How To Find Flow To Unlock Your Full Potential
Your full potential is not about optimising the widgets
What does it mean when people ask if you’re living your full potential?
Would you say you’re living yours right now?
What about in the past?
Certainly there have been times in your life that you’ve had success, stood out for your talents and gifts or have felt an ease through life.
But why does it seem so fleeting? Those moments are gone before you know it, and what’s left is the inner doubt and self criticism.
What if you could learn to get into those states more often, which would give you the momentum to keep levelling up across all areas of your life?
Our minds are incredible, yet they are also our biggest limitation if we go untrained.
We can waste a great deal of time trying optimise the widgets in our life to get a little increase — for example how many hours of meetings have you had this past month that have just left you flat and unmotivated? It was more drama management of members of the team rather than getting your creative juices going?
Or how about when you’ve planned to exercise yet you’ve felt exhausted?
Or that you set out on your personal development, but you keep stumbling after a few days or weeks and returning to default.
What if you’re going about it the wrong way?
What if your full potential is not about optimising the widgets?
I’ve said before that despite how great my career was working with Olympians, I was left thinking about all this effort to get a handful of people to achieve great things.
How much are the rest of us left struggling and holding back all of the time in our lives? Loving little less, thinking a little less, working a little less, giving a little less because we are unconsciously holding back from what our fullest, bravest most courageous expression could be.
So when I talk about unlocking your full potential, I mean setting up the environment for those moments to occur.
I can tell you now that our best is not about efficiency management of meetings. It’s about focussing on our neurophysiology.
It could be that you see full potential as having the ability to be incredibly productive or being able to make effective decisions especially under pressure.
Think to those times when you’ve been so absorbed in a project you’ve been working on that time gets distorted, 2 hours can go by in what feels like 5 minutes.
Or you’ve experienced everything around you slowing down whilst seeing with clarity when all else around you is in despair.
Taking that one step further you could also say that full potential means being supremely creative and innovative.
Think to those times when new ideas and concepts have popped into your mind with effortless ease. You’ve nailed it and even surprised yourself with what you’ve come up with.
Taking that one step further you could also have been on that run or bike ride where you feel like you could go faster and harder than ever before and still have room left.
So whether you’re after Olympic success, more time in your creative flow or that you want to show up in your life with less fear and more courage to be your authentic self… we can have control on this.
These experiences don’t happen by chance, ultimately we can look at our neurophysiology and some interesting things show up.
Practically that means state management, HRV, coherence, good vagal tone, simply when our neurophysiology is managed we become who we are meant to be.
What I’ve found is that what sits at the heart of the magic those Olympian action sport athletes do is something called Flow State.
Flow is technically defined as the state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.
Imagine that guitarist you’ve seen live — eyes closed, they are one with the guitar. Or the rapper, or the snowboarder, or the poet… all in their moment are engrossed in a state we are all aiming to get to!
And we can, so I’m going to discuss 3 ways you can begin to build this into your life so you can unlock more of your full potential:
1. Challenge skills ratio
Flow sits between boredom and anxiety. And you can use something called the challenge skills ratio. It’s not about being perfectly in the middle, but floating skilfully between both.
To unlock more of us, we have to be comfortable getting uncomfortable. Struggle is crucial… and that is just a mindset shift. As a caterpillar has to struggle inside of its chrysalis to break free to step into its new life as a butterfly… we too have to be actively walking into experiences that are out of our habitual comfort.
- Where in my life am I coasting — not receiving enough challenge — bored, you look for distraction.
- Where in my life am I overtaxed and need to back off?
- What are my default habits in each situation?
Are you a crossfitter? Can you learn to use your body in a new way such as dance?
Are you a yogi? Why not begin a new path such as a martial art… BJJ is empowering and graceful for both men and women.
Are you a musician? Why not take up a form of painting or pottery class?
Afraid of speaking in public? Why not learn to sing?
Find your example, and commit to it for 3 months. You’ll be gaining more than the new skills in your chosen activity. You’ll be opening neural pathways up in your brain that will open you up to seeing life through new perspectives.
Planning and commitment is everything. A one off is nice but won’t go past
2. Change your environment
Environmental triggers are some of the most potent. We are gifted to have Nature as our playground. How often to you get out into it?
How often do you expose yourself to cold?
How often do you expose yourself to heat?
So much evidence out now to show the benefits of both cold and hot exposure as well as combining both. The physical benefits but also the mental benefits.
Find your local sauna. In Brighton here there is Beach Box sauna on the beach. So you can alternate hot with a dip in the plunge pool or even better the sea.
It leaves you with an incredible feeling that lasts. Clears away a stressful week and opens up your perspective to see more.
3. Combine practices
Flow and peak states have very clear neurophysiological triggers. We’ve discussed one way already where you can begin to make positive change to your neurophysiology.
But you can combine more than that.
Breath is the bridge between our mind and body. Take control of your breath and you take control of your life.
By changing the depth and rate of how you breath you can enter into an altered state. If you add music and your favourite incense or candle then you’re adding stimulation to your other senses to help you drop into a deeper state.
You could even add in sexual practice to that. Sex is one of the most potent triggers we have to change our state. And the fun bit is practicing… whether it’s with your life partner, on your own or with a special friend.
You can reach profound states that are more than physical. That’s the key — to step out away from our chronic fibrillation of stress into a wonder and ecstasy that we can bring back into our lives. And that’s important to mention, our full potential is for this realm, it’s no good to anyone if you’re just chasing the states.
We need to use them to heal where we’re broken and they can show us where we’re heading so we can course correct.
Use them to be able to stand strong with a vision we have of the change we want to make, or to open up to our vulnerability, or to love courageously… That’s full potential to me.
The enhanced creativity, the optimised productivity and performing under pressure falls into place after that.
Flow is a neurophysiological state. We can prime ourselves to enable us to access it more often.
- Step out of your comfort zone
- Expose yourself to the elements
3. Combine practices to elevate your state
It’s not about doing more of what you’re used to. It’s about opening up your landscape that unlocks more of us that transfers into every aspect of our lives.
If you’re seeking better physical or mental performance, or if you want to free yourself from limitations, non-ordinary states such as flow ofter us new insights and perspectives.
If you’re wondering if there is more to life then go find it, it’s there through many different doors.
Richard has coached at the highest level of Olympic sport in the U.K, China and Japan. Having been successful in these high performing environments due to his ability to manage stress effectively... with inspiring and creating environments that encourage and support people accessing their best.