Follow the Flow
Follow the Flow
How would it feel if you could be 500% more productive? 400% more creative? Or cut your learning times in half? Steven Kotler is the author of 7 bestselling books, Pulitzer Prize nominee, and Director of Research at the Flow Genome Project. Steven Kotler studies ultimate human performance, what is actually possible for our species, and where – if anywhere – our limits lie.
When you think about ultimate human performance as a phrase most people tend to think anybody but themselves. Someone like a superstar sportsman, a special forces soldier or some genius visionary. What does it take for you to be your best when it matters the most? The answer is the state of flow. Flow is a state of mind where you basically outline every other thing that is not important to the matter you’re having at that moment. When you’re on flow you feel your best and you perform your best. The focus on the task in hand leads to everything else disappearing around you. Time starts to pass strangely, either very fast or like a slow motion picture. Both mental and physical performance go through the roof when in flow. Through a lot of research Kotler’s company has found out that people who do action-adventure sports such as mountain climbing or hang glider riding are the pioneers of flow. They manage to harness flow in a way most people in their everyday life can’t.
Kotler claims that five of the most potent neuro chemicals produced in the brain are all accessible simultaneously only in a flow state of mind. These chemicals improve your muscle reaction time, our sense of pain vanishes and overall strength increases. What Kotler emphasizes is the mental performance. Kotler says that the five neuro chemicals surround the so-called performance triangle in the brain that consists of motivation, creativity and learning. A 10-year study conducted by McKinsey & Company found out that top executives in flow report being 500% more productive and motivated than out of flow. Increased creativity enabled more information and focus which lead to better lateral thinking with an outcome of 400% growth in creativity. Same thing happens with learning. The stronger the experience the better the learning. Flow provides a chance of turning short-term holding into long-term storage. These chemicals establish the experience to be a lot stronger which creates long-term learning faster and more easily. You might have heard about Malcom Gladwell’s idea of 10 000 hours to master something. It’s suggested that through flow you could cut this time in half.
Kotler’s Flow Genome Project has discovered that flow is ubiquitous and that it’s achievable for anyone, anywhere when certain initial conditions are met. It doesn’t require action-adventure sports as long as the right conditions for flow are present. So what are those conditions? Turns out that flow states have triggers. The triggers are preconditions that lead to more flow. There is a total of 20 triggers that are divided into two groups that are Individual triggers such as passion and purpose and Group triggers like a shared goal or equal participation. It’s important to understand that flow follows focus. It can only show up when all your attention is on the task. These triggers drive your attention into the present moment to enable the flow. Best-case-scenario would be a situation where you would’ve build your life around these triggers just like action-adventure athletes.
Passion makes us more focused. We believe in what we are passionate about so we’re willing to take more risks. Risk is also a very good motivator when it comes to increasing productivity. Kotler’s team has found out, that it isn’t merely action-adventure athletes who use flow regularly, but entrepreneurs and start up executives also utilize flow in their daily tasks. They set up a six-week training at Google using only 4 triggers to study how they would impact their flow. The results were rather astonishing. The test groups percents rose 35-80% in flow.
”What grand challenges are you aching to solve? What in your life currently seems impossible? What would you go after if you could be 500% more productive and 400% more creative? If you could cut your learning times in half? This is what flow makes possible, this is what is available for you today but what you do with this information, that’s up to you.”