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Updated: Aug 10, 2023

We may have heard people talking about ‘being in the zone’, ‘hitting the sweet spot’, or ‘being on fire’ — sub-cultures have endless colloquial names for this state of immersion in which we become so focused into an activity that we lose all self-consciousness, then emerge surprised by how we have just applied our abilities.

At first glance, these experiences can seem mysterious, elusive and even ‘wishy-washy’. Its paradoxical nature of effortless action leaves many intelligent people perplexed and even suspicious this state could ever be reverse engineered.

Flow science has seen unprecedented growth in the last five years. Thanks to technological advancement and the efforts of dedicated scientists, flow has a psychophysiological blueprint that is nothing short of mind-blowing. Unlike our usual physiological signature when being challenged, flow experiences activate different parts of our brain, efficiently utilize our neural networks, and turn our body into an optimal functioning vessel.

‘Flow’, a term we may be more accustomed to hearing surrounding money, charts or from avoidant slogans such as ‘just go with the flow dude’, is the scientific term for operationalizing optimal experience. A ‘flow’ experience encapsulates our most optimal level of functioning.

Within elite performing circles, flow is seen as the holy grail of mental states. It is credited to underpin the performances that have won Olympic medals, World Championships, and spearheaded scientific breakthroughs. It is an underlying meta state that sits at the heart of innovation and peak performance. It is why flow feels so great.

This level of internal congruency makes us feel empowered like nothing else. The cortico-muscular coherence and synchronicity between mind and body results in an unusual level of fluency in our action and words. In flow, our brain utilizes our more innate and efficient cognitive system to process incoming stimuli and manage our reactions. This has the net effect of drastically speeding up our ability to process information, enabling us to make quicker and more informed decisions.

In flow, anything that’s not relevant to the moment and the task is ditched, giving us extra energy and capacity to rise above high achievement into high performance. All of this incredible engineering makes us highly efficient and productive. We experience a level of self-trust that is rarely allowed to govern our experiences. Instead of reacting to our thoughts and emotions like we have become accustomed, in flow, we act with intuition getting the best of our intelligence centers.

Collectively, this internal experience is so intrinsically rewarding it neurochemically fills our mind and body with endorphins and dopamine that leaves us feeling alive and elated — in fact, studies from Harvard University report that we can feel creative for days after a flow experience. Experiencing flow regularly at work is the difference between ‘just another day at the office’ and a great day at work. It is the difference between an ordinary team that does enough to get by and an A team that drives the business forward.

How do we tap into high performance?

High performance requires:

  1. Living with our soul’s full presence in every moment.

  2. Having a clear and purposeful pursuit.

  3. Measuring the progress within our lives.

  4. Choosing to live with a deep sense of purpose.

  5. Allowing ourselves to experience pleasure.

Tapping into flow state and high performance requires practice.

When I first started out, it would take me 5 days (sometimes longer) to edit a 5-minute blog post. I’m not kidding. I would spend countless hours every week trying to edit and post my early content on social media. Slowly, I got faster. Steadily, I improved my skills. This is how I discovered high performance incrementally, through consistent effort and practice. Slow improvement is REAL improvement.

We suffer from boredom culture and burnout culture.

Half of us are unmotivated and unexcited about creating momentum in our lives. The other half of us reside on the opposite end of the spectrum— always in a rush and never feeling like we’re achieving enough, no matter how far we climb. Both sides are unfulfilling. One says: nothing matters. The other says: goals are all that matter. Neither of these mindsets result in high performance.

High performance is about balancing pleasure and work.

We don’t have to live in extremes. Becoming a high performer requires us to do high quality work when we need to work, and then asks us to walk away when we need a break. Choosing to make room for both work and joy in your life is the way to a balanced sense of high performance.

Staying busy is not high performance.

Just because we keep busy at all times doesn’t mean we’re participating in high performance. Being busy makes many of us feel safe. It makes us feel important, worthy, and successful. However, high performance deals with the quality of our work, not the quantity or urgency of our work.

Always choose to return to balance.

At times we will feel overworked. Other times we will feel bored and unmotivated. This is okay and to be expected. High performance doesn’t mean we will always feel perfectly balanced and in flow— it means we are dedicated to returning to that balance and flow state when we wander from it.

If we are not present, we will be absent.

More than anything, high performance is about living with presence. The kind of presence that enables us to live each moment with our full heart, soul, and energy. High performance is not scattered, distracted, nor lukewarm— it’s us, placing our full and complete self forward in everything that we do.

Choose a definitive goal (professionally and personally).

Let these goals be healthy and achievable. Don’t aim to be a New York Times bestselling author. Aim to write an authentic and heartfelt book that changes us for the better because we decided to write it. Having a clear goal in mind will help us move in the direction of our highest self.

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