Reaching a state of Flow

We’ve all heard the term ‘Flow’ used before. “Going with the flow” is a phrase often associated with an ability to move, or transition easily between tasks.

Reaching a state of Flow can feel almost transcendent; it’s that feeling of being ‘in the zone’, having that perfect training session or a highly productive period of creativity. Often we stumble across this state by luck, or the perfect combination of factors that we may be unaware of. With a bit of understanding of the concept of Flow, can we reach this state frequently and intentionally to maximize our enjoyment of our chosen disciplines?

A great martial artists once said “Be like water”… Water has achieved a perfect, constant state of Flow, figuratively and metaphorically.

‘Flow’ is beneficial in our learning or practice because it a) will increase your enjoyment of the task at hand and b) will give you opportunities for new learning or trying out new techniques.

To reach a state of Flow, we need to understand the conditions that allow us to foster the state:

Conditions for Flow

  1. You have to be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress.
  2. The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback.
  3. There must be a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task and one’s perceived skills.

This is why I think Flow applies so well to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: it fits all three of these criteria perfectly. Other disciplines will undoubtedly do so too; such as Fine Art, Yoga, competitive sports, martial arts and more.

  1. The clear set of goals and progress in Jiu Jitsu is to submit your opponent. The more effectively and efficiently you can do so helps to clarify progress.
  2. There is clear and immediate feedback; if you apply a technique and it doesn’t work on a resisting opponent, you receive immediate feedback about that technique and your application of it.
  3. The perceived challenges of Jiu Jitsu are considerable. We are also constantly trying to improve so that our perception of our own skills is not only accurate, but that we can honestly assess our skill set without ego and understand what we are capable of.

To conclude, to successfully reach a state of Flow more regularly, try to foster these 3 conditions as much as you can. Be conscious of them whenever you practice your chose discipline.

It is not a coincidence that “Flow” has connotations to water. For the pursuit of any artistic discipline, we need to flow like water. I will leave you with a quote from the great Bruce Lee that seems all too appropriate for this discussion:

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”




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