Flow is nice. Flow feels good. Your body is doing something, but your mind is free to wonder or focus on other things. Some people run to feel a flow. It’s calming, it’s soothing, it gives you a since of mastery and accomplishment. This action has become so routine, that I don’t even have to think about it.
Flow certainly has its place. But it isn’t growth or progress. The state of flow doesn’t lead to improvement.
In order to truly improve yourself, you must be deliberate in your practice.
I have anecdotal evidence that supports this hypothesis. For years, I’ve used my recumbent bike for exercising. It’s an easy way to burn calories. I hope on, set my resistance program and start peddling. My body is working and burning calories, but my mind is elsewhere. I’m reading, playing a video game, or watching tv. I get into a mindless flow. My biking doesn’t improve. I don’t burn more and more calories. I don’t go faster or further. I’ve maintained a similar rpm the entire 10 years I’ve been using that bike.
On the other hand, when I run, my entire focus is on running. I’m deliberate when I run because I want to improve my speed, stamina, and my overall cardiovascular fitness. I don’t listen to music. I don’t listen to audiobooks. The only thing I pay attention to is me and what my body is doing. I constantly remind myself that I am growing and growing hurts. Improvement comes from stress and being focused and deliberate.
And I am improving.
I started only running for 30 seconds and then walking for 1 minute. As of this posting, I’m running for 1:25 while still only recovering by walking for 1 minute. My goal is to consistently be running 10-12 minute miles by the end of the year. Right now, I am hitting around 12:55, my fastest being 12:05 so far.
I’m killing it.
So when you set a performance goal for yourself, whether it be physical, creative, mental, or whatever, be deliberate in your practice.
And always be moving…