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  • Writer's picturerganderson915

Finding the Flow State

I heard a cool idea last weekend: training your “focus muscle” or ability to focus.

My ideal outcome of good focus is to enter a flow state or “a mental state in which a person is completely focused on a single task or activity.” Flow state has a positive connotation where the focus is enjoyable and meditative.

Some key ingredients of achieving a flow state are that 1. the activity is challenging but not overly so, 2. that it is rewarding, and 3. that it takes an investment of time or energy to make progress. Being in flow is an observable brain state that actually increases performance - it's not just a feeling!

I find this state most often when I'm skiing, especially racing, which I think is one of the bigger reasons I ski. I tend to have a busy mind with a lot of thoughts, which for me is the biggest inhibitor of getting into a flow state, but also yields a big reward of achieving it - eliminating thought.

In skiing, I spend a lot of time training my body to work efficiently with the goal of holding a high speed for a long time. I spend most of my life working to increase my physical capacity, but I’ve found that if my mind is not “in it,” the outcome looks just like a lack of fitness - slower racing!

I was thinking a lot about the flow state/lack-there-of last week after my 20km rollerski test-race. My biggest challenge during this race was mental consistency. I was skiing alone, there was a strong and annoying headwind on the climb, and I knew that it was only a practice race - nothing big on the line. It was a “why am I doing this” type of day. My mind was full of thoughts, and I was far from flowing.

I like to think that finding the flow state is something that can be practiced and become more easily achievable.

Here are ways I train focus, and some things I should probably do more often.

1. Identify a task as important

I definitely need some motivation or rationale behind the task to achieve intense focus. The flow state isn't for everything.

2. Reduce stimulus/distractions during goal task

  • Example 1. Training for skiing solo and without music once in a while. It can feel boring at first, but I’ve realized the more I do it, the easier it gets.

  • Example 2. Doing intervals or test races with a specific goal of narrowed focus

3. Reduce stimulus/distractions in general

  • Example: Eating a meal, and doing only that. Not scrolling my phone, not reading news, not listening to anything or watching TV. pretty hard for me! It’s crazy easy to fill a day with constant stimulus thanks to my nice little iPhone

4. Meditate / Build Awareness.

I don’t tend to sit on the floor criss-cross applesauce with closed eyes and hands on my knees (maybe I should), but I do purposely practice redirecting my thoughts, or turning them off entirely pretty frequently. There will always be distractions around, but I like to think it’s within my control how much they affect me. I think getting good at controlling your self-talk, thoughts, and perspective can be one of the most powerful things in life.

If you’re interested in more flow state stuff, I suggest googling it. It was fun to read about, and I couldn’t do justice to how cool this topic is in a kind-of-short blog. Look into it!

Thanks for reading.

xo Renae

surroundings that often accompany a flow state for me

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1 Comment

Gowtham (G)
Gowtham (G)
Sep 06, 2023

Minimizing unnecessary stimulus/distractions with regard to eating is something a dear friend of mine pointed out some years ago:

Just eat and without watching TV.

Her rationale was that this act of watching TV while eating was a more than just watching TV while eating, that we were training our brain to expect food whenever we watched TV, and in turn, developed the habit of unnecessary snacking.

I’m not there yet but been making progress 🙌🏼

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