You’ve outdone yourself and achieved your personal best!

You were in “flow”[1].

You were in the “peak of self-regulation, the maximal harnessing of emotions in the service of performance or learning”.[2]  Whether it was dance, football, presenting or chess, your underlying state will have been the same.

What does flow look and feel like?

“Rapt, unbreakable concentration; a nimble flexibility in responding to changing challenges; executing at the top of your skill level; and taking pleasure in what you’re doing – joy.” [3]

What is happening in this optimal performance zone?

A state of neural harmony where the disparate areas of the brain are in synch, working together. This is also seen as a state of maximum cognitive efficiency. Getting into flow lets you use whatever talent you may have at peak levels.

Mastering your game

It is well known that to master a domain of expertise and operate at the top of your game takes at least 10,000 hours’ practice. These people are often world class in their performance. But the interesting thing is, the level of focussed practice has made the activity relatively effortless, even at its peak.

When you are in flow, only those brain areas relevant to the activity at hand are activated. This contrasts with the brain of a person who is bored, where there is randomly scattered neural activation. When you are stressed, you have lots of activity in the emotional circuitry which is irrelevant to the task at hand, and which suggests an anxious distractedness. This is like emotional ‘noise’ – no wonder you can’t think clearly and feel drained in a stressed state.

NEXT:  Part 2 – Top performance in organizations, and How to get flow into your life!

[1] The zone of optimal performance is known as “flow” in the research of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi at the University of Chicago.

[2] Daniel Goleman.

[3] Daniel Goleman.