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Andrew is a performance coach currently working in New Zealand at the U21 Football World Cup. He kindly agreed to an interview with The Flow Centre so we could pick his brains about how he helps top athletes to plug into flow and peak performance.
Cameron: What does flow mean to you?
Andrew: Flow is a skill itself. It is a state that we can train for and experience in our everyday lives. When we think about flow as a unique mental state, that is not combined with notions of luck or some illusive magic space that finds us at random, we can then empower ourselves to find flow frequently in our lives. If you want to find flow in your performance, practise it in training, but we also need to practice under pressure.
Cameron: Your words echo one of The Flow Centre's core messages; if we want to experience flow, then we need to train for it. What was the philosophy of your company Brain Builder?
Andrew: Living above the line everyday, day in and day out. We need to adopt a ruthless mindset to succeed and leave nothing to the 'too hard basket.' It is a phrase that we can use to instantly assess how we are doing at any given situation are we above the line. We must replicate the performance environment in our training and life as a whole. Performing at a high level is not a magic switch that we turn on and off, preparation is key, you have to guarantee you are doing the best you can in everything you do. We have to be above the line on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, not just on game day.
Cameron: What is one of the primary issues for athletes?
Andrew: Performing under pressure. Pressure is a concept and it is different for everyone, when you put your whole self into the performance, and approach pressure with our competitive fire never give up attitude the pressure reduces. It's very hard to make it as a professional so if we are not willing to make our bed in the morning how can we expect to make it in professional sport?
Cameron: Do you think finding flow is available to access for everybody?
Andrew: If you put yourself above the line you will be amazed how many flow opportunities become available. It is absurd to think flow is reserved for the elite few, I see students enter flow everyday. Flow is not a magic tablet, it takes practice but we can experience it multiple times a day.
Cameron: What do you think is the key to maintaining one of Csikszentmihalyi key principles of flow: intrinsic motivation?
Andrew: Play and fun are the key to maintaining intrinsic motivation. You can't find flow in something you don't enjoy.
Cameron: How can we practically experience flow more frequently in our lives?
Andrew: Control our breathing. If we can take a moment to invest ten seconds to control our breathing and really focus on that, we can control our thoughts a lot better. My second piece of advice is to detach from the situation. Understand whether the pressure is situational pressure or pressure from within. Once we understand the situation better we can gain clarity and control.