1. The Struggle phase. It is called struggle for a reason, it feels uncomfortable. Most people never push themselves through this phase because they are unwilling to challenge themselves.
2. The Release phase. The struggle subsides and we enter a grey area, where we are teetering on the cusp of a Flow state. This phase provides your brain space to shift from conscious to subconscious processing. This release triggers a flow state.
3. Flow State. Depending on what you are doing, you can be in a low grade flow state or a peak flow state (see number 4). A low grade flow state would be something like a video game or creative writing session, where you have intense focus.
4. Peak Flow State. A peak flow state could happen during an event, like surfing a 100 ft wave or giving a 1 hour speech to an audience of 500 people. In a peak flow state, you are the man (or woman), in the zone, on fire, can do anything and are insanely productive.
5. Brain Rewiring and Memory Consolidation Phase. Recovery and Reset. This is the crash following the flow state, where your mind and body are rewiring to a higher processing speed. You see the new possibilities and remember every excruciating detail. Have you ever had a epic game or an amazing night out where you were on top of the world? Did you have trouble sleeping that night? Think of it like you are installing the new operating system on your computer. You have to have some down time before you can operate at the higher level. High quality sleep and Meditation are important here.
NOTE: Most people rarely enter a flow state because they refuse to push themselves out of a comfortable situation. Or if they find themselves outside their comfort zone, they immediately take steps to get back in it! And to be honest, the comfort zone is often more of an 'averageness' zone that we've come to accept as the norm. Deepak Chopra said that humans are just bundles of conditioned responses. Did you know that the average human has around 70,000 thoughts a day? That's pretty amazing but the scary thing is that 95% of those thoughts are exactly the same as yesterday. We just repeat patterns. Which brings me to one of my favourite sayings:-
If you keep on thinking what you've always thought,
You'll keep on doing what you've always done,
And you'll keep on getting what you've always got!'
Most people just don't understand the process and gaining this understanding is an essential part of 'Preparing for Flow'. You must understand that this is your programming and conditioning that is getting in the way of you achieving your potential. If you want to have an optimal human experience you are going to have to get out of your comfort zone. There is no exception.
One further point I'd like to share with you now is with regards to the feelings of discomfort we get when we step out of our comfort zone. We give them various labels; Anxiety, Frustration, Fear, Discomfort, Uncertainty, Struggle etc. They have a variety of physiological responses, for example, quickening heart rate, sweaty palms, shortening of breath, butterflies in the stomach etc. What if you could reinterpret them? What if you retrained your brain so that when you get feelings of say anxiety, you think, 'Hmmm, interesting, this must mean that I'm on my way to Flow!'