07 May How To Use The Flow State To Make The Best Business Decisions Of Your Life
We all know how good it feels to get into the flow. You fire on all cylinders and accomplish more when you’re in your groove. But how can you achieve this flow state with more regularity? This article shows you how.
The flow state is a special thing.
When everything flows together, you feel unstoppable. Business decisions come easily and everything locks into place. You can simply achieve more when you’re in your flow state.
Unfortunately, your flow isn’t a perpetual thing. But it’s when you’re in this state that you can achieve more than you thought possible.
I want to tell you a story to show you just how powerful the flow state can be.
Danny Way’s Miracle Jump
Author Steven Kotler often writes about the idea of the flow state. In one of his books, he discusses the story of a remarkable skateboarder named Danny Way. Those who follow the sport may already know of this man’s achievements. But for those who don’t, what follows is a recounting of the flow state in action.
It all started with an idea. In 2005, Way wanted to try to jump over the Great Wall of China. To achieve the feat, he would need to use something called a MegaRamp.
Introduced to the skateboarding world in 2003, the MegaRamp is as its name implies. It’s a huge ramp that allows skateboarders to generate immense speeds prior to making a jump. This, in turn, means that they travel greater heights and distances with their jumps.
A fly-over trip to the Great Wall led to Way settling on the idea. Moreover, he decided that he wanted to jump the Ju Yong Guan gate. For those who don’t know much about the wall, this gate is its widest point.
To add to the pressure, Way knew of a BMX rider who had died in an attempt to achieve a similar feat. Everything needed to go perfectly to help Way achieve his feat.
That’s when the MegaRamp architect realised he’d made some miscalculations. The ramp he’d built may not help Way to reach the height that he needed to achieve the jump. The architect made the call, telling Way: “I think you’re going to have to clear more than 75-feet to make this… Isn’t that just too gnarly?”
“Nothing’s too gnarly!”
It’s a response that resonates in skating culture to this day. In that moment, Way had made it clear that he was going to attempt the impossible.
The setup created for the day of the jump took your breath away. The ramp and roll-in combined to create a 100-foot lead-up to the jump. The gap itself was an astonishing 70 feet and Way had to land on a 32-foot quarterpipe to complete the jump.
Way describes skateboarding as a “game of failure”. He also describes the state of mind that he finds himself in before trying such stunts.
“When I’m really pushing the edge and skating beyond my abilities, there’s a zone I get into,” he says. “Everything goes silent. Time slows down. My peripheral vision fades away. It’s the most peaceful state of mind I’ve ever known”
That’s the flow state.
The jump didn’t go perfectly. Way decided to try a practice run before filming the stunt for television. That run resulted in an under-jump, with Way crashing to the deck. He rag-dolled for 50 feet before coming to a stop.
A fractured ankle, swollen steering foot, and torn ACL were Way’s rewards for his first attempt at the jump.
Any normal human being would give up right there, but Way did things differently. 24 hours later, he stood at the top of the MegaRamp and was ready to try again. With 125 million people watching on television, he made the jump and set two world records. Then, he did it four more times just to showcase his skills.
All of this with the injuries that he’d suffered the previous day.
You don’t have to be a skateboarder to appreciate the remarkable nature of this achievement. Not only did Way manage to stand despite his injuries. He also accomplished a feat that put his body under four g-forces of pressure. That’s about 800 pounds of pressure as he entered the quarterpipe.
The most remarkable thing is that this type of story isn’t a rare occurrence. There are an untold number of tales of people pushing beyond the bounds of human capability to achieve amazing things.
It all comes down to the flow state. This particular state of mind unlocks your potential and allows you to achieve the extraordinary.
What is the Flow State?
Way provides a good explanation of the flow state in the above story. He describes it as a state of mind in which all external influences go down to zero. He reaches a special zone and achieves a peaceful mind-frame. In that moment, nothing but the task at hand matters to him.
Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi provides a more scientific explanation of the flow state. He popularised the term in the 1990s and describes it as: “the optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”
All other thoughts fall away and every action flows from your previous action. Time seems to fly by and everything that you are gets absorbed into what you’re doing.
He also describes ten factors that go into the creation of the flow state:
- Focusing solely on the activity at hand
- Clarity of vision in regard to your goal
- A loss of all self-conscious thoughts
- The participation in an activity that rewards you
- An intense concentration
- Not keeping track of the time as you work
- Feeling in total control over your situation
- A complete belief in the fact that your skills will help you to achieve your goal
- The ability to provide instant feedback to yourself on your progress
- Losing awareness of your physical being and needs
Now, you don’t need to achieve all ten of these to get into the flow state. But let’s see how these relate to what Way achieved. Way had a clear goal and believed in his skills. He also clearly lost awareness of his physical needs. If he hadn’t, there’s no way he’d have achieved the feat with his injuries. The rest apply to Way’s mental state, which he describes in the quote above.
Way had achieved the flow state as described by Csíkszentmihályi.
Creating Flow – The Tips
The flow state can help you to make better business decisions because you have complete focus. But how can you achieve it? Here are four tips for creating flow.
Tip #1 – Do What You Love
If you don’t love what you do, you never commit your mind fully to the task at hand.
It seems like such an obvious statement. But there are so many people out there who wonder why they’re not achieving the level of success that they believe they’re capable of. Often, it comes down to them not being absolutely in love with what they do.
Look at the example of Danny Way. This is a man who lives and breathes skateboarding. Just having the gumption to try what he tried can tell you that. His deep passion for his work allows him to focus on nothing but that work.
If you’re not enjoying the task at hand, you can’t lose yourself in it. You’re thinking more about what you need to do to make the task end. That means you’re not focused on the journey that the task takes you on.
If you don’t have passion, you won’t achieve a flow. Look for projects that excite you and you’ll find yourself achieving more and making better decisions.
Tip #2 – Match Your Skills to the Task
If your skills don’t match the task at hand, you’ll struggle to accomplish your goals. Again, it’s a simple statement. But think about how many times you’ve had to do something that you’re not suited for. You spend more time on research and thinking about how you’ll accomplish the task than you do actually completing the task.
In the end, it comes down to preparation. Have you developed the skills needed to accomplish your goals? Have you prepared properly for the task before starting it?
If you can answer “yes” to both of those questions, you’re more likely to achieve the flow state. This means that you complete more work, which allows you to make more informed business decisions.
This point also extends to your organisation’s people. If you’re assigning tasks that don’t align with somebody’s skills, they can’t achieve a flow. This results in a slowdown that affects your business decisions.
Tip #3 – Eliminate Distractions
What are your phone, social media, and those conversations you’re having with other people?
In the context of the task at hand, they’re distractions. Each distraction pulls your focus away from what you need to achieve. And if you’re not focused on your task, you can’t achieve a flow.
Let’s go back to the example of Danny Way. A lot of preparation went into his jump. But once he’d ascended the MegaRamp, there was nothing around to take his eye off the prize. He drowned out the noise around him and was at one with the task.
You need to achieve a similar environment. Turn off your phone and don’t allow distractions to cloud your thought. Keep your mind on the task at hand and you’ll achieve the flow state.
Tip #4 – Give Yourself Some Time
So, you’ve created a distraction-free environment and you know that you have the skills. But you’re not getting in the flow straight away. You get frustrated at this fact, which makes it impossible to achieve the state that you’re looking for.
Flow isn’t always something that you can just slip into. It often takes a little time for you to get into it. You may spend half an hour typing at your computer before the flow hits. But that’s just part of your process. The minute you start overthinking and wondering why you’re not in the flow is the minute you prevent yourself from achieving the flow state.
Again, it comes down to your focus. You distract yourself with your own thoughts when you worry about the time it takes to achieve a flow. Just keep working and you’ll find yourself in the flow, often without realising you’ve gotten there.
The Final Word
When you’re in the flow, you can achieve so much more than you thought possible. Danny Way proved that with his Great Wall of China jump. You can apply that same mindset to helping yourself achieve your business goals.
To sum up, here’s what you need to do to find your flow state:
- Know exactly what you want to achieve
- Ensure you’ve prepared for the task and that you have the skills needed to accomplish it
- Eliminate anything that may pull your focus away from the task
- Be patient with yourself and don’t overthink things
I can help you unlock the secrets of flow.
It all starts with our 1-hour Business Review Session.
During the session, my aim will be to help you see hidden opportunities in your business. We’ll discuss any aspect of your business in which you would like support, such as:
- Growth Strategies
- Sales and Distribution
- Pricing and Packaging
- Merger/Sale, Capital Raising, IPO
After 35+ years working with small and large businesses, buying, selling and growing them across a range of sectors, I can work with you on any level or area.
Do you want to find your flow? Join me for a no-obligation 1 Hour Business Review Session to start unlocking the secrets.