YAPLive: Unlocking Peak Performance with Steven Kotler | Cut Version
YAPLive: Unlocking Peak Performance with Steven Kotler | Cut Version
Have you ever been completely in the zone? Hours go by without you noticing, your creativity and productivity seem to be off the charts? Or you’re out for a run and your pain and exhaustion seem to fall away, and you are only focused on that exact moment? If so, you’ve been in a flow state. A flow state is a place of high productivity, creativity, and happiness. It’s when we are living in the moment, feeling and performing our best. But is this something that can be harnessed? Can we learn how to get into a flow state? Productivity expert and best-selling author Steven Kolter believes we can all regularly reach peak performance. In this episode, Hala and Steven define flow states, go in-depth about the neurobiology behind flow and hypo frontality, talk about flow as a spectrum, cover flow state triggers, dive into the limits of flow, and give actionable advice about reaching peak performance and managing anxiety.
– Intro to flow states
– What happens to our mind when we’re in a flow state
– Defining transient hypo frontality
– The deep now
– Why does the brain perform hypo frontality?
– What gets amplified during flow?
– Peak performance in evolution
– Flow as a spectrum
– Flow state triggers
– The importance of setting aside time for flow
– Can technology help us get flow?
– What are the time limits of flow?
– Helpers high and passion as caveats
– Is there anything that prevents flow?
– Peak performance basics
– Three techniques to manage anxiety
– And other topics…
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 human performance.
He is the author of thirteen books, nine of which have been bestsellers. His books include The Art of Impossible, The Future is Faster Than You Think, Stealing Fire, The Rise of Superman, Bold, and Abundance. Steven is also the cohost of Flow Research Collective Radio, a top ten iTunes science podcast.
Steven’s work has been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes, translated into over 40 languages, and has appeared in over 100 publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Wired, Wall Street Journal, TIME, and more.
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#YAPLive: Unlocking Peak Performance with Steven Kotler on Clubhouse:https://www.youngandprofiting.com/yaplive-unlocking-peak-performance-with-steven-kotler-on-clubhouse/
YAP Episode #32: Flow Into The Future with Steven Kotler: https://www.youngandprofiting.com/32-flow-into-the-future-with-steven-kotler/
YAP Episode #138: Master the Impossible with Steven Kotler: https://www.youngandprofiting.com/138-master-the-impossible-with-steven-kotler/
Steven’s Website: https://www.stevenkotler.com/
Flow Blocker Website: https://www.flowblocker.com
Steven’s Books: https://www.stevenkotler.com/books
Steven’s podcast, Flow Research Collective Radio: https://www.stevenkotler.com/radio
Steven’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/steven-kotler-4305b110/
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[00:00:00] Hala: There's lots of synonyms for flow. And I think even if people don't know what flow is, they've probably experienced it and they might call it something like being in the zone or having a runner's high. And we've all had this at some point in our lives. So to kick things off to kind of level set for people who have never heard of this concept, what is your definition of.
[00:00:20] Steven: Thank you. It's a good place to start. I don't actually have a definition of flow. Science has a definition of flow, which is an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and we form our best more specifically that refers to any moment of kind of wrapped attention and total absorption, where you get so focused on what you're doing.
So focused on the task at hand. Everything else just seems to disappear. Action and awareness are going to start to merge your sense of self sense of self-consciousness the voice in your head. That inner critic they're gonna diminish and get really quiet. Time is going to start to pass. Strangely. The technical [00:01:00] term is time dilation.
What that means is sometimes most commonly time speeds up. You get so sucked into what you're doing. That five hours go by. It feels like five minutes or occasionally they've been in a car crash. You've experienced time slowing down. So you get a freeze frame effect and throughout all aspects of performance, both mental and physical go through the roof.
So that's sort of a shorthand quickie definition. We'll start there. Psychologists have a little more precise definition and I work on the neurobiology of flow. So we look for 10 or 11 different brain and body markers. And that's how, how we define flow. Got
[00:01:43] Hala: I think that was a really good introductory to flow.
So let's talk about some of the ways that our brain reacts to being in a flow state. So what happens neuro biologically, when we are in a flow state, what happens to our
[00:01:57] Steven: mind?
So the first thing that [00:02:00] happens as we move into flow is the prefrontal cortex. That's the part of your brain that sits sort of right behind your. Gets very, very quiet. It deactivates the technical term for this is transient hypofrontality, transient, meaning temporary hypo H Y P O. It's the opposite of hyper.
It means to slow down and shut down or deactivate frontallis it refers to the prefrontal cortex, the party of brain, right behind your forehead under normal circumstances, a really powerful part of the brain. It does things like complex logical decision-making long-term planning your sense of willpower lives there.
So does your sense of morality in flow? What happens is the brain says, okay, you need a lot of energy to focus on the present moment to keep all your attention locked on the right here right now. So we're going to perform an efficiency exchange. We're going to shut down non-critical structures, things that are working right now and are needed to solve the problem [00:03:00] at hand.
And we're going to repurpose all that energy for attention and focus. This is what happens to the prefrontal cortex as it starts to shut down. This is why our sense of time gets so strange and flow time is essentially a calculation is performed by a bunch of different structures in the prefrontal cortex working together.
And it's a network and like any network as parts of the network, go down, you lose. And network functionality. So in this case, we lose the ability to separate paths from present from future we're plunged into an experience that scientists talk about is the deep now or the eternal present or the elongated present that now just seems to stretch out forever.
This from performance perspective is really cool because most of our fears and most of our anxieties are not, unless you're kind of in a combat situation or an action sports situation, very rarely our fears and our [00:04:00] anxieties present tense. So like as this time dilation stuff happens, what it's pushing stress hormones out of our system, which, and resetting the nervous system stumping similar, by the way, that's exactly what happens to our sense of self.
You said, it's this self self-consciousness that inner critic. That's a network effect. Why don't you have different structures in the prefrontal cortex, working with other parts of your brand and produces our sense of self. And flow as this part of the brain shuts off, we lose our sense of self. That inner critic gets really, really quiet.
And once that happens, as a result, risk-taking goes up creativity cause the voice in your head, it's no longer doubting. Every neat idea you have goes up. So does enjoyment and satisfaction and joy and euphoria and a whole bunch of other stuff like that. So that's the first part of it. You're seeing a deactivation in the prefrontal cortex.
I'm going to pause there and go further if you want me to.
[00:04:56] Hala: Yeah. So I'd love to like dig deep on that. Can we talk about [00:05:00] why our brain is designed this way? Like I know that it's all because of evolution and survival. So talk to us about why our brain is designed to kind of shut off in some instances so that we can preform our best and be in the now and be super present.
[00:05:17] Steven: Okay. So you're asking two separate questions. So let me tease them apart and answer them one at a time. The first one is why is the brain performing hypofrontality? This is not all that unusual. The brain as a general rule is an energy hog. It uses 25% of our energy at rest, and it's 2% of our body weight.
So at least a quarter of everything you eat is going to power your brain. And this is at rest when you're doing something hard that is requiring focus and attention and work and effort. So using a lot more energy, the brain essentially has a fixed energy budget, so it will shift around [00:06:00] resources. So that is just sort of standard biology.
It also happens as we move into any altered state of consciousness, you get deactivation in the prefrontal cortex. This happens during dreaming. It happens during meditation. It happens during trans states. People have experienced out of body experiences. This is very common across the boards. It also shows up in drugs.
That was actually the first discovery of hypofrontality was in drug addicts in the nineties. And. That drug addicts damage their prefrontal cortex. And that's was that loss of self control. You see an addiction cause self control is part of the prefrontal cortex in flow. There's an energy exchange and you don't need to moderate behavior because in flow, essentially all your actions are sort of as close to perfect as they're going to get.
There's no need to modify behavior. So that part, and you're running essentially automatic motor programs. You don't need the prefrontal cortex to steer. So that's why that [00:07:00] happens.
The second question, the larger question you asked. Every human being is hardwired to get into flow. This is one of the things that's really well known about the state evolution designed all human beings for peak performance.
We're all designed to perform at our best. We're all designed to drop into flow. Every listening to me right now can get into flow. Anyone anywhere provided certain initial conditions or Matt can get into flow. So peak performance is available to each and every one of us. And
One of the things we have to address is what gets amplified in flow, and it's a huge swatch of ability.
So in flow,
we know for example, motivation, productivity and grit will get significantly amplified in flow. Sometimes a 500% above baseline. The department of defense found that soldiers in flow will learn 250 to 500% faster than normal. You see creativity, innovation, all aspects [00:08:00] of creative, decision-making spike 400 to 700% in flow.
We see huge amounts of overall wellbeing, life satisfaction, joy, euphoria, all these things, spike and flow. In fact, it's one of the most well-known things in psychology at this point is the people with the most flow in their lives are the people who score off the charts for overall life satisfaction and wellbeing.
So there's a huge surge in happiness factors as well. There's a shared collective version of a flow state. So there's individual flow me and a flow state. And there's me and all of you in a flow state together, that's group flow. It's a team performing at our best. And to facilitate that and flow, you also see an amplification in collaboration and cooperation, empathy increases in flow.
In fact, we doing a lot of work. These days, the flow research collective with various police organizations throughout America, we're really, you know, concerned in today's climate about actually increasing empathy. They thinks it's going to make them better at their [00:09:00] job in the modern world. I agree. So we're working with them on flow and you also, the last thing that gets amplified is ecological awareness, which is our ability to see and perceive the natural world.
This is the full suite of cognitive stuff. There's a big boost on the physical side as well, strength and endurance fast, which muscle response goes up. Our sense of pain is decreased. And the question you have to ask when anybody lifts off a whole. Bunch of benefits like that is why would one altered state of consciousness do all that?
Like what the hell, where does that come from from an evolutionary perspective, as you asked, and the answer is evolution shaped us to survive. And the biggest driver of that survival instinct was scarcity of resources, scarcity of resources, the largest driver of evolution. And that's the beginning of the answer to this question.
So when resources are scarce, you have two choices, [00:10:00] you can fight and flee, so you can fight over dwindling resources or you could flee to avoid being somebody else's resources or. You can get innovative, get creative, get cooperative, get collaborative and team up and make new resources that is everything flow.
Amplifies it amplifies everything. You're going to need a fight or flee or get creative. Get in a way ahead of get collaborative and make new resources. That's what's being amplified by flow. That's why it's such a complete package.
[00:10:30] Hala: It's so interesting. And I would love to kind of get your take on the types of people who typically experienced flow, because when you're talking about kind of losing yourself, it sounds so intense. And it sounds like something that only like a surfer would be able to experience or, you know, a runner or an artist, some sort of musician.
So I guess my question is can normal people experience like true flow, like that [00:11:00] macro flow that you're doing?
[00:11:01] Steven: Everyone anywhere can get into flow.
In fact, just to give you a couple of examples that are so far outside of extreme sports or sports in general, the most common flow state is middle managers in conversation at work, we can talk about why two people start talking at work. They get so sucked in the conversation that ideas are really just spiraling and you see that sort of creativity and a couple hours go by and they didn't even notice.
[00:11:27] Steven: That's incredibly common. Coders and flow are foundationally common, but you have to understand that like video games can drive people into flow. And it's so common that they can use the amount of flow produced by a video game to tell how well the video game will do on the market. The more flow of the game produces the better it's going to sell when they went looking for the highest flow environments on earth, outside of sports.
R one place that they discovered was Montessori education. And there are a bunch of reasons for that. And we can talk about [00:12:00] why later, but really flow is universal. It shows up anywhere in any one provided certain initial conditions are met to put it more specifically. Flow is really trainable. And the reason I know this is the flow research collective.
We train about a thousand people a month and we train everybody from Olympic athletes and professional athletes and members of the U S special forces to C suite executives at fortune 500 companies. Large swatches, the companies themselves. And I think right now we're working with everybody from Accenture.
Who's a business consultancy to Audi, the auto manufacturer. So huge swatches, a corporate America. And then we try and the general public, everybody, you could possibly imagine insurance brokers in London and coders in Delhi and soccer moms in Iowa and on and on. And so on average, because we measure flow pre and post, we see a 70% increase and flow.
This stuff is [00:13:00] incredibly, incredibly true.
[00:13:01] Hala: Hmm, that's so interesting. I want to talk about flow triggers. So we were just talking about evolution biology, and basically the fact that to get into flow, you need to really be focused on the now and from my understanding, these flow triggers really help you become more in the present moment, and then they help kind of enhance and further your state of flow.
So can you give us an overview of what these triggers are? I know there's like 20 or so of them. You don't need to go through all of them, but maybe some of the big ones and how they trick our brain into getting into a deeper
[00:13:34] Steven: flow state. Perfect. So yeah. Flow states have drivers, right? You take one of our classes, one of my trainings. That's what we're teaching you, how to do. We're teaching how to use and deploy these triggers. If you want more flow in your life, Tala pointed out the triggers are your toolkit. You were close. There are 22 that have been discovered. There are way more they're way, way, way more. This is just what we've discovered and The [00:14:00] easy way to think about it.
And then I'll get into a little bit of the sciencetriggers will lower cognitive load. Cognitive load is all the crap you're thinking about at any one point in time. And if I lower cognitive load, I liberate a bunch of energy that your brain will then repurpose for paying attention. The present moment. So that's from an neuro-biological perspective, what all the triggers are doing, and some of them are obvious, complete concentration as they float. And that's the place you want.
You have to start. When I work with companies, I always walk in and I said, look, if you cannot hang a sign on your door that says, fuck off, I'm flowing. You can't do this work. And I'm not actually joking. I'm pretty serious. Um, we can talk about what that means for organizations with open office plans in the second, but on an individual level, what it means is you want to set aside time for.
And how much [00:15:00] time, what the research shows is that you want to block off periods of time for uninterrupted concentration. If you can, that are 90 to 120 minutes long. This is an arbitrary, just like we have a 90 to 120 minute long REMS light cycle. When we dream, we also have a waking focus cycle. That's roughly the same amount.
So the brain is essentially designed to focus for this period of time. Earlier. I mentioned that Montessori education is one of the highest flow environments on earth. Why is that? One of the reasons is they break learning into 90 to 120 minute blocks.
So they literally mapped their learning periods onto what the brain is designed to focus for in real life.
What does this mean? So in my life, in my life, it means that I like to start my day with my focus period. What the research shows is that if you really want to maximize flow, you want to see. Your work session, your [00:16:00] 920 minutes in accordance with your circadian rhythms. So I'm an extreme Lark. I love getting up super early in the morning.
I've been up since three 30 this morning. That's when I got up to start working. My wife's a night up. She's going to wake up in a couple of hours and she's going to work all night. Most people who are sort of best alert in the morning, eight o'clock, nine o'clock that's where they kind of stuff into consciousness, but you can't really fight your circadian rhythms.
So you have any control over your school. What you want to do is sort of block off 90 on 20 minutes, kind of the period where you're going to be most alert cords with your biological clock and practice distraction management. You can't be kind of the same Lance network. It is going to whim. So you want them basically shut off anything.
That's going to distract you from what you're going to focus on from. I like to start my work session, my hardest task, the hardest thing I have to do all day. And the thing that if I can plate it, it's the biggest victory for my day. I want to start with the biggest win, always if I can, [00:17:00] or the thing that's going to just take the most effort for both together.
And for me, that's usually writing my book, whatever book I'm writing at the time. So that's sort of how I start my day. Off Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and my cell phone and instant messages and all my alerts and my phone, I ahead of time. And I also have conversations. You know what I'm, if you need me and you work with me, you know, there's certain hours that I'm, I I'm just not available.
My wife knows these hours. I'm not available. And yet one of the, I always tell people have your conversations at a time. You're going to do this work flow massively, amplifies protein. But you need focus time to get that amplification. So it's worth saying, Hey, to the, all the people who love you and, or your bosses who want your attention, Hey, you're going to get more of me, but to get more of may, I need to be more productive and you need to leave me alone for this period of time.
That's the most common flow trigger I'll stop there. And we can go on.
[00:17:58] Hala: Got it, got it. That's that's helpful.[00:18:00]
[00:18:00] Hala: as we move further and further away from our ancestors, and now we live every day device from device and we're spending so much time on these screens and there's so much new technology out there.
Do you think that there's any technology that actually helps us get into flow? Or are you suggesting that when it comes to flow really it's. Ourselves and our brain and kind of like hacking our
[00:18:22] Steven: own oil. I'm not suggesting that at all, there are lots of technologies that can help us get into flow. I mean, there's brainwave entrainment stuff that you can do, you can use that will help train up focus, but you know, you can use the brainwave technology or you, you could use a mindfulness meditation practice to learn how to focus the same way either.
There are a lot of those things,
you know, at the flow research collective, some of the work that we're doing is first work. We're building a, what's called about this waste, floated Hector, something that can measure neurological signals right now we can, we have 12 or so different signals that we can look for, but [00:19:00] nobody's put them all together into a single device that can say, okay, urine flow in the lab.
I mean, even there's no one thing we're trying to. A bunch of machine learning technology, coupled to a bunch of neuroscience to try to solve that problem. Once we have that, we can start kind of building flow, trigger based kind of applications. Okay. This is where your brain is. This is how we can drive you into flow and what we really want to do.
VR is particularly well-suited to get people into flow possibly better than video games, not a hundred percent, but it's much better. It gets it more flows, triggers. So we're interested in trying to use virtual reality or possibly augmented reality. Plus some of the other technology, I already talked about us developing to build worker retraining of programs, high flow virtual worker retraining programs for, uh, in, in the face of kind of coming technological unemployment.
You know, that's a real deal. For example, autonomous trucking is common trucking [00:20:00] as the largest blue collar employer in America by 20 35, 20 38, when all the old trucks are off the streets and we've got atonomous trucks, a lot of people that are going to need a retraining. And so. If flow amplifies learning rate to 250 to 500% above normal, we want high flow, a worker retraining devices.
Obviously, if you're listening to this, yes, these same virtual reality platforms could be very useful in education to build a high flow educational environments. And we're hoping somebody will do that without platform. I am not going into that space mostly because I don't want to end up in a giant curriculum battle with parents over what we should teach kids.
I don't care. I just care that we teach them faster and more efficiently. That's not my particular fight. There are a lot of smarter people in that room, you know, in the education space that may, I don't want to wait.
[00:20:54] Hala: Hey, what's your question? And thanks
[00:20:57] Steven: Hala for the data on this has been fascinating. So Stephen, [00:21:00] I read your book, stealing fire, and I was a big fan of it and kind of describing the Navy seals and how they get into flow states. So it's Holly, you asked, you asked my question about technology and kind of getting into a flow states, but my question would be how long can we as humans, any research on how long we can spend in these flow states, is there kind of a time limit to it or is it depends from person to person or how good you are in tapping into the flow state?
So, great question and a hard one. So let me just start and say that there's this idea out there that somehow permanent flow, like I could live in flow and that might be what we mean by enlightenment or like that floats around out there from a scientific perspective. We have a term for somebody who's always in flow.
We call them. Sometimes actually we call the manic, but mostly we call them schizophrenia. You can't live in flow. It is a four stage cycle. It's a process. It's a, and there are four distinct stages. Only one of them is flow. [00:22:00] You have to move to this complete cycle to get back into flow. People often sort of misconstrue dopamine imbalances as kind of like permanent flow states.
So people with bipolar disorder can have, you know, huge, long manic episodes that, that sort of feel like flow, but aren't quite flow and there's literally differences in the quality of decision-making and a whole bunch of stuff. So there are actual neuro-biological differences there. The question you asked is equally difficult, like how we know most flow states last about 90 minutes.
And one of the reasons we know this is because dopamine and norepinephrine underpin these states and those chemicals. Really in there in peak concentration sort of can only exist in your brain for about 20 minutes. So this is why, for example, Ted talks are 20 minutes long because the brain's major focusing chemicals have basically 20 minutes shelf lives.
You can get another burst and sort of continue, but like there's a limited supply. So if you've ever seen a [00:23:00] action movie, a James Bond movie, they do this to me every time I've ever seen one opening scenes have so many explosions in them that every time you see an explosion, you're getting a lot of dope man, a lot of kind of Knorr app and effort, and usually about an hour into it, two and a half hour James Bond movie, you're bored and a little depressed that's because those explosions stole all your dope mean in our app and effort.
And now you actually have to focus through the rest of the movie without feel-good neurochemistry to kind of propel you along. but here's the wrench now. There is an altering them based flow state.
So if you've ever done any charitable work, any nonprofit work really helped others. My wife and I, uh, operate in an animal sanctuary dog sanctuary and helpers high. You know, we work with very sick and very old, and we do hospice care and special needs care for dogs predominantly. And my wife's favorite version of flow is helpers high and helpers high was discovered by Alan Luke's.
He started big [00:24:00] brothers, big sisters back in the nineties, and he noticed that people who were volunteering big brothers, big sisters, would like to come back from their experience doing that work, and they'd be high and like a low grade flow state for a day, maybe two. And so helper's high for reasons we're not entirely certain about, but may have something to do with the fact that oxytocin.
Gets into the mix when there's helper high involved in maybe larger concentrations. We don't know, but that's one hypothesis, but it seems to last for a couple of days. Now, here's the other copy. You'll have experiences I've had in writing. Uh, anybody who's ever been involved in a startup, especially if it's really early days and everybody who joined the company is really passionate.
And you're working towards that first big product launch. That's like a group flow experience. Every time you show up at work, you dropping right back into flow and maybe you go home and you sort of pop out of flow and go to sleep and whatever, and recharge and come back. And you're back in the flow and that'll stretch on for like two to three months.
So the real answer is we [00:25:00] don't have a clue. You can't stay there permanently, but you can pop in and out for a while. But I will say, and I'm actually speaking from very personal experience right here right now. I just came through a very intense period. I undertook a very different. Essentially year and a half long, a adventure that was extremely flowy for the past nine months.
And, uh, it sorta got shut down the end of may. And I've been sort of locked out of flow for about six weeks because I really was in flow on and off for, for nine months, a lot of the time. So it's a really hard question to answer seems to be individual. Some of it's genetic, some his early childhood experience.
Some of it is how good you are working with the state. People are good at flow, you know, any given day I'm in and out of flow two or three times. And so is most of the folks that I work with them, a lot of the people we've trained, they're micro flow states. They're not big macro flows day, but that's definitely common.[00:26:00]
I don't know that that answer to your question, but it's the best I can do cause we don't really know for sure. It's one of those ongoing mysteries. Thanks, Steven. Excellent answer. Really appreciate it. Glad to talk to
[00:26:10] Hala: you. I'd like to go off with, so Hey, just asked and I want to ask, is there anything that like prevents flow, are there any situations where it's almost impossible to get into flow?
Cause I think that will also help us understand how we can actually get into flow and what kind of environments are conducive for flow. So I'd love to hear your thoughts
[00:26:28] Steven: on that. I should talk about a bunch of different flow triggers to answer that question, but I have to start with, let me just actually start with something for everybody, because this is easy.
If you go to www.flowblocker.com, there are six major flow blockers, things that stand between people and more flow. We built the diagnostic it's free. Anybody can take it. It will not take more than I think, 10 minutes, quick, little analysis. You'll get emailed your results and you'll get an action plan in that email.[00:27:00]
On, you know what, and it's very, very practical and it's very thorough on exactly what you can do. So that's flow blocker.com available to anybody. That's one place to start, but I want to start by saying, Hey, flow is peak performance. It's a high energy state. And if you want to make it reliable and repeatable, and you want more of it in your life, psychology has sort of said, Hey, for all peak performance, all optimal performance, there are basically six basics.
There's three things you that matter on the physical. I've got enough physical energy for a high energy state like flow. And there's three things on the mental side. My brain is sort of ready to even start doing this work. So I want to start there. I'm the physical side flows, high energy state. How do you maintain energy for flow?
Research shows you need three things. You need seven, eight hours of sleep a night. It's not really negotiable. Yeah. You can cheat on it and get by every now and again, but for flow to be [00:28:00] reliable and repeatable over time, seven, eight hours of sleep is pretty much the standard. And I always tell people who, you know, in the startup community and the entrepreneurial community, you get a lot of pushback I can get by on five hours of sleep as this badge of honor.
And I always tell people why don't you take a cognitive assessment online, like a Wonderlic test or anything like that. They're all over the net. They're free. Take one. After five hours of sleep, take one. After eight hours of sleep, I don't think you'll ever go to work and try to perform at your best on a lack of sleep.
Again, it's amazing how many percentage points of intelligence you lose with lack of sleep. It's just in two days in a row, three days in a row. The emotional regulation goes out the window and you lose a Bach, a bunch of stuff you can't fight against. You also need hydration and nutrition, and it has to be high quality hydration and high quality nutrition.
Um, I'm not an expert on those subjects. I'm just, you know what, I'm not going to tell you. I don't think there's any diet that works for everybody. Um, I think we're all individual and you've got to figure out what works for you [00:29:00] and really adhere to it. Cause it matters for flow. And finally you need robust social support for regular flow.
And this is well known in psychology with what people talk about it for kind of mental hygiene all the time. Like you need robust social support networks. If you want longevity, for example, and positive mental health, that doesn't mean you need a lot of. What it means is you need solid intimate relationships with a couple of people and you need regular contact with those people.
I'm an extreme introvert I can get by on very little each week. Some people need a lot more, but you sorta gotta figure out what you need and get it. And the reason is this flow is peak performance. And when we need it, most is when we're facing a problem, right? When a problem shows up, the brain makes a threat assessment every time.
And one of the questions it asks is, Hey, are you alone? If you have to solve this challenge by [00:30:00] yourself, if you don't have robust social support networks, if you don't have people who love you in your life, your brain goes, oh, wow. You're so. This is a big challenge. We need lots of fear. I'm going to need lots of energy.
This is a heavy thing. If on the other hand, you have robust social support networks and you've recently reached out and had good conversations with people who love you and such when a challenge shows up, you go, oh, wow. Yeah, this is hard. But I got a lot of people to kind of help me out and pick me up.
Should I fall down? And it, it requires a lot less energy and produces a lot less fear. So there's a physical. Penalty for not maintaining robust social support networks and really matters. What I tend to tell people on this side of the equation on the physical side is to maintain peak performance. You can usually screw one of these things up a day.
You know what I mean? You don't get enough sleep, but you've got good hydration, good nutrition. And you had a good conversation with your parents, your significant other, or your brother or your friend or whatever. You're okay, but you don't want to [00:31:00] do it two or three days in a row because it's not sustainable.
And you really kind of want to maintain those things. That's the physical side of the equation. There's also a mental side of the equation for reasons we're going to get to, as soon as we start talking about flow triggers, basically too much anxiety. Is going to block flow. Anxiety actually is essentially the nor epinephrin a little bit of nor epinephrin you get curiosity and focus and excitement too much, nor epinephrin you get anxiety and panic and vigilance, and you can't stop focusing, right?
It's a spectrum kind of thing. And to sort of counteract that anxiety, the research is really clear. There's three techniques. You should pick one a day under normal conditions. If you want to manage anxiety, you can do a five minute gratitude practice list, three things that you're grateful for and turn one of them into a paragraph or my preference.
I write out 10 things. I'm grateful for. I write out each [00:32:00] one, three times, and the reason I write out each one, three times is what you really want me to do in a gratitude practice is the feeling of gratitude. Gratitude makes us feel safer. You're being thankful for something that already happened. You're basically telling your brain, see, look, life is not as scary as you think it is calm down and it works and it works automatically.
And as a bonus, this is work. We've done a lot of work at the flow research collective on the neurobiology of gratitude and how it works with flow. We've done it in conjunction with Glenn Fox at USC. Who's one of the world's leading experts on the neurobiology of graduate. And we've discovered that one easy way to actually get more flow in your life.
People with regular gratitude practices. Possibly because it tunes up the nervous system possibly for other reasons that we don't quite understand yet have higher flow lifestyles than other people. So it's a quick flow hack for more flow. We also know that the other option is mindfulness, 11 minutes of focused breath, work, meditation respiration work a [00:33:00] day, tunes up your nervous system.
It calms you down. It removes stress hormones from your system makes you gives you greater emotional regulation or 20 to 40 minutes worth of exercise, depending on your fitness level will calm you down. And what I sand in normal conditions pick one, stressed out, pick two, if you worked for the flow research collective during COVID, for example, wherever you're stressed out.
And it was really important for me that my staff, you know, maintain flow and maintain peak performance, they were doing all three things. Or that it wasn't, or they weren't working for me because it was a really high stress time. And I felt that our, every reason nervous systems were totally out of whack and everybody needed as much help as possible.
So those are sort of this peak performance basics. And that's where I start to get into the peak performance game. We're not talking about flow yet, but we're now we're ready to start doing the flow work.
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