"If you want to generate a lot of flow in your life, you have to challenge yourself every day."

Steven Kotler

Today’s question is: how do you get your brain in the zone?

Flow is a state of optimal mental performance. You might have felt it before: the task you are doing feels effortless, and you lose your sense of time and self. With practice, you can learn to spend more of your time living in a flow state.

We have 3 experts to share their top tips and tools for becoming an elite mental performer. You can check out the full Kwik Brain episodes with our experts via the links!

Steven Kotler (@steven_kotler) is an expert in flow and the New York Times bestselling author of 8 books, including Stealing Fire.

Dr. Jeff Spencer is an Olympian and high performance coach.

Nick Ortner (@nickortner) is a New York Times bestselling author and expert on the Emotional Freedom Technique.

 

Show Notes

GUEST 1: STEVEN KOTLER

4 IMPORTANT CONDITIONS FOR FLOW

1. Focus

  • Focus is easy if your life is on the line. If your life is not on the line, the only way to hack this is through belief in yourself. The goal you want to achieve has to be massively important to you, and you need to believe in it as if your life is on the line.

2. Challenge-Skills Balance

  • The challenge has to be slightly harder than your skillset. It cannot be too overwhelming, or too easy. If you want to generate a lot of flow in your life, you have to challenge yourself every day. The only easy day was yesterday.

3. Clear Goals

  • Compare the goals “I want to create world peace” vs. “I will write four pages about world peace”. Giant vague goals will not get you to flow, but clear, measurable and specific goals will. 

4. Immediate Feedback

  • If you are an athlete, you are constantly getting feedback from your body and performance, but in business, this can be a stumbling block. A six-month review to go over an employee’s progress is not enough feedback to promote flow and optimal performance. 

THE STATES OF FLOW 

1. Priming/Loading/Struggle Stage

  • The goal in this stage is to overwhelm yourself with information, which will at times feel overwhelming and frustrating. 
  • You cannot attach to the frustration. If you do, you will never get the task to work. 
  • Feeling frustrated and not knowing how you will solve the problem is a good sign.

2. Release Stage

  • After the frustration, people relax by going for walks or to the movies. Do anything to take the struggle out of your mind.

3. Flow State

  • This state is a big high, and is your brain at its peak of ultimate performance. 
  • The longer you can stretch out this state, the better.
  • Flow enhances learning and memory consolidation.

4. Exhaustion

  • The neurochemicals that produce flow are expensive to produce. This means you can be tired or depressed after a flow state. 
  • If you get too hung up on this stage, you will not progress to the next stage and be able to start the cycle again, because who wants to go from feeling bad to struggling again? 
  • Know that this stage is natural and part of the process.

GUEST 2: DR. JEFF SPENCER 

CHOOSE YOUR METRICS

  • Recognize that when things get tough, is it supposed to happen. It’s not something you didn’t do, it is a natural evolution and part of the process.
  • Find metrics that can measure the goal you are pursuing, so you can look at them to ensure progress is happening.
  • As an example: a rider in the Tour de France might feel like they are crawling. But if the speedometer says they are moving at 10 miles per hour, they know they can trust that metric and they will get there.

THE DAILY GRIND

  • When you are in the daily grind, don’t forget who you are. You do not change from day to day, but your perception of yourself does. Be mindful of how you got here, and your skills.
  • We want to avoid digging a biological hole for ourselves where we lose chemical energy, so take care of your body: get good sleep, nutrition, and some recreation. 
  • Remember your brain is 2% of your body mass, but consumes 20% of your body’s energy. If your brain doesn’t have the nutrients to stay vital, you will make amateurish mistakes that could take you out of the game in an instant.

DON’T QUIT

  • Jeff has seen people quit prematurely at the point they are only one step away from a breakthrough because they believe they can’t do it.
  • Keep putting one foot in front of the other, watching the metrics, and executing the plan steps that are required for goal achievement, and one day you’ll get up differently and think “I believe I can do this.”

GUEST 3: NICK ORTNER

ABOUT TAPPING

  • Tapping involves physically tapping on the endpoints of major meridians of your body.
  • When you tap on these points, you are sending a calming signal to your amygdala.
  • The amygdala is your brain’s fight-or-flight response center and is activated when you are stressed out. Whenever you are struggling, stressed and overwhelmed, no matter what the issue is, we can trace it back to the amygdala and the fight-or-flight response.
  • Whenever you are stressed, the fight-or-flight response causes blood to flow away from the brain to the physical body. 
  • This means you will be able to freeze, fright, or run, but will lose your usual mental capabilities and resources. Because blood is taken away from your forebrain, the logical thinking part of our brains, in this state you can’t think, create, or enjoy an experience.
  • Many people try to power their way through stress and the fight-or-flight response. Avoid this. Find a way to release this anxiety and turn off the brain’s fight-or-flight response—tapping is one way of doing this.
  • Tapping can short-circuit a cycle of stress or anxiety and tell the body it is safe. This will help you to allow focus, flow, and pleasure to return to your life.

SHARE

  • Tell us which expert you enjoyed hearing most on today’s show! Share one of your aha moments with us.
  • Take a screenshot and tag me (@jimkwik) and your favorite expert and tell us one action you will use in your own life moving forward.

 

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Episode 145: Turn Your Brain On with Dave Asprey