Flow is not about On or Off

Understanding the 4 stages of your Flow Cycle ( Flow Part 2)

The Flow affair continues. If you missed my first attempt to jump into this fascinating journey here’s the link to my part 1

Another facet of the Flow research being done by Steven Kotler which fascinated me is how he describes the construct of the Flow experience or cycle.

Essentially, he lays it out as having 4 stages

  1. Struggle : This is us getting into the area where our skills get challenged. Its an uncomfortable stage but critical to launch flow. If you happened to read my earlier post, the good news is that the Challenge factor over your skills should be around 4 % more ( that’s it !) to activate the flow state. That is what helps you enter the sweet spot. If its more, it can be overwhelming and create an unpleasant experience for you. If it is lesser, it may not really challenge you and you won’t experience flow. The thing about the 4 % is that you approach the journey in baby steps. 4 % today. 4 % over that tomorrow. Progressive increase in the challenge will create a HUGE compound effect net net in the end.
  2. Release : This is where you take your mind of the problem and let go. This allows the subconscious mind to take over from the conscious counterpart. If you continue to engage the conscious mind, you won’t accesss your flow state. You should undertake an activity which allows you to switch off naturally. It could be taking a walk or experience nature. Going for a run normally does this for me while listening to music that I love.
  3. The flow state : This is where all inputs, experiences and your senses get integrated and you are at your peak performance level. Here you may sense time has no bearing anymore, answers come to you easily, you can see connections between things where none existed earlier ( kind of like NZT48 in Limitless ! ). The neuro-biological processes that are taking place during this phase are as fascinating. The stress inducing chemicals are flushed out and various feel good chemicals ( that’s why this state is so addictive !) take over !
  4. Recovery : This is a phase which is as critical as what you go through after a good physical exercise workout or after running a marathon. You are exhausted and need adequate rest and nutrition to be able to activate the flow cycle again. In physical exercise, athletes have realised that Rest and recovery are as if not more important than the actual activity itself. The same applies to the flow cycle !

Have a look at the video where Steven Kotler describes these stages

So, Flow is not about getting in and out. Its about recognizing the stages and managing the transition so one trains to access it on a consistent basis and as a result transform one’s life !

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