Keeping up with the flow

On July 4th 2018 I experienced for the first time a conscious flow situation. I was climbing at the bouldering gym and I was enjoying the climb in a very unique way. Everything felt easy. I felt in total control of my body and mind. The moves came naturally. I was focused on nothing else but the climb. It was a kind of ecstatic trance in which I was feeling at the top of my capacities, truly alive and absorbed in the moment.

I was working on a 7b+ project that I had been trying for already 3 sessions (about 20-25 tries). Suddenly I felt that this was the moment. I set up my phone to record the attempt, and the project was completed:

2018, July 4th, 11:02 AM

After this success I continued my session and I was still feeling pretty good. I felt so in control that I tried to redo on camera a 7c problem that I had succeeded only once (after many tries) and that I failed many other times since: the move in the middle is quite demanding for me and requires great coordination. Nevertheless, the attempt resulted in one of my smoothest send ever:

2018, July 4th, 11:18 AM

I was so hyped that I left my phone at the same place to try and record another 7b+ project that I had tried many times without success. And to my surprise, this one worked as well (although there was quite some struggle!). At this point I was not believing what was happening.

2018, July 4th, 11:21 AM

Those three success happened within twenty minutes. I was very confused. After the session the word flow came to me to express this feeling. It is only later that I discovered that flow is a concept used in psychology to describe this exact sort of situation. Here is a definition from wikipedia:

The mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.

This concept of flow was named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975. In his book on the topic (Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience), Csíkszentmihályi uses many descriptions of ‘flow’ situations coming from rock-climbers and chess players. As both a rock-climber and a chess player, this reading was for me a revelation.

Since that day I started learning about what flow is and how to reproduce this mental state in various situations of the everyday life (other hobbies, work, household tasks, interactions with people, etc.). Doing so tremendously improved my quality of life.

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