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    Self-Optimization — Flow State

    Achieving Flow State: A State of Peak Performance & Happiness

    Achieving Flow State: A State of Peak Performance & Happiness

    What is Flow?

    The state of flow takes place when a person’s attention is so immersed in a given activity, that his sense of self-awareness is lost for some time, replaced by a union of consciousness between the subject and the activity itself. 

    This absorption into the activity is so complete, that everything else which is going on around the person, is completely blocked out. The person’s attention has withdrawn, or ‘disengaged’ from the outside world and all thoughts which are unrelated to the activity.

    The entire person, both body and mind, are fully invested in the activity. Achieving this state of flow enhances the performance of the activity, while creating a sense of genuine satisfaction and happiness. 

    A ten-year study conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute research organization, a division of the McKinsey & Co. management consulting firm, showed that executives found themselves 500% more effective when in a state of flow.

    The experience of flow is actually fairly common and is something which every person has experienced, although some people seem to achieve it easier. After experiencing flow, some have used the popular expression, “I was in the zone”. Older hipsters might remember the expression, “I was in the groove”. 

    Unraveling The Mystery of Flow

    A popular 1990 book entitled, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”, by Hungarian-American psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is gaining a resurgence of interest amongst active people who are looking to enhance their levels of performance and life satisfaction. For those unfamiliar with Dr. Csikszentmihalyi, and Hungarian surnames, a phonetic clue to his first and last name is: “me-high, cheek-sent-me-high”.  

    Csikszentmihalyi is considered to be a co-founder of a branch of psychology known as positive psychology, which explores the phenomenon of human happiness and its causes. His journey to positive psychology began while, as a young man in Switzerland, he attended a lecture by the famous Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung. 

    He was so impressed by what he learned that he began studying all of Jung’s published works. This ultimately led him to emigrate to the United States where he took up the study of psychology at the University of Chicago. Today, he is the Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University.

    In his book, Csikszentmihalyi has identified eight characteristics of flow:

    1. Complete concentration on the task;
    2. Goals and anticipated reward are clear;
    3. Disorientation with the sense of time;
    4. The experience is intrinsically rewarding;
    5. Performing the activity seems effortless;
    6. There is a balance between the activity’s challenge and a person’s abilities;
    7. The action itself and the person’s awareness are merged;
    8. There is a feeling of control over the activity.

    How to Get Into the Flow State

    Naturally, those who have studied Csikszentmihalyi’s work have become interested in the flow experience, particularly how to enter flow state.

    Being in flow state requires a high level of concentration and focused attention. But there are other factors which help determine whether or not a flow state experience is feasible. 

    The activity in which a person is engaged must be a familiar activity. Getting into flow necessitates moving the intellect out of the way. 

    When we engage in a new, or relatively unfamiliar activity, our left-brain hemisphere and our intellect are both engaged, because we have to ‘think’ our way through the activity. We are not yet adept enough in it to do it spontaneously and effortlessly. 

    So, along with the activity being one in which we are already somewhat proficient, there are other factors which can help.

    1. There is a specific goal or outcome from the activity that we strive to achieve.
    2. It is an activity that we enjoy or are passionate about.
    3. The activity offers a challenge, but a realistic challenge.
    4. The activity offers an opportunity for us to expand our skill level.

    flow state chart

    Balancing Challenge and Skill Level

    There is an important balance which must be struck between challenge and skill level. If the challenge is too far beyond one’s level of skills, he becomes anxious and stressed. His mind becomes diverted and he can’t relax and let go. Conversely, when his level of skill exceeds the extent of the challenge, he becomes bored and distracted.

    The optimal relationship between challenge and skill lies somewhere in the middle, where there is sufficient challenge to attract one’s focus, but not so much that the level of challenge creates a distraction.

    Activities That Can Lead to Flow

    There are many types of activities we can engage in which can offer opportunities to achieve flow. Some of the more obvious examples involve athletic, physical, and recreational activities.

    Surfing

    A surfer, for example, who has surfed for many years and who has achieved a level of proficiency in his surfing, can easily experience the flow state.

    There is nothing there but him and the ocean. His physical movements, which are needed to balance and position himself on the board as he adjusts to the movement of the water, are all spontaneous, reactionary, and intuitive. His ‘muscle memory’ takes over, and he goes on autopilot.

    Each wave is unique so each wave offers him a new challenge. This is one reason why surfers love to surf, because it is an easy way to achieve flow.

    Surfing leads to happiness because it lends itself to experiencing flow.

    Art & Music

    Arts, like music, also provide opportunities to achieve flow.

    An improvisational musician, one who plays spontaneously by ear, has already mastered the technical skills of the instrument. When he plays, he goes into the same autopilot that the surfer does.

    His intuitive skills take over and he gets lost in his performance. All that exists for him in this state is his instrument and the sounds.

    Even an orchestral performer, who plays off of a written musical score, can experience flow, as long as he already knows the music by heart, and he is challenged by it in some way.

    Video Games

    Mundane activities, like playing video games, also offer opportunities to experience the flow state. A player, who is skilled at the game, gets lost in the activity.

    His muscle memory takes over. His vision and his corresponding, responsive hand movements all happen automatically. He is fully absorbed in the game, and nothing outside of the game itself exists for him, while playing. The big pay-off for video game enthusiasts is flow.

    Nootropics and Flow

    One question regarding flow which has arisen is; “to what extent can our foods and food supplementation enhance our ability to enter the flow state?”

    Nootropics are a class of natural and synthetic substances that are used to enhance cognitive function, especially the ability to concentrate and focus. They are also used to boost memory, creativity, intelligence, and motivation.

    Caffeine, Rhodiola rosea, Ginkgo biloba, and Bacopa monnieri are four of the many nootropic compounds that have been shown to improve concentration levels and cotnigive function. 

    We formulated one of our flagship nootropics, metaFOCUS around helping individuals get into flow state. It has been shown to increase mental clarity, improve our speed and ability to process information, and to augment our ability to enter the flow state.

    The product has been especially designed to assist someone engaged in any strenuous or highly-concentrated activity. This includes athletics, physical recreation, bodybuilding, physical labor, artistic activities like music and dance, studying, and intellectual work.

    The metaFOCUS Formulation

    B-Vitamins – A growing body of research supports the relationship between B-Vitamin supplementation and cognitive enhancement. metaFOCUS contains B5, B6, B9, and B12.

    Acetyl-L-Carnitine – L-Carnitine is an important amino acid, produced in the kidney and liver, important in heart and brain function. It acts as an anti-oxidant within the brain. Research has linked l-Carnitine to enhanced mental focus and cognitive function.

    Artichoke extract – Artichoke contains a phytochemical, ‘cynarin’, that possesses a variety of pharmacological features including free-radical scavenging and antioxidant activity. It is believed that cynarin acts as a potential chemo-preventive against genotoxic agents in the brain.

    DL-Phenylalanine – L-Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid found in a variety of foods. It acts as a neurotransmitter and is a precursor to some vital biological molecules including tyrosine and epinephrine (adrenaline).

    Alpha-Lipoic Acid – Alpha-Lipoic Acid is an organic molecule found in human cells, and is involved in transforming nutrients into energy. Supplementation with Alpha-Lipoic Acid has been shown to boost physical energy and mental focus. It has also been shown to have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

    Cognizin®Cognizin® has been shown to support healthy, functioning neurons, even helping to repair damaged neurons. One research study supports the ‘neuroprotective’ activity of Cognizin®:

    The role of Cognizin® in cognitive impairment

    “Cognizin® appears to be a promising agent to improve cognitive impairment, especially of vascular origin. In fact, it appears as a supplement with the ability to promote "safe" neuroprotection, capable of enhancing endogenous protection.”

    Phosphatidylserine – Phosphatidylserine is a type of fat compound called a phospholipid, which can be found in your brain. Numerous research studies have linked phosphatidylserine to brain health and cognitive enhancement. One study concluded;

    “Phosphatidylserine…safely slows, halts, or reverses biochemical alterations and structural deterioration in nerve cells. It supports human cognitive functions, including the formation of short-term memory, the consolidation of long-term memory, the ability to create new memories, the ability to retrieve memories, the ability to learn and recall information, the ability to focus attention and concentrate, the ability to reason and solve problems, language skills, and the ability to communicate. It also supports locomotor functions, especially rapid reactions and reflexes.”

    Ginkgo biloba extract – It has long been known that Ginkgo biloba has brain-boosting qualities. One research study demonstrated its efficacy in treating young people with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The study concluded: "Ginkgo biloba is an effective complementary treatment for ADHD. [SOURCE]

    Coleus Forskohlii extract - A study conducted by the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition concluded that Coleus forskohlii significantly enhanced weight loss. It has also been shown to increase strength and work intensity.

    A molecule within Forskolin, known as cAMP, has been shown to regulate alertness and productivity, as do L-phenylalanine and Acetyl-l-Carnitine. 

    So, can a nootropic supplement, like metaFOCUS, help us get into the flow state? It definitely can.

    The supplement was formulated to aid in concentration and focus, both of which are essential components of flow. metaFOCUS can enhance day-to-day activities, such as, work, recreation, study, and athletics. 

    Flow and Classical Yoga: West meets East

    There isn’t anything new about flow, even though a contemporary scholar, Csikszentmihalyi, has expounded on the subject. What is new is how the recognition of flow is being presented to people now, in the twenty-first century, by a modern psychologist.

    Csikszentmihalyi has simply observed a natural human experience of consciousness which already existed. He also articulated his observations in a smart and very practical way through his book. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi recognized that when a person is in the state of flow, his performance is enhanced and the experience tends to produce happiness.

    If an individual could somehow live his entire life like this, in a perpetual state of flow, he would become a highly productive individual, and he would have achieved that cherished, and somewhat elusive human objective; happiness.

    A Brief History of Yoga

    Ancient Indian sages understood flow in the context of yoga and their spiritual endeavors. Yoga, when used in this context, refers to ‘Classical Yoga’, also known as ‘Ashtang Yoga’.

    Today, here in America in the twenty-first century, when we hear the word ‘yoga’, we think of a room full of (mostly) females with little rolled-up mats and tight pants. When considering flow in relation to Classical Yoga, we would have to agree with Solomon, that there is “nothing new under the sun”. 

    Modern, Western yoga bears little resemblance to Classical Yoga. Classical yoga is actually more akin to what we today would call meditation. The goal of the practice of yoga is to achieve Samadhi; to merge the lower self with the Higher self, or God. 

    Classical yoga is expounded upon in the Yoga Sutras, one of six components to the Vedas, perhaps humanity’s oldest collection of philosophical literature.  

    The Yoga Sutras were written around 600 BCE by a great yogic master named Patanjali. It provides a framework of eight components, or ‘branches’, upon which a multitude of styles and applications of yoga can be, and have been, established. 

    Four of these eight components of Classical Yoga are in play when we experience flow. 

    1. Pratyahara
    2. Dharana
    3. Dhyana
    4. Samadhi

    Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the Senses

    Pratyahara is the process of withdrawing the attention from outside, and diverting it inwardly, to experience the cosmic realms. 

    In flow, the attention is withdrawn from thoughts and actions which are not involved in the subject activity.

    Dharana: Concentration of the Mind

    Dharana is the concentrated focus of the attention. 

    In yoga, there are many possible targets for the attention, depending on the style of meditation that the person is practicing. In flow, the attention is focused and fully absorbed in the activity itself.

    Dhyana: Contemplative Concentration

    Dhyana is the ensuing experience of the concentrated attention, moving forward in time.

    In yoga, it is contemplation or meditation. In flow, this relates to the performance of the activity, once fully absorbed concentration is achieved.

    Samadhi: Higher State of Consciousness

    Samadhi is the complete loss of self, a timeless state where the contemplator is merged with the contemplated. It is a state where the witness (awareness), that which is being witnessed, and the process of witnessing (awareness) are unified as one.

    Flow is a type of samadhi. It is a distant cousin, but it is related. The principal difference is that true Samadhi can only be experienced in a relaxed, motionless state. Flow is a state akin to Samadhi, but it is experienced in an awakened state of action and movement.

    Concentration - The Key to Flow State

    The principal element in both flow and yoga is the attention itself. The attention is the most significant, and most powerful component of our consciousness.

    It is the essence of our life energy. It is who and what we are. When we concentrate ourselves in our attention, everything is possible. Everything is better, enhanced.

    The headquarters of the attention is in the forehead, between and slightly behind our eyebrows. Yogis call this point the sixth chakra, or ‘ajna’ chakra (or third eye). It shares the same physical space with the pineal gland within the brain. 

    Indian sages claim that the attention is the outward expression of the human soul. It is the essence of life and of consciousness. They also claim that the attention has a quality, which is bliss. 

    In flow, we are in a state of concentrated attention, and this is why we experience happiness, because the essential nature of attention itself is bliss.

    14 Productivity Hacks to Optimize Your Workflow

    14 Productivity Hacks to Optimize Your Workflow

    At the end of your day, do you feel like you could have gotten more done? Maybe you could have completed more tasks if you cut out distractions or implemented efficiency tactics.

    After a long day’s work, you should feel satisfied; a sense of accomplishment and completion. These feelings can become the norm through a few productivity tools and hacks.

    Most of us are well-trained and skilled in our job duties and tasks, so we normally don’t bother to explore ways to improve our productivity, although some of the things we do could be done better.

    You can use these productivity tools to enhance your ability to get more done throughout the day.

    Focus on One Task at a Time

    This is sometimes known as the Pomodoro System or Pomodoro Technique. It consists of breaking down your tasks into 25-minute intervals and taking short breaks in between tasks. In this way, you concentrate on one task. You abandon the idea of multitasking. You are focused on the singular task at hand and completely in the zone.

    You also have a sense of urgency when you’re on the clock and you forget trying to fine-tune your work. Stress levels are also reduced because you focus on one task at a time instead of trying to get everything done at once.

    Mobile Apps for Increasing Productivity

    There are a variety of apps on the market that can increase your productivity, whether for handling your emails, notes, financials, reading, etc., and many are free to download. For example, there are apps for grocery shopping, writing, notes, banking, and other mundane tasks.

    You can really take advantage of technology to increase productivity whether you’re in the office or somewhere else.

    Here is a list of some free apps to explore, which can increase your productivity:

    • ‘Todoist’ - a great to-do list manager
    • ‘Keeper’ - a password manager
    • ‘Shoeboxed’ - for expense tracking
    • ‘Evernote’ – Evernote is essentially a second brain. You can record ALL of your notes on Evernote, whether it’s a thought you’ve been pondering, or notes on a book you’ve been reading, or perhaps for one you’re thinking about writing.

    The “Two-Minute” Do-It-Now Rule

    There are many tasks that pop-up during your day and they eventually begin to stack up.

    Before you decide whether or not to complete a task, ask yourself, “Can it be completed in two minutes?” If it can be completed in two minutes or less, do it now! If the task will take longer than two minutes, add it to your to-do list but make sure to prioritize it appropriately.

    Write Down Your Most Important Tasks

    Eliminate ambiguity in your workday. Ambiguity can be a productivity killer and a time waster. It has become increasingly important, in an age of perpetual distraction, to prioritize the most important tasks. Take some time in the morning to decide which tasks are the most important ones to your overall vision and address those first.

    This practice will help you overcome procrastination and take things off your mind while taking action on a more consistent basis.

    Create a Schedule to Check Emails

    It’s easy to get sidetracked checking your emails dozens of times a day, especially if you have multiple email addresses. Turn off your email notifications because if you log-in to your email, you’ll end up not only responding to one email but many emails and then you’ll begin organizing them. Instead, choose only a few, specific times each day.

    I recommend checking your email once in the morning, again before lunch, and another toward the end of your workday.

    Eliminate Website Distractions

    There are many websites on the internet that are so, so interesting, but very distracting.

    These sites can ruin your productivity. Block those sites on your work computer to increase your productivity level. You can find an effective website blocker if you simply “google it.”

    Practice Saying “No”

    For many people, it is difficult to say “no” to requests from certain people. Some people want to use or manipulate others. You must practice saying “no” sometimes. Otherwise, these people will kill your productivity.

    You can simply let people know that “you’re too busy now and that you’ll let them know if you can get to it later,” as an example.

    Listen to Music

    You can increase your focus, concentration, and productivity level by listening to certain types of music. It takes some experimentation to figure out what music works best for you since people react differently to different types of music.

    There are apps available that provide music that has been scientifically proven to increase productivity. One such example is Brain.fm.

    Use a Password Manager

    It’s easy to become overwhelmed trying to remember our passwords for the various sites we peruse.

    Download a password manager program like LastPass which will remember but encrypt your passwords to keep them safe. This way you can simply log-in without entering your password each time.

    Yoga or Meditate Each Morning

    Meditation is about concentrating or focusing on one thing and blocking out all distractions.

    Studies have shown that both meditation and yoga can decrease stress, enhance creativity, increase focus, and improve memory.

    You can begin by meditating or doing yoga for a few minutes each morning. As your practice becomes more routine, you can lengthen the duration of each practice.

    Natural Sunlight, Indoors and Outdoors

    Open your blinds first thing in the morning to get started with some healthy natural light.

    Natural light will improve your mood and your outlook throughout the day. You’ll find yourself being more productive while performing everyday tasks. Sunshine has been shown to facilitate better sleep and an overall better quality of life.

    If you live in an area with limited sunlight, remember to take a vitamin-D supplement. Studies show that only about 10 minutes of direct sunlight are needed for your daily dose.

    Read What Inspires You

    A great way to begin your productive day is to read something, or write something about a subject that you are keenly interested in or passionate about.

    You should choose something that you’re curious about and something which can possibly give you talking points with others throughout the day. Inspirational passages can give us the strength we need each and every morning to get through even the most difficult of times and encourage us to push forward when challenges arise.

    But don’t spend the entire day reading or writing. Invest 15-20 minutes and move on to the next task.

    Other Productivity Tools and Hacks

    • Don’t forget to put your laptop away for a few hours a day, if possible.
    • Take time to rest your body and mind.
    • Track your time and tasks with an app.
    • Intentionally plan your day in the morning.
    • Wake up a little earlier to get the most out of your morning between 6-9am.
    • Alter your environment a bit.

    There are many ways to increase productivity. Mold your productivity-enhancing activities according to what works with your body, mind, and schedule. Utilize the above productivity tools and hacks on a regular basis and you’ll see your productivity skyrocket.

    Feed Your Brain With Nootropics

    One of the most powerful and efficient tools for maintaining a high level of productivity is with a nootropic supplement like metaBRAIN.

    metaBRAIN is a three-supplement box designed for peak mental performance. The three supplements are centered around focus, memory, and drive, formulated with a total of 31 powerhouse nootropic ingredients.

    We created metaBRAIN® for the high-achiever like you looking to perform and feel their best each day. Whether you're an entrepreneur, college student, athlete, or professional gamer—metaBRAIN® can be the edge to dominate your competition, excel in your field, and take your life to the next level.