Have you ever just be in the zone? All your thoughts are gone, your mind is clear, and you’re completely focused on the task at hand? Turns out, there’s actually a name for that, it’s called flow, and finding it is a key path towards mastery.
Happiness researchers, yes that’s really a thing, find that people are often truly happy when completely absorbed and experiencing flow. It’s said some of the key characteristics of flow include, no sense of time passing, being shocked at the amount of time that’s passed when the task is complete, and finding enjoyment in that task both during and after.
So great right? Finding flow, being in the zone, it’s great, but how does it lead to being a better athlete? Well, research suggests that spending 10,000 hours in flow in a given area is one way to become a master. But just a heads up, that usually equates to ten years or more (you can’t be in flow all the time!), so this is not a quick fix, it’s a long-term path.
The exciting thing? There are tips for finding flow. First up, do something you love. If you got into a sport because of pressure from family or friends, but don’t actually enjoy it, chances are it’s going to be difficult to find flow, especially 10,000 hours of it. Do something you enjoy. If you don’t know what that is, take your time and try new things. You don’t have to give up the path you’re currently on, just find free time to search for what really makes your heart sing.
The next step is to take your time and avoid interruptions. Don’t see drills or practice as boring, see them as an opportunity to find flow. Get lost in the repetition and movement until your mind stills and your body takes over. Who knows, that second nature might just lead you to find flow in the middle of a competition.
Lastly, push yourself. It’s said that flow is most often achieved when you’re attempting to do something just beyond your current set of skills, the next rung on the ladder. If you do something that’s too easy, then you become bored. Do something that’s too hard and you become frustrated and give up. Can you do 50 pushups easily? Shoot for 55 or 60. By constantly pushing yourself that extra 10% you eventually become stronger and stronger in your chosen field.
While flow is often associated with sports, the beauty of it is you can find it in anything you do. If you’re unhappy at work, or at school, look for ways to try and incorporate flow. Find the things you do like and try and focus more on them. Now I’m not saying you can completely write off what you don’t like, I still had to take physics in high school, but by cultivating happiness in other areas it makes you more able to deal with the negative without getting upset.
So whatever you get into this week, try and find flow. It’s a long road, but it’s most certainly a happy one.