The flow state, the zone, the present moment. I’ve been thinking about these concepts a lot lately. In fact, ever since watching Tim Howard’s incredible goal tending performance against Belgium last summer.
Flow state or commonly “The Zone” is a state of mind where one, usually referring to an athlete, is completely consumed by whatever activity he is in. Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, every great athlete exemplify what it means to be in the zone; the moments where they have exceeded the normal capabilities of mere mortals and become godlike. This is the present state where they are no longer consumed in thoughts and are instead freed into the realm of action. The present moment guiding their every move.
For most, myself included, sports are the access point in reaching this state of non-thinking and are generally the first exposure to this feeling of presenceness in a person’s life.
The sad thing is our society puts so much emphasis on being “good” at sports; a level of athleticism most kids will never reach.
This emphasis on being the absolute best causes people to lose touch with sports (whether after elementary school or generally sometime in college) and athletic endeavors are slowly transformed into couch-sitting, stat-watching fantasy “play.” As some people give up their athletic careers they lose their easiest admission to the present moment. The concept of this flow state is completely forgotten, replaced by stress and worry.
Here’s the funny thing, we are ALL capable of reaching this zone.
Recently my access point to the zone is trail running. For me, there is something completely transcendent in bounding through the woods in flow state where every foot step lands in the exact right place, every breath appreciates the fresh forest air, and the motion of my physical body is overpowering any worrisome thought I could have.
Do I reach the zone every time I run?
Of course not! But when it does, it carries over into the days to follow. Being in this state of mind makes me a better person; whether it’s listening more intently to my wife, rocking out harder to “Voodoo Child” in my car, or being a more focused and aware teacher.
Will trail running help everyone get in the zone?
Of course not! Everyone will have a different activity to reach this: Yoga, shooting hoops, drawing, singing in the shower, writing, whatever. The idea here is to consciously search for YOUR activity. Find something that you absolutely love doing that will draw you into the ZONE.
Unfortunately it is super easy for us to zombie our way into the routine of eating, going to work, mindlessly clicking through the internet, etc etc, effectively tuning out the world around us. In these moments of autopilot it is helpful to remind ourselves that:
IF YOU ARE NOT SEEKING THE PRESENT MOMENT, IT IS PROBABLY PASSING YOU BY.
Your moment of flow is literally right now. Stop looking to the past and stop fooling yourself into the “I’ll be happy when…” mindset.
Find what makes you happy right now and you will find your flow. This is the most important step into becoming your absolute best self.
Go get it!