how effective it could be if, for example, your opponent’s use of underhanded or illegal tactics triggered a flow state in you.

Further Study: