Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In the Flow Zone

You want flow on the Ultimate field? Get your individual fill of flow. 

Scientists zap brains to see if it will help trigger 'flow' [WP . 2.13.12]

I am in... in pursuit of an elusive mental state known as "flow" - that feeling of effortless concentration that characterizes outstanding performance in all kinds of skills.

Flow has been maddeningly difficult to pin down, let alone harness, but a wealth of new technologies could soon allow us all to conjure up this state. The plan is to provide a shortcut to virtuosity, slashing the amount of time it takes to master a new skill.

That will be welcome news to anyone embarking on the tortuous road to expertise. normally takes 10,000 hours of practice to become expert in any discipline. Over that time, your brain knits together a wealth of new circuits that eventually allow you to execute the skill automatically, without consciously considering each action.

Flow typically accompanies these actions. It involves a Zenlike feeling of intense concentration, with time seeming to stop as you focus completely on the activity in hand. The experience crops up repeatedly when experts describe what it feels like to be at the top of their game, and with years of practice it becomes second nature to enter that state.

In one groundbreaking study, he interviewed a few hundred talented people, including athletes, artists, chess players, rock climbers and surgeons, enabling him to pin down four key features that characterize flow.

The first is an intense and focused absorption that makes you lose all sense of time. The second is what is known as autotelicity, the sense that the activity you are engaged in is rewarding for its own sake. The third is finding the "sweet spot," a feeling that your skills are perfectly matched to the task at hand, leaving you neither frustrated nor bored. And finally, flow is characterized by automaticity (on auto-pilot)...

Might there be a way to force the brain into flow? The answer appears to be yes...

[via Sarah]

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