Flow in Adventure Sports

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The three core factors that make Adventure Athletics the top domain for Flow states--Rich Environment, Deep Embodiment and High Consequence.

Learn more in our new book, Stealing Fire: The Secret Revolution in Altered States. www.stealingfirebook.com

Published in: Health & Medicine
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  • I am going to try to produce a slideshare on my own personal receipe for big flow while mountain biking. I would like to use the FGP slide of the 4 states of flow and the brain chemical response to those actions. I've done the bike flow thing in different ways, including food and drug intake and varying conditions.
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  • We all seem to live lives between the lines with little or no recognition for the consequences of how that narrows our experience in relationships and in life. Being responsible is more than being safe. If trial work was a sport then it has all the emotions from the slide show.
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Flow in Adventure Sports

  1. 1. THE IDEABIG adventure sportsflow inwww.flowgenomeproject.co
  2. 2. THE IDEABIG adventure sports / in 140 wordsflow in Adventure Sports (defined as those athletic pursuits involving uncontrolled natural environments, largely non-motorized propulsion, and threat of serious to severe consequences) prompt an unusually high incidence of Flow state experiences, and they elicit the core features of Czikszentmihalyi’s Flow criteria more frequently and more reliably than other disciplines such as conventional sport or music. The 3 factors explaining the high Flow of adventure sport are:  exposure to powerful wild surroundings  a high degree of physical engagement and mental focus  serious to fatal consequences While these factors emerge in literal relief in adventure sports, their insights are transferable to other domains such as education, healthcare and business. They can serve as a helpful guideline for designing experiences and programs that prompt Flow and its associated benefits of accelerated learning, enhanced creativity, focus, and peak performance across disciplines and populations.
  3. 3. THE IDEABIG adventure sports / at a glanceflow in  neuro-kinesthetic programming Deep  hedonic engineering Embodiment  autotelic drive FLOW  radical novelty in adventure  peak arousal  natural sublime sports  immediate feedback  super-egoic  existential impact distantiation Rich Environment High Consequence
  4. 4. THE IDEABIG adventure sports / rich environmentflow in Radical Novelty - unlike the controlled environments of traditional sports, where handlers take great pains to ensure that every court, field, or apparatus conforms to exacting standards of consistency—the big mountains, rivers, and oceans of the world defy grooming. The Alaskan snow- pack morphs from moment to moment, the swells breaking at Teahupoo or P’eahi peak and lurch to their own rhythms. The result? Constant stimulation and a “never the same river twice” newness that penalizes the complacent and rewards the attentive with heightened shots of dopamine for getting it exactly right—just when it could all go horribly wrong.
  5. 5. THE IDEABIG adventure sports / rich environmentflow in Natural Sublime - from the Old Testament prophets to the 19th century Romantics like Emerson, Thoreau and Muir—seekers have always retreated to “God’s Country” for inspiration and perspective. The sheer scale, the vastness and power of a snow-capped mountain range, giant breaking wave, or thundering watefall—the geologic sense of Time where canyons and mountain ranges rise and fall through eons, and the ephemeral play of the elements—shooting stars, sunrises and alpenglow—all combine to offer adventure athletes moments of visceral and aesthetic awe and a simultaneous sense of significance and insignificance in The Big Scheme.
  6. 6. THE IDEABIG adventure sports / rich environmentflow in Super-Egoic Distantiation - complicated term for a simple concept. With the growing exception of RedBull media and their imitators, the majority of great moments in adventure sports occur in solitude, or in the company of core friends and accomplices. No Jumbotrons, no Twitter feed, no gossip columns to refract or distort the immediacy of the moment. Back in the day, Sigmund Freud outlined three components to the human psyche - the Id (our primal impulse) the Ego (our sense of self) and the Super-Ego (the collective voice of society). Getting far enough away from the madding crowd to silence the Super-Ego, has always been a prime driver of the adventurer - and the reward? Quiet. Inside and out. An experience that stands on its own merits - unpackaged, commoditized or mangled by armchair mountaineers or marketers. And maybe, just maybe, a chance for Original Nature (a Zen term for pure existence, popularized by Pulitzer winning poet and Dharma Bum mountaineer Gary Snyder) to rise up in its place. And for proof of the significance of this concept, look no further than the escalating debate in climbing, surfing and other iconic backcountry pursuits around the tech-enabled intrusion of the Super-Ego, from Laird Hamilton’s refusal to compete on the pro surf tour, to Steve House’s insistence on pure-pursuit alpinism, to the “GoPro Courage” epidemic.
  7. 7. THE IDEABIG adventure sports / deep embodimentflow in Neuro-Kinesthetic Programming - because adventure sports require full bodily engagement in dynamic environments, they promote a degree of vestibular (bodily balance) and proprioceptive (awareness of limbs in space) intelligence rarely seen outside of gymnastics, circus or martial arts. Constant seeking of the Big Three Somatic Triggers that are the nectar of gravity games - zero G, (hucks, off the lips, dynos) high G (railed berms, bottom turns, and straight- lines), and Polyaxial Rotation (on/off axis flips and spins) hones these athletes’ embodied cognition - the linkage between body and brain - and creates durable neural networks that leave these athletes running broadband while everyone else is still on dialup.
  8. 8. THE IDEABIG adventure sports / deep embodimentflow in Hedonic Engineering - with its outlaw Bohemian culture (think Kerouac’s Dharma Bums, Malibu in the 60’s, Yosemite’s Camp IV in the 70’s, or virtually any ski-town anywhere in the world)—Adventure athletes remain masters of the art of fine tuning their buzzes. Some of these efforts can be chalked up to simple youthful partying, but others, like the infamous Hippie Speedball (a cocktail of espresso and bong hits) should be seen for what they also are: precisely calibrated combinations of stimulants and euphoriants that create an alert physical self, hyper attuned to sensorimotor inputs, and free of the chattering distraction of the conscious self - in other words, locked, loaded, and ready to shred. Add iPods and earbuds pumping stereophonic tunes that entrain the brain with driving beats per minute (BPM) and a vague but distinct affinity for all things Zen, Tao and Yoga—and you’ve got a potent cocktail that many Flow hackers routinely knock back just before they drop in.
  9. 9. THE IDEABIG adventure sports / deep embodimentflow in Autotelic Drive - “Only a surfer knows the feeling —There are no friends on powder days”. Both of these bumper sticker aphorisms highlight the simple fact that once you experience a deep Flow state - getting barreled in an overhead wave, or floating down a mountain on a bottomless powder day - you possess a potent felt sense, a flashing beacon on the map of your lived experience, of as close to Perfect as many of us will ever get. And we’ll go to astonishing lengths (like chasing swells around the world, or winter camping at trailheads for first tracks) and take enormous risks (injuries, divorces, pink slips) to get back to the Zone. Compared to the ruthless self-denial and delayed gratification typical in the “10,000 Hours to Mastery” camp - the instant and overwhelming gratification of the Flow state flips the Protestant Work-Ethic on its head - if it feels that good, do it (and keep doing it) - and by the time you’ve practiced enough to log even 100 hours of Flow, you’ll have passed the 10,000 hour mark anyway.
  10. 10. THE IDEABIG adventure sports / high consequenceflow in Peak Arousal - as Samuel Johnson quipped, “when a man knows he is to be hanged in the morning, it focuses his mind wonderfully.” No different than staring down a few thousand feet below your ski tips, or letting go of the tow handle at Jaws. Our survival instincts kick in, norepinephrine floods our system, our vision sharpens, our heart races, blood shunts from our extremities, and suddenly, we can move mountains (or at least make it down them alive). Adventure athletes have taken our most primitive urges and rewired them in service of going Big--From Fight or Flight to Huck and Hope (and any conventional athlete or artist who thinks that they actually experienced Peak Arousal at a free throw line, or in a concert hall needs to get out more).
  11. 11. THE IDEABIG adventure sports / high consequenceflow in Immediate Feedback - “in the mountains,” NOLS founder Paul Petzoldt observed, “feedback is instant.” Same with rivers, rocks and oceans. Miss that shot at Madison Square Garden, and the crowd boos. Chunk the solo at the Kennedy Center and the conductor cuts you off. Not fun, to be sure, but not the same as catching an edge in a no-fall couloir in Chamonix, or under-rotating a gap jump in Moab. If you get it seriously wrong out there, you die, or have to quit the game for good. And as the studies on Expert Performance demonstrate - in disciplines with less direct feedback loops in place - like stock analysis, psychiatry and medicine - even the most revered practitioners get worse over time, not better. Surgeons, for example, are the only class of physician that actually improve the longer they’re out of medical school. Why? Because if they cock it up someone dies on their table. A radiologist never knows if he missed a melanoma. In adventure sports, the laws of physics deliver direct, unmediated feedback straight up. No judges, no scorecards, no review in the New York Times, or pundits on SportsCenter to make the call. The result? Rapid, no bullshit learning curves and some extremely fit survivors.
  12. 12. THE IDEABIG adventure sports / high consequenceflow in Existential Impact - for most of human history, heroes traded their lives for immortal greatness on the battlefield. The last century and a half has seen an unprecedented shift from that ancient mano y mano warrior ethos toward the mano y mouse realities of tech- buffered warfare. Today, we’re left with very few venues to observe the best truly putting it all on the line and reaffirm our deepest values in the attempt (despite the hype and incessant military metaphors of pro- team sports matchups). Adventure athletes have taken the armor, the weaponry, and the ethos of the warrior tradition, and refashioned them to face the giants and dragons of our own time - the Unclimbable, the Unrideable, the Unfathomable. And every time they cheat Death, they come back with something immortal to share. That’s why there’s a different level of respect for Laird Hamilton and Travis Rice than for Kelly Slater and Shaun White - the latter are masters of the Finite Game. The former are initiates of the Infinite Game. And that connection to the bigger story - to the epic - gives them and us a narrative that goes beyond point tallies, season rankings and endorsements, and offers hints of more durable truths - tempered by the memories of those brothers in arms no longer alive to share them.
  13. 13. THE IDEABIG adventure sportsflow inwww.flowgenomeproject.co

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