The second article in a series of posts by Jiro Taylor from Flow State Adventure on ‘up-grading’ your mindset and ability using Flow. Make sure you check out the awesome Flow State Adventure snowboard, surf and free-dive holidays they are running in 2015.
Get the most out of your session by optimising your Flow State.
Flow is a state of optimal consciousness during which you feel your best and perform your best. We can hack this state of mind to get the most of our daily life and the sports that we love doing. Let’s check out the 3 critical Flow Factors and then take a closer look into how we can use this knowledge to achieve higher performance when we are surfing, snowboarding or doing any any activity we love. Finally, we will have a look at how we can train ourselves to boost our flow factors.
The 3 critical Flow Factors:
The skill to challenge ratio:
This is the fundamental ingredient for achieving Flow, and getting this right is the difference between frustration and flow. The difficulty of your task has to be just right. If the task is too easy, you will get bored and eventually stop. If the task is too difficult, you will get frustrated and eventually stop. Either way, you won’t find that joyous sweet spot of flow. There has to be the right challenge for your skill level, so be aware of making things harder or easier to maximise the chance to flow.
Concentration and focus:
If you are distracted while trying to do anything, you won’t find flow. Distractions are like speed-bumps in the road. They slow us down and stop our momentum. It is very simple: No concentration, no Flow. When you want to focus, create an environment where you will not be disturbed. Take action to deliberately craft this environment. This could mean noise cancelling headphones, switching off the phone, shutting down facebook or going surfing by yourself.
Goals and feedback loop:
Goals focus the mind, and establish a mechanism to measure your progress and provide a sense of achievement. People in Flow achieve their goals. Immediate feedback allows you to know if you hit your goal, come close or wildly missed. This feedback is an essential component of the perpetuating loop of deep flow states. Feedback allows for adjustments and improvements which the challenge/skill ratio just right and keep us in the sweet spot of Flow.
Understanding these 3 critical Flow Factors empowers us to take action to upgrade our performance. These factors are the same whether we are working on a project, writing a paper, snowboarding, or going surfing. Lets stick with the surfing theme, and see how we can use this knowledge to take empowered action.
Putting Flow into practice in the surf:
The Skill to challenge ratio:
Be selective about where you surf and what equipment you use. Choose to go to the right break that will provide the appropriate level of challenge. If Spot A is a slow, mushy wave, and you want to push out your comfort zone, check out Spot B. Remember that sticking to the outside edge of your comfort zone, that place where the butterflies flutter, is the fastest way to progress.
Concentration and focus:
The surfers getting all the waves are the ones keeping an eye on the sets coming. Yeah, we all like a chat in the lineup, but experiment with surfing alone, without any distractions and being on point. Look for patterns and stay very aware of your position in the line-up. You will find yourself getting way more waves.
Goals and feedback loop:
Decide on one aspect of your surfing to work on. If you want to work on your bottom turn, focus on that for the entire surf. Visualise the turn repeatedly. Break down the turn into mini-goals: smooth pop-up, correct foot placement and weight ratio, low body position, eyes locked on the section, lead with your shoulders. And keep working on this on every wave. Play-back the wave in your head when paddling back out to the line-up: This feedback is essential. Where on the turn did you bog a rail? Where did you lose speed? Which mini-goal can you work on? When you nail the bottom turn, it will be as you visualised and it will feel incredible.
Now that we understand how to apply the 3 critical Flow Factors, lets take a quick look at a few ways to train ourselves to find flow more easily.
Challenge yourself and take a few risks:
Of all the triggers for flow states, risk is the most powerful. This is because our mind and bodies have in-built systems for survival and protection. When we take risks, our subconscious steps in and we suddenly gain access to a powerful set of tools to get us out of the situation in one piece. Our subconscious system reacts rapidly compared to our conscious system. It also draws upon a huge hard-drive of data to create the optimal responses to risky situations. Every single thing you do in life is recorded in your brain. When we are in flow states, our brains access our subconscious hard-drive, finds what it needs in a microsecond and merges this memory with the novelty of the new situation you are currently in, to form a creative response. Risk= creativity. So next time you are paddling into a wave that suddenly jacks up, instead of pulling back, commit with full confidence in yourself. See how your body and mind react.
Meditation & mindfulness:
When we meditate we are training the mind to achieve a state of heightened awareness. Achieving this state requires concentration and mental discipline. The regular practice of seated meditation is probably the single-most powerful way to train yourself for optimal performance not just in the surf, but in every sphere of life. Mindfulness is a type of meditation. It is the art of living with heightened awareness, and deliberately bringing the quality of awareness without judgement to every moment and task we engage in. Practice brushing your teeth with mindfulness, or waxing your board. This means when you wax your board, wax it as though the fate of the universe rests upon the skillful waxing of your surfboard. Take this approach of single-minded focus into other areas of your life and just watch how your performance and joy rocket.
Use the force young Jedi:
Avoid the Dark side: Flow is a state of mind, its a powerful force. The anti-flow is also a state of mind: It is the Dark side. It takes many forms, all leading to a severe drop in performance and happiness. If you find yourself fixating on problems, being self-critical, complaining about the conditions or the crowd, comparing yourself to other surfers, moaning about your board-choice, bitching about anything even silently in your mind… you are in danger of becoming Darth Vader’s bitch.
Look for the awesome-ness in every situation. Every problem presents an opportunity to learn. If you are not happy in the surf, take a good, hard look at yourself. Your attitude is the one thing you ALWAYS have control of. Use it wisely.
If you want to learn more about achieving Flow in life and in the surf, we are running a Adventure retreat to the Maldives in September 2015. We have hired out the best boat in the area, packed it with toys and inspiring people, and will be surfing, free diving, meditating and doing Yoga. Generally kicking ass and having an amazing time!
Check out Flow State Adventures for more information.
Article written by Jiro Taylor.
Jiro Taylor is a surfer and performance coach based down in Manly, Australia. He is the founder of Flowstate Adventure retreats – a coaching and retreat business focused on the intersection of mind training, happiness and adventure sports. Flowstate is all about recognising and harnessing that magic feeling when we are surfing and snowboarding- that feeling of transcendence and timelessness. That’s the flow state, a modern term for what ancient monks and Yogi’s might have called “pure awareness”. Our mission is to create a difference in the world by teaching an alternative path to access higher consciousness and to help others realise their full potential. Jiro spends most if his spare time exploring the coast of Australia in his van, and experimenting with different ways to get in flow.