The Art of Impossible – an Interview with Steven Kotler
We all want to achieve a state of flow in life – that optimal state of consciousness when we both feel our best and perform our best. I recently interviewed Steven Kotler, one of the world’s leading experts on human performance, to discover how to achieve flow and unlock peak performance. Here are some of the top takeaways:
Flow refers to any of those moments of rapt attention and total absorption when we get so focused on the task at hand that everything else just seems to disappear. Whenever you see people accomplishing the impossible, you tend to see people in a state of flow! You might think that this peak-performance state is something that only top athletes or elite performers experience, but that’s not the case. With the right toolkit, everyone can get in the zone, hit their sweet spot and achieve a state of flow.
Flow has 22 triggers. From risk and novelty to creativity and pattern recognition, what triggers flow for one person might not work for another. While everybody is a little different in how they get triggered, all of the triggers do roughly the same thing. Flow follows focus – it only shows up when all of our attention is in the right here, right now. The triggers work by driving our attention to the present moment. That’s how you can get so lost in a particular task that you think you’ve been working for maybe 30 minutes, only to discover that 3 hours have passed!
Achieve Complete Concentration
Complete concentration is the first flow trigger. We are biologically hardwired to focus in 90-minute blocks. We have a sleep cycle that’s 90 minutes long and we also have a waking-focus cycle that’s 90 minutes long. The key to achieving complete concentration and flow is to start your day with your hardest task. When you make your goals list for the day, prioritize the task that will give you the biggest win and then devote 90 minutes of uninterrupted concentration to it. A powerful way to really lean into this is to practice distraction management ahead of time. Shut down everything that’s going to knock you out of flow in advance. That might mean putting your phone on silent or hanging a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door – whatever it takes to achieve uninterrupted focus is what you need to do. Remember, you work for the boss: the boss is the you who wrote your to-do list yesterday!
In peak performance, motivation gets us into the game. Learning allows us to continue to play. Creativity and creative problem-solving are how we steer. And flow, that state of optimal performance, is how we turbo-boost the results beyond all reasonable expectations. To learn more, listen to the latest episode of “The Brian Buffini Show.”