My First Flow Experience
I have such a great memory about my first FLOW experience from the age of 3 when I started skiing with my dad. It was my first sports experience where he held me between his legs as we skied down the slope. He also introduced me to table tennis along with many other sports at a much later age than 3. Reflecting on these positive first sports experiences, it really impacted my life and created my passion for sports, especially table tennis and sports psychology! They make me feel ALIVE. I’ve come to realize that I’m the most authentic and expressive person when I am in the state of flow, and this is when I am also truly myself and experience happiness.
How I Discovered Flow
The term of FLOW was architected and researched by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the Hungarian psychology professor. He is an expert on the topics of Happiness and Creativity, and one of the world’s leading researchers on Positive Psychology. When I was 14 years old, I had to see a sports psychologist because it was the requirement for the Hungarian Table Tennis National Team. She gave me the book titled, Flow in Sports by Csikszentmihalyi. As I read this book, I recognized that I had been having flow state during sports activities and over the course of my table tennis career! I became even more aware of this state. I began to understand the concept of flow which allowed me to sustain this state over longer periods of during my training and tournaments. I love playing table tennis because I forget about everything when I play and I just enjoy being in the moment and flowing with ease. I am in full engagement, with a deep focus on nothing but the activity. In this flow state, everything is in harmony. There is no separation within nor without me. I’m whole with the universe. When I am in flow, I don’t think about anything. I don’t hear the crowded noise. I don’t see the spectators and I have a laser focus. I’m fully engaged in my game and my mind is in the moment. My muscles feel loose, everything is effortless, and I feel that I am capable of everything. There is no fear and I just in trust in myself. Everything is automatic and my decisions are intuitive during the game. It’s an effortless activity and such a high feeling. It’s a very high state of joy.
How To Get Flow
To be able to experience the state of flow, or zone, or “Game Face” as I call it, we have to master our skills. We need discipline to practice the required skills and a willingness to move beyond our comfort zone. We need motivation (for me it is pure passion), discipline, and integrity. I have been playing table tennis for more than 24 years and I needed lots of discipline, commitment and hard work to master the skills that I needed to acquire. Here are some tips that may help you enter the state of flow as you participate in sports activities:
- FIRST STEP: AWARENESS of your inner self (thoughts, body language, reaction etc.)
- Create mini ROUTINES and RITUALS that will become automatic with practice (such as pre-performance routines before your matches, events, visualization, mistake ritual, serve, serve receive ritual etc.)
- CONTROL WHAT IS IN YOUR CONTROL (for example, control your thoughts rather than focus on the crowed noise or a referee’s bad call during your match)
- Focus on FUN during the activity
Here is a great video about the conversation about Flow that I just watched today and was my inspiration to write this post for you. World class alpinist Dean Potter and psychologist for the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks Dr. Michael Gervais talked about Flow and High Performance. The video created by Flow Genome Project.