Flow Riders

You’re snowboarding down a mountain trail when it happens. Time seems to slow. You feel yourself anticipating the piste better than before and start to notice every movement your board makes. Suddenly, it all just feels so effortless…

Benjamin Karl

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This state of mind – when you lose yourself in the moment and find everything just works – is what psychologists call ‘flow’. If not when snowboarding, maybe you’ve experienced it while riding a bike, playing the guitar, or even writing a proposal at work.

Flow is the highest level of focus. It has a phenomenal impact on your performance. So in this article, we’ll explain how it works and some tricks to help you get ‘in flow’ more often and for longer.

Why is flow a good thing?

If you’ve checked out the Red Bull Focus Test you’ll know that improving your focus will boost your performance and help you succeed. Just like pro athletes seek to get in flow when training and competing, we can all do the same in everyday life.

The secrets of getting in flow

The good news, according to scientists, is that it’s possible to train yourself to get in flow. But to achieve this elusive state of mind, you need to understand three main factors.

Flow factor #1. Balance your skills and the size of the challenge

You need to push yourself without stretching your limits too far. If you’re a pro surfer, you aren’t going to flow in small waves. You’re more likely to get bored. Equally if you’re a beginner, double-overhead swell is likely to make you feel anxious and, quite literally, out of your depth.

The lesson: make sure the size of the challenge is a good match for your ability. If it’s too easy, introduce a time limit or some other way of making it harder. If the task’s too demanding, find a way to simplify or improve your skills first.

Flow factor #2. Know what success looks like

Clear and constant feedback is vital to get in flow. After all, you can’t maintain peak performance if you don’t known how well you’re doing. In sports, scoring makes it easy to track your performance. But the feedback in a business meeting, for example, is going to be more subtle – a nod of approval here, a ripple of laughter there…

The lesson: make sure you know what you’re trying to achieve and what measures of success to look for along the way.

Secret #3. Believe in yourself

Simple as it sounds, you can improve your flow just by believing in your own skills. To see this effect in action, take the ‘Juggle’ challenge in the Red Bull Focus Test twice. Before your first go, spend two minutes telling yourself you’re going to fail. Before your second effort, spend two minutes telling yourself you’re going to nail it. See the difference?

The lesson: before any task, build your confidence by mentally replaying past triumphs.

Using flow in your everyday life

You might think of flow as being similar to luck – something good but ultimately random. However, some people spend most of their lives in a state of flow. And now you know what it is and some ways to achieve it, you can spend more time in flow too. Whether that’s at work, at home, or halfway down a mountain.