Skip to content
Who's in the Video
Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning journalist, and the Executive Director of the Flow Research Collective. He is one of the world’s leading experts on[…]
  • Flow is described as a state of “effortless effort,” in which we feel as if we are being propelled through an activity — and everything else seems to disappear. 
  • More specifically, flow refers to any moments of rapt attention and total absorption.
  • Researchers have discovered 22 catalysts to help you quickly enter into a flow state. A few of these include distraction management, dopamine triggering, and concentration.

STEVEN KOTLER: Flow is often described as a state of kind of effortless effort. We feel like we're propelled through the activity. Everything else just seems to disappear. Time is gonna dilate, which is a fancy way of saying it's gonna pass strangely five hours, go by in like five minutes. Occasionally it'll slow down. You get a freeze frame effect. I, anybody who's been in a car crash, for example, intuition tends to get turned up a lot. This is an basketball player in the zone, seeing the hoop and suddenly it's as big as a Hulu and our frown muscles tend to be paralyzed. And what that frowning is, is a sign that the brain is doing work. This is, uh, this is a constant issue. And by my, where my wife thinks I'm mad at her or somebody, and I'm like, no, no, I'm just thinking, this is just me thinking I'm in robot mode.

My name is Stephen Kotler. I'm a writer and a researcher. And my latest book is the art of impossible flow itself. Actually, uh, the term is coined by Gerta who uses the German word RO, which means overflowing with joy. NCHA actually wrote about flow. William James worked on the topic, but Miha sent me high as often referred to as the godfather of flow psychology. He was very interested in sort of well meaning of life. And he went around the world, talking to people about the times in their lives when they felt their best. And they performed their best everywhere. He went, people said the same thing. I mean this altered state of consciousness where every action, every decision I make seems to flow effortlessly, perfectly seamlessly from the last flow actually feels flowy. More specifically. It refers to any of those moments of rad attention and total absorption. You're so focused on the task at hand. So focused on what you're doing. Everything else just seems disappear. But one of the things that athletes talk about a lot is what they call bell voice. Often when I'm skiing and flow, I will get directions right left, do this, do that. And it's, it's very quick. You either do what the voice is telling you to do, or you tend to crash.

The challenge skills balance is often called the golden rule to flow. And the idea here is pretty simple. We pay the most attention into the task at hand when the challenge of that task slightly exceeds our skillset. So to do this work and to get good at it, you have to get good at being comfortable with being uncomfortable. So you want to stretch but not snap. So there are a number of different things you can do to sort of prepare yourself and prepare the environment to drop, to flow. The flow triggers are your toolkit. 22 of them have been discovered. There are probably way, way more, but so far researchers have identified 22. The most basic of flows, triggers, complete concentration. You really want to sort of start your work session. If you can, um, in relationship to your physiology. I like to wake up at 3 34 o'clock in the morning.

That's when I'm most awake, most alert. I am married to a night out. My wife doesn't wake up till 5, 6, 7, o'clock eight o'clock at night. That's when her brain comes alive. And then you want to try to block out 90 to 120 minutes for uninterrupted concentration practice, distraction management ahead of time. So you want to turn off your phone, turn off email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, et cetera, all your messages, all your alerts. There was a study where they found that coders and flow. They get knocked out by distraction and knock at the door, a text alert or whatever it can take. 'em 15 minutes to get back into flow. If they can get back in at all, low only shows up when all of our attention is in the right here right now, one way to kind of explore flow triggers is a cluster of them that are predominantly dopamine triggers.

They drive focus. They drive attention that drive alertness, um, and, and excitement. And there's a lot of different ways to get dopamine. Novelty produces, dove mean we see the same thing with unpredictability complexity, the experience of awe. You look up at the night sky and you see stars everywhere. And you know, those stars are actually universes and you get sort of perceptual vastness. You've ever done a crossword puzzle, or Succo you get an answer that little rush pleasure you get that's dopamine. And then you usually get a couple of answers right in a row. That's because the dopamine that is now in your system is amplifying pattern recognition. We get that same dopamine from risk taking, and this could be physical risks, emotional risks, social risks, and intellectual risks, possibly spiritual risks. We get the dopamine, not as a reward for taking the risk, which is what some people, uh, used to believe.

But now we know it's to kind of drive motivation. Now there are lots of different intrinsic motivators, but from a motivation standpoint, there are five and they're all designed to be built into one another and work in a sort of specific order in a specific sequence. The most base to human motivator is curiosity. One of the things we get from curiosity is focus for free. When we're curious about something, we don't have to struggle. We don't have to burn a lot of calories trying to pay attention to it. Curiosity is designed biologically again to be built into passion and think about we've all fallen in love how much attention you pay, Hey to the person you're falling in love with you. Can't stop thinking about them. Can't stop staring at them. That's a tremendous amount of focus for free. Now passion is incredibly useful, but as a motivator, you can go one better, which is purpose.

Everybody wants to talk about, oh, I have a purpose and it's this big altruistic thing. And it's good for the world. And all those things may be true. But from a peak performance perspective, it's very, very selfish. Once you have purpose, the system demands autonomy. I want the freedom to pursue my purpose. And once you have that freedom, the system wants the last of the big motivators mastery mastery is the skills to pursue that purpose. Well, one of the really incredible things about being human is we're all built for peak performance flow is universal in humans, actually universal in most mammals and deaf, all social MAs. There's a shared collective version of a flow data, a a team performing at their best, a group performing at their best. This is called group flow. In fact, studies have shown that the people who score off the charts for these characteristics who score off the charts for overall wellbeing and life satisfaction, are the people with the most flow in their lives. We're all capable of so much more. Then we know that is a commonality across the boards at the largest lesson. The 30 years in studying peak performance has taught me. And the way I sort of like to think about it is motivation is what gets us into the game. Learning allows us to continue to play creativity is how we steer and flow, which is optimal. Performance is how we amplify all the results beyond all reasonable expectation.

NARRATOR: Get smarter, faster with videos from the world's biggest thinkers and to learn even more from the world's biggest thinkers. Get big think plus for your business.