flow genome project â€“ what weâ€™ve discoveredwhen people want more flow in their lives, the number one thing we can tell them is thatthere is a flow cycle. so the old idea about flow was that it was a binary. it was likea light switch. you were either in the zone or you were out of the zone. what we now knowis that flow is a four part cycle and you have to move through all four parts of thecycle before you can return to the flow state itself. the neurobiology of the flow cycleand the actual research came out of herb bensonâ€™s work at harvard. he kind of laid the foundationfor it. but what weâ€™ve discovered is at the front end of the flow state thereâ€™sa struggle phase. this is a loading phase. you are loading, then overloading the brainwith information. for a baseball player this
is learning to swing a bat at a ball. fora writer planning a new book. this is when youâ€™re doing interviews. this is when youâ€™rereading, itâ€™s when youâ€™re diagramming structure and things like that. itâ€™s veryunpleasant as a general rule. so even though flow may be the most desirable and pleasantstate on earth, the actual flow cycle itself starts with a very unpleasant state knownas struggle. from struggle you move into release. thisliterally means you want to take your mind off the problem. so what happens in flow iswe are trading conscious processing which is slow, has very limited ram, right, theworking memory can only hold about four items at once, and is very energy inefficient. forsubconscious processing which his extremely
fast and is very energy efficient and haspretty much endless ram. so to do that you have to move from struggle, you have to letâ€“ stop thinking about what you were trying to think about basically. you take your mindoff the problem, you go for long walks, gardening works very well, building models works very,very well. albert einstein famously used to row a boat into the middle of lake genevaand stare at the clouds, right. once you can take your mind off the problem and, by theway, one of the only things that you canâ€™t do to move through release is watch television.it actually changes your brainwaves in a way that it will block flow. but once you movefrom release thereâ€™s actually underneath the surface neurobiologically thereâ€™s aglobal release of nitric oxide which is a
gas of signaling molecules found everywherein the body. this flushes all the stress hormones out of your system and replaces them withkind of feel good performance enhancing neurochemicals like dopamine and anandamide and serotoninand endorphins which underpin the flow state as well. youâ€™re in the flow state. thisis the third stage in the struggle. and on the back end of the flow state there is actuallya recovery phase. and this is really, really, really critical. so you go from this amazinghigh of flow to a very deep low that shows up in recovery. a lot of this is that allthose feel good neurochemicals have drained out of your system. it takes certain vitamins and minerals andsunlight and things like that to rebuild them.
so the recovery phase on the back end of theflow state is actually very, very unpleasant as well. and if you really want to hack flowyou need to learn how to struggle better and you need to learn how to recover better. andone of the most important things in recovery is you have to â€“ you need some emotionalfortitude, some grit. you have to basically hold on to your emotions, not get stressedout at the fact that you know longer feel like superman. and the main reason â€“ welltwo reasons for this is one, if you get too stressed out and feeling low youâ€™re goingto start producing cortisol. a little bit is fine, too much of it blocks the acceleratedlearning that comes with flow. so you will actually get the short term benefit of theflow state itself but you wonâ€™t get the
long term benefit, the accelerated learningthat you get in flow. the other problem is if you have to move from recovery back intostruggle and youâ€™re bummed out at no longer being in flow during the recovery phase, itâ€™svery hard to get up for the difficult fight of struggle that follows.