Three Steps to Flow

Updated: Jan 14


“Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success." Henry Ford

Think of a very large goal that you have right now, and imagine yourself the moment you accomplish it. For the next 30 seconds, play that scene in your head with as much detail as your mind can create. Experience the moment that you cross that finish line, hold that trophy, or nail that presentation. For 30 focused seconds, live that moment. Ready.Set.Go! Our ability to use words and mental imagery in this way is a uniquely human trait and science has shown that it can enhance our performance. When we visualize ourselves performing an act, our brain experiences the act as if our body did it. Remember the old saying, 'practice makes perfect'? Visualization is perfect practice, and according to pioneering rock climber and former Army Ranger, Arno Ilgner, holding that imagery in our minds has profound effects.

When we hold both our current reality and the end result in our awareness, a structural tension is created. Now, when we take action, our energy flows along the path of least resistance through that structure to close the gap.

Getting Ready starts with the courage to see yourself accomplish something in full detail, and guided visualization exercises are valuable tools to help you close the gap quicker.

From a mental performance standpoint, if you're not using guided imagery and visualization, you're not truly exploring your edges.


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

Many performers get this next part confused, and that is why confidence can seem so elusive. The Road to Confidence has a fork in it. The path to the left says that confidence is the belief that a hypothesis or a prediction will come true (for example; guessing, hoping, or praying) while the path to the right says that confidence is the belief that a chosen course of action will come true (for example; a strategy or a plan).

Sounds like an easy choice right? Well it's not. Mostly because we instinctively look for short-cuts. Our brains see patterns everywhere, and then we go about applying meaning to those patterns. Athletes do it all the time. Have you ever worn a dirty undershirt for eight games in a row because you were on a win streak?

I have and I've witnessed worse. And if you're not careful, those rituals start to take space and hinders our ability to establish solid pre-performance routines. Your confidence is in the hypothesis or prediction that something might be true. It's no longer in your ability to execute on a plan. The road to the left is a slippery slope towards superstition. Check out 8 Strange Athlete Superstitions.

The road to the right, on the other hand, is a well developed pre-performance routine. It's an intentional plan that can allow an individual to regulate emotional arousal and enhance concentration at the moment of performance. It's a science-based self-regulation strategy that has been shown to lead to better goal attainment, as well as habit and behavior modification.

Good pre-performance routines initiate automatic responses to situational cues, allowing performances to happen automatically, without conscious effort.

Stop for a second and consider these implications: Imagine eliminating hesitation and deliberation out of your own performance. If you could have your team perform certain actions automatically, without conscious effort, how might that improve team performance?

Getting SET is a three-step routine ...1) Set your mind: Determined, commit to what it is you are about to do. 2) Set your body: Physically, set yourself in a position to win. If it's not a physical act, set you foundation, or the environment in which you need to succeed. 3) Set your focus: Give all of your attention to the goal. Set your mind. Set your body. Set your focus. In that order.

(RSG can help you customize this piece to your specific performance setting)

Applying this or any intentional routine to the moments before your performance eliminates distractions. It keeps you focused on the steps that are right in front of you, and it replaces old reactive habits with new and better ones. Eventually this new routine (Set.Set.Set.) will become automatic much like the story of how NFL Coach Tony Dungy helped Pro Bowl MVP Derrick Brooks. “Brooks’ routine was that he was interpreting too many signals—the running back’s feet, the quarterback’s eyes—at once. Essentially, he was multitasking, a difficult thing to do in an office, let alone a football field. He needed to think less and react faster. So Dungy coached him to take the same starting cue (the running back’s motion) and get to the reward (anticipating the play) in a different way: by looking at the signals in a progression, one after the other, instead of all together. At first, this required a lot of Brooks’s mental energy. But eventually the new routine became automatic. Good habits became a reaction rather than a choice.”- From the book The Power of Habit


“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” Confucius

Imagine a time when you were fully immersed in your area of performance. You felt an energized focus. You were fully involved, and you completely enjoyed the experience.

That's called 'next-level' performance and it's typically referred to as being ‘in the zone’. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (2013) uses the word ‘autotelic' to describe individuals experiencing the zone, but he calls it ‘flow.’ Flow is that magic moment when time is altered, and you are completely consumed in an experience. Flow theory says that a flow state can only occur if there is a good balance between perceived challenges of the task at hand and the learner’s perceived ability to solve it.

It makes sense then, that if we can increase the perception of a learner's skill and their perception of their ability to solve a challenge (by increasing their confidence), then we can help them achieve more flow states. Learn more about Flow here.

RSG Performance delivers training and coaching that builds upon all of these concepts using science-based research and methodologies. Through modified, performance-specific forms of mindfulness training, we teach confidence, resilience, focus and flow.

Ready.Set.Go! is the framework for your new pre-performance routine. If you can see yourself achieve a goal, you are READY. If you can feel your body and mind positioned to win, you are SET. Now, trust yourself and GO!

If you would like to learn more about customized training solutions for you and your team, send us an email and we would love to discuss your goals!


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