How to Enter the Flow State While GamingSep 18, 2020
“Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless like water. When you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle; it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot; it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” - Bruce Lee
The concept of flow has existed for thousands of years under other names, notably in Eastern religions, and was popularized in the Western world by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian American psychologist in 1975 who is referred to as Mr.CS going forward. Mr. C.S. outlines his theory that people are happiest when they're in a state of flow. The feeling is identical to being “in the zone” or “in the groove.” It’s a feeling where a person has become fully immersed in what they are doing. The feeling is a state where people become so engaged in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. Some say flow state is the pinnacle of achievement for an athlete.
Flow state is the mental state in which a person performs an activity with supreme awareness and hyper-focus. It’s When the mind and body are perfectly synchronized.
Psychologists have found that one's mind can attend to only a certain amount of information at a time. According to Mr. CS's 2004 TED talk, that number is about a hundred and ten bits of information per second. In comparison, just decoding speech takes about sixty bits of data per second. However, when one is in a flow state they allocate all their attention in all available bits to the task at hand. This is why people who explain their flow experience describe it as losing awareness of all other things like time, distractions, negative thoughts, and even basic bodily needs.
Since the introduction of flow state by Mr. CS in 1975, there has been more legitimate research and studies showing the remarkable benefits of entering Flow state. Flow State has a positive impact on our ability to learn, create, perform, and more. I've compiled what I think are the five essential elements to entering Flow State for this article’s relevance and gaming.
In 1987, Mr. CS and associates created this eight-channel model of flow shown pictured above, called the Experience Fluctuation Model. The bottom of the flow model from left to right is low, medium, high, skill level. Then on the left side, from bottom to top is low, medium, high, challenge level. When an activity requires a low skill level and is of no challenge an individual will be in a state of apathy and have no interest in the task. When an individual is highly skilled, but the challenge is low, they will be relaxed. However, if the challenge is high and the individual skill level is low they will have anxiety. The ideal state to reach flow is when the challenge and skill level required is about evenly balanced. That occurs when the mind is stimulated by the challenge and requires utilizing higher skill levels.
The research states that for the Flow State to occur, it's imperative that an athlete believes that they can successfully meet the physical, technical, and mental challenges faced. In other words, confidence is critical; otherwise, you'll be in a state of anxiety and fear. Athletes must be resilient when it comes to frustration, stress, and adversity. The more you practice, and the more time you put into preparing, the more it'll boost your confidence.
Athletes and performers state that when they're in the zone, time seems to slow down or completely lose time perception. They enter a trance at that moment, and there are no distractions. When you’re in Flow State you don’t care about things like crowd noise, the opponent, or any thought that may stop you from concentrating on the task at hand. Nothing else matters. All 110 bits of information each second is focused entirely on the activity.
During the research phase for the video that accompanies this article, I reached Flow State. I think two of the significant factors are that I didn't have real-life chores or responsibilities to interfere with my schedule. The second thing I did was follow through with my ideal wake up routine. For me, that's the gym, meditation, sunlight, shower, and eating a healthy meal. With this routine, I can take care of my physical health, relieving any nagging soreness, and distracting tightness. I achieved a level of inner peace by reducing my anxiety with meditation. I energized myself with vitamin D from the Sun, and felt fresh after a shower and fueling myself with a nutritious smoothie. I have a video on why I think it's crucial to implement routines. Routines are recipes for consistency that can help lay the groundwork to create a more straightforward pathway to flow state.
If you have a set goal, you have a clearer vision to focus your energy on. You know what you want to achieve. This knowledge provides structure and helps facilitate your concentration and attention. If you can't see the finish line, the path will be cloudy and inefficient. In gaming, this goal can arise at any second. A round that instantly turns into a 1v1 or the goal to win a best-of-three match. In any case, you have to establish what you want to accomplish. Then your mind knows how to focus your energy. During my competition years, I would often be the last person alive because I was responsible for carrying the c4 on the T side. This left me in many clutch situations. I remember every time I was in a 1v1. I was never afraid. The game had simplified to me. I was against only one other person. The goal was easier to achieve this way and the adrenaline rush of the challenge often led me to flow state.
Flow state is achieved when the mind and body are perfectly synchronized. Athletes and performers say that there is no conscious effort to force their mind and body to perform during flow state. They are not actively trying to control themselves, but quite the opposite getting out of their own way. They are trusting and letting it happen naturally, and it feels effortless. When we game, we should try to open our awareness to all the information that is being given to us and trust our hand-eye coordination to perform. Flow can never be reached if you are overthinking decisions or thinking about how to use your equipment.
Flow is when there is a harmonious fluid blend of movement and consciousness. During Flow State, performers say their ego is completely lost. There are no thoughts of what people are thinking of them or what will happen if they lose. They don’t even think about the reward for winning or worry about making a mistake. There are no negative thoughts or external influences that interfere with their activity.
An athlete in the zone is not only able to suppress and ignore negative thoughts and self-doubt. They also found that they have higher self-esteem and confidence. This confidence is a crucial part of performing at an elite level.
Mr.CS hypothesized that people with several particular personality traits might be better able to achieve flow more than the average person. These personality traits include curiosity, persistence, low self-centeredness, and a high-performance rate for intrinsic reasons. Only people with these traits are said to have an autotelic personality. Mr.CS describes these people as having a sense of purpose and internally driven. This personality is different from being externally driven, in which case things such as money, power, or fame are the motivating force.
In my opinion, to perform your best, you should try to funnel all your energy and thoughts into the task at hand. Any ideas about external factors will only get in the way of accessing your flow state. Stay positive, be confident, create a routine, trust yourself, and get out of your own way. Be like water and flow.