Are you ‘In the Zone’? Can you go with ‘The Flow’?
Momentous sporting achievements are often accompanied by tears of joy, ritualistic acts of kissing the earth and a sense of incredulous achievement. I remember crying when Andy Murray won Wimbledon. What had changed for him on that day in 2013? How was he able to win one of the most prized trophies in the sporting world after several near misses?
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - writing for www.positivepsychology.com - coined the phrase ‘the flow’ (also referred to as ‘in the zone’) to describe a highly focussed mental state in which an athlete is able to stay ‘in the here and now’. In this state they are invincible. Sabotaging judgements are suspended. Anything is possible.
The key ingredients to achieving this state includes:
• Concentration on the task
• Clarity of goals
• Loss of sense of time and space
• Reward as a goal rather than any other gain
• Effortlessness and ease
• Balance between challenge and skills
• Losing self-conscious rumination
• Feeling of control over the task
Thankfully, these experiences are not confined to just sporting achievements but are the basis of scientific discoveries, beautiful artwork, famous melodies, grand architectural designs and probably contributed to man landing on the moon.
More importantly, ‘zone’ and ‘flow’ is available to us. Find your ‘set point’ (centre point in the diagram – “Mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level Csikszentmihalyi's Flow Model”; source Wikipedia; below), which is determined by optimum balance between the level of challenge, versus level of skills, in any aspect of our lives - at home, hobbies or at work.
How can we be ‘in the zone’ and get into ‘the flow’?
We need to successfully manage anxiety and worries. We must overcome apathy and boredom, be motivated by the task at hand, not freeze with fright and yet also maintain some degree of relaxation and sense of control. What may be central to success is to let go of reward-based behaviour and be fuelled instead by passion.
Apparently, autotelic personalities – those that derive meaning and purpose from within - have a higher chance of experiencing flow. Such people undertake the task at hand for the sake of it, rather than for financial or personal gain. The good news is that this state is open to us all. It’s all in the mind.
Consider setting yourself a challenge. Develop the necessary skills to achieve your goal. Learn to experience being ‘in the zone’. After all, what have you got to lose?
If you want to explore ideas in non-judgmental and safe space, please contact the counselling and psychotherapy team at Bridge to Health for further information.