How To “Tweak” Your Mindset For Optimal Flow

Written by
Steven Kotler

How To “Tweak” Your Mindset For Optimal Flow

Written by
Steven Kotler

How To “Tweak” Your Mindset For Optimal Flow

Written by
Steven Kotler

Have you ever wondered what people actually mean when they use the word “mindset”?

It’s one of those terms you hear thrown around a lot.

According to world-renowned Stanford psychologist, Dr. Carol Dweck:

“A mindset is a self-perception or “self-theory” that people hold about themselves”.

Dweck differentiates between two types of mindsets, which you’ve likely heard about.

A “fixed mindset” assumes that one's character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens.

Factors that we can’t change in any meaningful way.

Under a fixed mindset, success is the byproduct of that inherent intelligence.

It’s an assessment of how those “given” abilities measure up against an equally fixed standard.

Striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining this sense of being smart or skilled.

A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as an inevitability on the path to growth.

It’s viewed as something that simply stretches our existing abilities.

An immense amount of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure, personally and professionally, and our capacity for well-being is enormously influenced by whether we’re holding a fixed or growth mindset.

So how do we begin to optimize our mindset?

Dr. Michael Gervais, clinical psychologist, high-performance coach for the Seattle Seahawks and member of the Flow Research Collective advisory board talks about three different “kinds of mind”.

First, there's a negative mind.

Self-criticism, worry, doubt, and limiting thoughts that lead to constriction of your inner experience.

This is a kind of cognitive choking. Similar to a fixed mindset.

Second, you’ve got a “positive mind”. This is optimism, a place that creates space. Similar to a growth mindset.

Finally, there’s “no mind”.

This is flow. You’re locked in, engrossed, and engaged in the present moment, where thoughts fade away entirely.

Gervais’ key point is that you can’t jump from a negative mind to no mind.

You can’t go from self-critical doubt, and frustration and automatically get to no mind. It’s not how it works.

However, “If we hang out in positive mind long enough,” explains Gervais, which can counter-intuitively be about self-talk that isn’t always positive but simply calm and or neutral in tone, “we have a chance to slip into no mind or flow state, the most optimal state we can be in as humans.”

So what’s the point here?

Do your best to dodge negative, limiting thinking.

Get yourself to at least a neutral state of mind and then, the possibility of going past the mind entirely, and into the flow, opens up.

In sum:

Growth Mindset/Positive Mind —> Calm & Neutral Self Talk —> Flow

Also, our last email on stress had a neuroscience typo in it!

We said the amygdala “atrophies” with stress. We meant to say “augments”.

Thanks to the nerds who caught that!

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