The state of Flow, or being “in the zone”, is a state of peak performance. When you are in flow:
- You’re completely engrossed in what you’re doing -- focused and concentrated;
- You experience a sense of ecstasy;
- You experience great inner clarity;
- Your sense of self dissolves; and
- You lose track of time.
Flow requires that you be engaged in a challenging activity that you are just skilled enough to perform. If you are too skilled for the level of challenge your mind will wander and if you are not skilled enough for the level of challenge you will be overwhelmed. The key is pushing yourself close to your limits, but not past your limits. Flow also requires that your brain receives immediate feedback, so you know how well you are doing.
From a neurochemical perspective, there are five performance enhancing neurochemicals involved in the state of Flow: Dopamine, Norepinephrine, Anandamide, Endorphins and Serotonin. Dopamine and Norepinephrine flood the brain when a person enters the state of Flow and Serotonin is released as the state of Flow ends. Dopamine and Norepinephrine tighten focus and pattern recognition, and enhance motivation, creativity and learning. Anandamide promotes pattern recognition and lateral thinking. According the the Flow Genome Project, during Flow creativity is increased 500-700%!! Flow also dramatically increases the speed of learning. Increased levels of neurochemicals in the brain during an activity increases the likelihood that long term memories will be formed. According to a DARPA study Flow increased the speed of learning by 230%!!
Here is a quick and easy way to prime your brain to enter Flow, prior to engaging in a challenging activity that you are skilled at (but not too skilled for the level of difficulty):
- Increase your Dopamine and Norepinephrine levels by taking Awaken about 20-30 minutes before the activity;
- Trigger your brain to release Anandamide and Endorphins by engaging in physical exercise. We recommend a short duration of intense exercise -- sprinting, burpees, jumping jacks, etc. Endorphins can also be quickly triggered by taking a cold shower; and
- Set a clear goal for what you want to accomplish, remove distractions so that you can focus and get to it!!