If you`re not struggling, you`re not doing it right!

“If everything seems to be under control, you`re not going fast enough!” — Mario Andretti

Your desire for comfort is costing you your Fortune.

Is that harsh to say?

No, I don`t think so. The first step towards achieving our goals is always being real. 

And I bet you know that there`s still another Level left for you, right?

Well, in order to get there, you`ll need to do things differently. 

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Rita Mae Brown

One key towards reaching your Dreams and Goals: accessing a Flow-State regularly!

And in order to do so, you`ll need to Struggle. In the next couple of minutes, let me explain why and how you can consistently enter Flow (or “the Zone).

The Science of Flow

“Pushing the edge is a Meditation in the Zone!” — Steven Kotler

Flow is the ultimate, creative problem-solving state of Human Performance.

Research on Flow (via Steven Kotler`s “The Rise of Superman”) found that while you`re in flow,…:

  • you enhance your mental abilities!
  • you`re able to solve problems which seemed unsolvable before (because your brain rewires its own circuits until it accomplishes the task with maximum efficiency)!
  • you think outside the box which leads to novel solutions!
  • you`re totally focused!
  • you automate decision-making (and always seem to make the right ones)!
  • you detach from emotions like worry, doubt, fear, etc.!
  • you`re fully present in the moment!
  • you`re executing on the razor`s edge and pushing your own limits!

Have you ever felt like being in Flow? Everything around you seemed to completely disappear and you…

  • wrote that entire Chapter of your Book effortlessly?
  • gave that presentation and you intuitively knew what to do?
  • brainstormed and came up with 20 new ideas?

That felt so amazing, right?

But I bet you also can remember dozens of moments where you felt completely stuck, right?

  • Not a single sentence seemed right when you tried to write that Chapter.
  • You were completely stuck in that presentation.
  • You were just completely empty while you tried to solve a problem. 

I´ve been there too. 

There are times when I`m writing and everything seems to lead nowhere. 

I`m shooting a new video and I`m just stuck. I completely forgot what I wanted to teach. 

I create a new post for Social Media and everything I come up with is complete crap. 

I`m stuck. I´m struggling. We all do. 

Seth Godin, the famous Marketer, tells the story that he`s writing Blog Posts every day for eight hours. Nothing else going on around him and somewhat during that time, in his words, he`s facing his own resistance.

He`s stuck. 

But here`s the thing he`s doing right —  which most people do wrong: 

He`s facing the Struggle. Facing the inner Resistance. While everybody else decides to drift off on Social Media to get the quick fix, the quick pleasure.


The key point: Struggle is necessary to enter Flow

According to research (via Steven Kotler`s “The Rise of Superman”) there are four essential Stages of Flow. Each of them is necessary for Flow to appear. They happen in sequential order and guess what?

Stage #1 of Flow: Struggle

Struggle is absolutely key for Flow. 

Trust me, I was completely surprised by that!

But we need to embrace the Struggle in order to be able to enter “the Zone”. 

What happens in Stage #1?

We`re overloading our Brain with information. The problem seems unsolvable, the effort unsustainable and the entire situation feels as far away from Flow as possible. 

In other words: we`re stuck!

We`re operating on the edge of our cababilities and skills.

But here`s the deciding moment: are you allowing yourself to sit in that moment?

Today, most people immediately drift off onto Social Media or Messages or the News, or any other distraction. 

We feel like this should be easy, but in reality it`s super hard. I feel that urge to drift off too.

But when you`re doing that, you`re robbing yourself of the solution. And the Zone.

Instead, we need to sit in that moment of Struggle and enter…

Stage #2 of Flow: Release

Now, you`re taking your mind off the problem. But not in distraction, that`s the key. Because then you`re overloading your brain with other (irrelevant) information. 

Rather, you…

  • go for a walk (your best creative insights happen when you`re moving)!
  • meditate for a couple of minutes!
  • take a short Nap!
  • … anything that helps you relax mentally!

And then, when you get back on, you`re ready to enter…

Stage #3 of Flow: The Zone

Each of the previous Stages is essential. I know it`s tempting to just jump to this one, but without the previous ones, you`re not getting into the Zone!

But now that you`re in the Zone, your subconscious is at work. 

You just crank out that entire Chapter.

You give everything that you got on Stage. 

Everything is cristal clear. The right moves seem to be completely obvious. There`s no doubt or worry. You`re completely focused on the one thing at hand. 

In other words, you`re brain is rewiring itself until it finds a solution for the problem at hand. And that happens super fast. You will have no clue where those ideas and solutions came from, but now you`re able to operate on a whole other Level!

At some point, you`ll drop out of the Zone. And that`s when you enter…

Stage #4 of Flow: Recovery

Being in the Zone requires a lot of Energy. In this vitally important stage, you`re storing the short-term memory of what you`ve learned, while being in flow, into the long-term memory. 

This is the Stage where we level up. You`re now taking the new thinking, the new capabilities and skills, and store them in your long-term memory.

Which means, you`re now able to access them on a consistent basis. You`ve moved the edge of your abilities beyond what seemed possible before!

In the end, we need to go slow in order to go fast! Recovery is the key!


In essence, flow allows you to go beyond what you believed possible. When you feel like you`re going nowhere, allow yourself to sit in that moment instead of browsing off and you`re able to enter the Zone!

Now, let`s talk about a few requirements to actually enter the Zone!

Flow-Triggers

According to Steven Kotler, there are four big areas which trigger Flow: External and internal Triggers, Group Flow Triggers, and Creativity!

External Flow-Triggers

#1: High Consequences

When there are high consequences for failure, you`re almost forced to enter the Zone. 

But it doesn`t need to be the Surfer trying to surfe the mega wave and it`s either thrive or die. 

It can also be the Speaker who´s on stage. 

Or the Writer who needs to meet a Deadline. 

In other words, we need to be fully committed and there needs to be some kind of risk involved. 

#2: Rich environment

When there`s novelty, unpredictability and complexity, our chances of entering the Zone go way up. Because now we can`t rely on autopilot. 

“Novelty means danger and opportunity!” — Steven Kotler

In such an environment, we need to stay sharp and alert. This kind of environment tightens your focus and drives flow.

Ways to enrichen your environment:

  • Change your routines!
  • Seek out nature (very rich environment)!
  • Rotate your work environments (a unique place to work from on different days, for Example)!

#3: Deep Embodiement

Did you know that 50% of our nerve endings are in our hands, feet and face? 

To enter the Zone, we need to be also physically demanded. We need full body awareness. So we`re forced to pay attention to all the sensory inputs at once. 

So, anything that ensures movement seems to be a good idea to enter the Zone. Ideas range from walking Meditation to balance and agility Training to Yoga to Dancing. 

Whatever you like. And it doesn`t need to be much. Just activate your body in some way.

In essence: to ensure you get into the Zone, make sure that you`re not only mentally, but also physically demanded!

Internal Flow-Triggers

#1: Clear Goals

We need to have Clarity of what to focus on. We need to absolutely know what we`re trying to achieve right now. 

That´s when you´re able to arrow your Focus and disregard the unimportant. The moment right here is all that`s left. And when you can focus on the present moment, on the Challenge at hand, then you actually have a shot at solving it!

#2: Immediate Feedback

“When Feedback is immediate, the information we require is always close at hand.” — Steven Kotler

The Basketball-Player knows whether the throw has been nailed or missed. The Surfer immediately knows whether he crushed that wave or the wave crushed the Surfer. There`s an immediate response. 

Well, for most of us, Feedback isn`t that immediate. 

So we need to bring it back into the Present. We need to tighten our Feedback-Loops.

Now, we don`t need to get Feedback immediately. But every evening, I review my own Performance. I review whether what I produced that day was any good. Whether I progressed my dream.

I highly recommend you do the same. Just keep in mind this quote by Peter Drucker:

“What gets measured gets improved.” — Peter Drucker

Always make sure that you keep track of your progress. And it can be as simple as rating yourself on a scale of 1–10 every evening in the Level of your Productivity. Don`t overcomplicate. 

Tool: I highly recommend the High Performance Planner by Brendon Burchard. Absolutely amazing!

#3: Challenge/skill-ration

We`re most engaged when there`s Challenge and Difficulty involved. As Steven Kotler puts it: “Flow appears near the midpoint between boredom and anxiety!”

And the sweet spot seems to be around 4% above your current abilities. That keeps attention locked in the present moment, while you`re not completely freaked out about the huge Challenge ahead of you. 

In other words, the key is to keep working on the razor´s edge of your capabilities and skills!

Creativity

“Creativity triggers flow; then Flow enhances Creativity!” — Steven Kotler

The process of developing original, disruptive ideas involves a lot of risk, which in turn is a Flow-Trigger. 

You`re risking rejection and disapproval, if you, for Example, release a Book that`s never been there before. Or you`re on stage, giving everything that you got. 

When you`re disrupting the Status Quo, you`re always triggering a lot of risk. Which means, the creative act itself is an exceptional Flow-Trigger. 

Group-Flow-Triggers

Group Flow unites everybody. There`s no difference between the people in the Group. When one person enters Flow and achieves a major feat, others are motivated to do the same.

That`s, for Example, one of the reasons why Action Sports pushed the edge so much in the last 50 years. Because of the ability to record what you`ve achieved. Others are witnessing your Performance and want to push the envelope even further.

That´s how Performance of a special group excels. 

And I bet you`ve heard the story of Roger Bannister, right? As the first human ever he crushed the 4-Minute-Mile, which seemed impossible before. 

Well, once he did it, many Athletes followed in the very same year. 

A couple of years after he broke the 4-Minute-Mile, even a High-School-Student crushed that barrier. 

Simply because the mental Barrier had been taken away!

The Lesson here: dare to do what´s never been done before. Strive to set the bar even higher!

Conclusion

Flow enhances your creative Output, Productivity and Performance massively. You´ll reach heights of Performance that seemed impossible before, plus you`ll enhance your skills in a massive way.

In order to get into Flow, you`ll need to Struggle. There´s no way around it. It`s part of the Process. 

The key is in allowing yourself to sit in Struggle. It is uncomfortable, I know, but do whatever you need to do to make that happen.

Maybe, you need to work in a room without anything else in it (like so many of the creatives of the past and the present). Maybe you`ll decide to enrichen your environment by being in Nature or changing your Routine. Find your way into Flow. 

And remember this: everybody has the ability to enter Flow. Once we know how, we can create an environment which makes it much more likely. 

And: don`t worry, if you`re not entering Flow every time. As I´m writing this Article, for most of the time I actually didn`t feel like in Flow. The key is in staying at it, getting started despite maybe not being motivated and inspired. 

That`s what ultimately means being a PRO. And which will lead to your breakthrough!

 

I hope this Article served you well. Please let me know what you think down below!

Have a wonderful day!

Yannik

 

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