How to Break 'Flow' Barriers in Work, Life, and Sport

Flow in Sport

I wasn't even halfway through one of our gruelling 24 minute workouts and all I wanted to do was stop.

During each rep I was thinking of the excuses I could use… This is my 5th day of training in a row, I deserve a break… I just PR’ed my Jerk, isn’t that enough for one day? I should stop if I want to be fresh for tomorrow…

The typical gremlins that start to arise as I move to terrain less travelled.

But I didn’t stop, I decided to push a little harder and dig a little bit deeper and what happened next was exactly why I choose this path so often. I started to move into the 'Flow'. What does this mean? Well, despite the increased sensation of physical pain and lactic acid taking over my body, my began to quiet - now with each rep I was becoming more focused and centered. The gremlins went away, realizing they had lost the battle. I was able to channel 100% of my energy on executing the workout.

I felt energized and empowered even though my body was exhausted. At the end of the 24 minutes I collapsed on the ground with several of my teammates. But besides trying to catch my breathe, I wasn’t tired - I was buzzing. I felt energized with the sense of accomplishment of climbing that mental hill and leveraging Flow to increase my performance.

Acknowledging Flow's Universal Application

What I realized through this short experience is that we have these opportunities in all areas of our lives. But there is always some kind of buy in - and this is why accessing this state becomes so hard and elusive.

Flow in Work

Believe it or not. You can access this heightened level of performance in your work. It comes when you are deeply aligned to your core passions - when you are doing what you truly love.

For me, this is being thrown into the deep end with an ambitious goal or target and a team of people I have the opportunity to rally and lead. Without question, my immediate reaction is gut wrenching nervousness, anxiety, and doubt. Without Flow the goal and vision haunt me - I am scared of failure and the gremlins start telling me I should give it off to someone else.

But just like with Crossfit, the second I dive in head first everything changes. The energy comes pouring in and I am able to not only effectively lead and facilitate conversations externally, but access a  heightened sense of awareness internally - at times it feels like I can manage 20 different conversations and stakeholders in my head at one time…

I call this being 'Ultra dialed in'.

I know I am in this place when I find myself bouncing chaotically from one snapshot conversation to the next in full management/coordination roles - I’ll finally stop to take a breath and realize I have a full body high of adrenaline and energy flowing through me.

Flow in Adventure

Adventure plays the complete opposite role in my life. Being an introvert, adventuring into the surf or amongst the rivers and mountains is my sanctuary - it is where I recharge on life.

But it doesn’t come without costs.

Whether it be the tangible monetary cost of going on a trip, or the lingerings of guilt that I should be training with my team, or spending more time focusing on work - I feel the same archtypal gremlins sneaking into my thoughts as I begin preparing my nomadic adventures.

Within the span of 20 minutes I will have 100 conversations with myself trying to decide whether I should or shouldn't go.

And yet again, there is a decision. To walk the road less travelled, or to give in to the fallacy that whatever story I am telling myself about training or work is more important in the grand scheme of life.

Last weekend I had planned to go fly fishing into the Northern Vancouver mountains, I was packed up and ready to go and despite not being fully convinced it was the right decision I jumped in my car and started driving.

I almost turned around 10 times before reaching the freeway… But then I hit the open road and within minutes of leaving the city’s hustle and bustle the most overwhelming feeling of freedom came over me. I was free, the adventure had begun, and within minutes yet again was I buzzing and daydreaming what was in store.

In letting go of all of those previous stories I was able to fully experience and cherish the moment - the Flow was on full blast.

Where Are You Breaking Through Flow Barriers?

It all starts with you.

Do you have those moments throughout the day where you are in complete love with what you are doing? Those moments in your work, sport, and life that fill you with uncontrollable energy?

Each and every one of us has the ability and capacity to dial into Flow and use it to take their performance and experience to the next level.

My advice, take a note the next time you have any experience like one I have described above.

And then do everything in your power to have more of them!