Flow is a state of total focus on the task at hand. When we are in flow, we usually perform at our best because we are concentrating only on our performance. Flow occurs when we are in a situation of high challenge, and in a situation where our skills match the challenge. Sport Psychologist Dr Sue Jackson explains the “flow” experience in sport and how it can help one’s game.
What is flow in sport?
Sport is a great activity in which to experience flow. There are a few reasons for this. First, when we are at the right level of performance for our ability, we meet one of the criteria for being able to experience flow – a situation of high challenge and high skill. The word ‘high’ refers to each individual athlete’s average level of challenges and skills. Second, sport meets other essential pre-requisites for flow: it is an activity where goals are clearly defined, and takes place in an environment where, if we are paying attention, there is useful feedback about how we are progressing while we are performing. So, we know what it is we are focused on achieving, and we receive feedback as we are performing about how well we are going in relation to these goals.
How can flow help one’s game?
Flow is the optimal psychological state to be in to perform well. We all know how, when we are distracted, or worried about our performance, or ourselves, we tend to not do as well as we otherwise could have. When in flow, nothing distracts us or worries us – we focus fully on our performance. If performing to your potential is important to you, flow is a state you’d do well to learn more about. Also, if enjoying what you are doing is important to you in your sport, then flow is critical here too. That’s because flow is not just when we perform our best; it is also when we feel our best. Flow is a fun state to be in. We feel in control, we stop worrying about what others are thinking of us, and we focus fully on our performance.
What are some exercises that help trigger flow state or activities we can take part in order to help achieve the state of flow?
If you want to experience flow, learning ways to concentrate really well on what you are doing is an essential psychological skill to practice. Sport psychologists can teach athletes how to improve their focus, and how to get their focus back, when it is inevitably lost.
Being prepared to challenge yourself, while at the same time being clear about your skill level, helps to create the high challenge-high skill balance that is essential to flow.
Finally, having clear goals, and listening to relevant feedback (from the performance itself as well as helpful feedback from others) will also help you move towards flow.
Dr Sue Jackson wishes everyone all the best on their flow journey! If you have any questions for her, leave a comment below or visit www.bodyandmindflow.com.au for more information.