Flow is easiest to achieve when:
- You perceive that your skills are good enough to match the perceived difficulty of the contest.
- The competition is not so easy that you become bored and do not concentrate.
- You have distraction under control
- You are paying full attention to the performance, with no analysis of errors or technique
- You are relaxed and alert
- You are thinking positively, and have eliminated all negative thoughts
- It is allowed to develop, and not forced
- You have practised and trained attention
The Zen Approach
Perhaps the most systematic approach to achieving focus and flow so far is that used in oriental martial arts, such as Karate or Kendo. These adopt a Zen approach to concentration where the fighter is in a state of almost pure flow.
In these sports the competitor seeks to lose all distractions of ego, analysis and from surroundings, immersing him or herself completely within the activity.
The following things in particular are avoided:
- Wanting to win
- Show off
- Wanting to frighten or terrify the opponent
- The desire to be reactive and not take the initiative
- Trying so hard to achieve the correct state of mind that you distract yourself.
Effectively western sports psychology is now advocating an almost identical set of strategies through a skills based approach. If, however, you appreciate a mystical approach, you may appreciate the Zen approach to focus