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Stop Your Negative Mental Chatter With Flow To Up Your Performance

Written by: Bob Choat, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Each time I allowed my mindset to be filled with negative self-talk, it threw my momentum off. In many cases, it also stopped me from progressing. That mental chatter is what keeps us from reaching our goals and true success.

Yes, we have a plan to what we want to accomplish, and we begin that journey towards the outcome we want. Then… BOOM! We find ourselves facing our biggest enemy. That enemy is us. Our performance drops.

FLOW states reside from within, not from the outside of us. In Ancient Greece, the aspect of eudaimonia shows where the true value of happiness resides versus that of hedonistic values (which is primarily externally driven happiness). Those that get caught up in hedonistic lifestyle tends to compare themselves to others and this becomes a vicious cycle (aka: the hedonic treadmill).

Our mental chatter is linked, in part, to this external value of hedonism as well as the comparison trap. Both are related traps that can lead us down a destructive path. My generation (Baby Boomers) fell deep into hedonistic trap and even the comparison trap. I recall the obsession of buying a BMW back in the early 1980’s. It seemed that everyone wanted a “Bimmer” and those young executives were referred to as “Yuppies.”

Whenever we get this mental chatter and even our “monkey mind”, our performance will drop. In many cases it drops so far that it can “sink to the bottom of the well.” Luckily there is a solution. That’s where accessing the State of FLOW comes in.

FLOW is literally the state of optimal experience as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book, FLOW.

“Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.” - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

When I am engaged in an activity that brings me joy, I easily get into a FLOW state. This is most obvious when I challenge myself just a bit more than what I am used to. FLOW happens when skill and challenge are at its highest level. That’s the reason beginners have a harder time to get into FLOW. They are usually at the conscious incompetent stage of learning.

At the unconscious competent does a person find it easier to get into FLOW because of their high skill level. Again, so long as they challenge themselves a bit beyond that skill level. World class athletes and world class extreme sports athletes rely of this to raise their skills and what they can do. It’s the same with artists, writers, actors, creators, entrepreneurs, scientists, musicians, etc.…

Interestingly, being a state of FLOW also affects time. It feels like time speeds up and yet, when we are completely focused, we’re able to perceive the activity we’re engaged in deeper. Any time we’re focused on one thing, time speeds up (when the experience is filled with joy) and slows down (when the experience brings in pain). Time in both instances is relative and so is FLOW.

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That's relativity.” -Albert Einstein

Here’s the key to stop your negative mental chatter, find that activity brings you joy, have a good or high level of skill and are willing to up the challenge. Do this on a regular basis. When you’re focused on this, it will be impossible for your mind to have any mental chatter. You see, being in those focused moments, you can’t be distracted by thoughts.

It’s those negative thoughts that stop writers from moving forward (like I have). Yet, when I simply write (with a smile), the words seem to flow. Yes, I am smiling right now.

This kind of happiness only comes within and engaged in what brings life to your soul. FLOW does just that: creating a “Smiling Soul.”

Now is the time to add more FLOW into your life. A suggested read would be Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal’s book, Stealing Fire as well as the previous mentioned book, FLOW.

Finally, here are 7 tips to help get you into a FLOW State...

1. Focus on your physical body. While doing this, keep aware of your skill level. The goal is to progressively challenge yourself.

2. Focus on your mind. It’s easy to deviate towards the negative. Through focused concentration, you can steer back to the positive.

3. Leverage your memory. Doing this, you will be able to access a memory where you successfully accomplished a goal and assessed your skill level at that time as well as the challenges you needed to do.

4. Focus on your thoughts. When we are “lost in our thoughts” we get to have an autotelic experience versus the external rewards that many get caught up in.

5. Journal or communicate in some other way. When I engage in activities while building my skill level, I will take notice of where I am at. This includes the feedback. From there, I will journal it as this gives me an understanding of where I am at during the time of the writing.

6. Be a life-long learner. The kind of learning that I am talking about is that which goes beyond one’s formal education and into one that is intrinsic. This is something that I continue to do and always will.

7. Focus on the work at hand. This includes your job or some other tasks. Make sure they have a goal in which to aim for and offers you the ability to challenge yourself. Also, the goals should enable you to incorporate an intrinsic value to it for yourself.

“Time slows down. Self vanishes. Action and Awareness merge. Welcome to Flow.” - Steven Kotler

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Bob Choat, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Bob is the host of The School of Transformation Podcast, the author of Mind Your Own Fitness, and the forthcoming book, Develop the Champion Within. He is a U.S. Marine Veteran (1st Force Recon) and former LAPD Police Officer. He is also an accomplished martial artist with a 5th-degree black belt in Kenpo, a Sr. Instructor in Jeet Kune Do, and a Master Instructor in Close Quarter Combat + numerous other black belts as well as president of an international martial arts organization. He is a lifelong learner as he has his Ph.D. in psychology, master's in leadership, and has studied under top professionals/experts in the fields of psychology, neuro-linguistic programming (becoming a Master Trainer), flow, and more...



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