There is more to life than simply increasing its speed. Mahatma Gandhi
Writer/researcher Steven Kotler makes the case that we can optimize our thought processes by more consistently placing ourselves in flow states. During these flow states, Kotler observes, active parts of our brain slow down. This helps account for a distinctive aspect of flow states: we become so absorbed in what we are doing that we lose sense of time.
Kotler's recent book, The Rise of Superman, explains how the flow state is the foundation for performance success in fields as different as athletics and jazz music. Adventure athletes, he notes, are especially good at tapping into the flow state, utilizing a variety of environmental, internal, and social triggers. One of the reasons adventure athletics can produce flow is that "flow follows focus, and taking risks directs focus to the now."
What is perhaps most interesting about the flow state is that it is achieved through heightened concentration and yet is a relaxed cognitive state. When we encounter a situation that is difficult to deal with, we typically intensify our thinking and respond with emotional frustration. Both, ironically, interfere with accessing the flow state.
Kotler points out that meditation - a loosening of cognitive constraints - may be much more successful in helping us deal with challenges.
He also points out that there is an incredible connection between deliberate practice and achieving the flow state: tackling challenging tasks and receiving timely feedback creates an immersion in performance that helps us access flow. Conversely, when we are stuck in routine, there is little immersion and little flow. We commonly hear advice to "stick to the process". It may be the case, however, that we need to go beyond routine process to achieve the flow state routinely.
According to Kotler, we all have a Superman within, if only we can access the proper state of consciousness.