The Secret to Finding Your Flow and Getting in the Zone
Here at Rerouted we talk tons about creating your own adventure. Our mission is to inspire people to play outside. We thought it was time to explain why. It’s because of Flow. It’s part pop psych and part kitsch but there is absolutely one universal truth about Flow. You know it when you’ve experienced it!
Let’s start with the basics. For this, we turn to the ever-wise Wikipedia: Flow: a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, a Psychology Ph.D. from the University of Chicago coined the term in the 1970’s. This is discussed in detail in Daniel H. Pink’s book Drive which is about what motivates people. In this case, flow is a state resulting from a near complete immersion in an activity. Pink describes Flow as follows “In flow, people lived so deeply in the moment and felt so utterly in control, that their sense of time, place and even self melted away.”
I have experienced flow on many, many occasions in all my outdoor adventures. The first thing I must remind everyone – all gear, is used gear. It’s Rerouted gear. New gear isn’t really gear, it’s more – a decoration. The second you rip that tag off – it becomes used adventure gear. So, I think it’s fair to say that it’s impossible to find flow without used gear. In fact, it’s a mandate.
I first found flow on the water, fishing with my pops. A sense of unity between self, gear & environment. Before being enlightened by the academic definitions and the science of it all…I simply referred to it as “river time”. It meant that I could climb into the river to wade, fish a mile of river and when I finished, I had no idea whether an hour or eight hours had gone by. Flow. Absolutely 100% focus and engagement.
Those experiences in the water lead me to realize a few fascinating things about flow. At least in the way I have experienced it. It has never, ever occurred when I was doing something that I had to do or that I was told to do. There is a flow trigger that is tied to desire and want for an activity. It isn’t something you can summon or will to happen. It just is and does. It is a phenomenon set apart from our increasingly on-demand culture. Like that glorious sunset and the subsequent lame photograph…it can be described but never adequately.
As I grew up & continued to find my own way – I started buying used climbing gear in order to chase my own passions. I had found my own flow 100’s of feet higher than where my dad found his. I loved to rock climb. Climbing offered risk, challenge & focus. You can tell when the flow is there & when the flow isn’t. Finding my flow at the rock-climbing crags helped me to get sober, make friends, focus on myself, eliminate the distractions all the above mentioned perks plus so much more. Used climbing shoes were my bread & butter. How could I justify dropping $200 dollars every three months for my fix of Flow, when I could score a $20 pair and achieve the same results? Answer, I could not.
The reason we are building Rerouted is to help all of you unlock that flow in the wilderness. Used rock climbing gear & generous mentorship allowed me to find my own flow.
I like to think that flow is a divine phenomenon. It is blissful immersion. I fantasize that there is an emergency boardroom meeting called in your frontal cortex. It is recognized that a favorite activity is beginning and there are several resulting motions and seconds. “I move that all synapses not directly involved in flyfishing take the rest of the day off”… “is there a second?” Or, “I move that we shutdown sense of time and eliminate all stress and anxiety!”
You see, flow envelopes you in a warm cocoon of your passion. The things you absolutely love. Your brain and body know what to do in those situations and thus, (and I don’t think this is exactly provable by science) allow you to go on auto pilot. I think this is a gracious gift from evolution…a place where survival drove most of our traits and responses.
I love the personal aspect of flow. Your flow moment might occur while throwing a pot on the ceramics wheel where if I sat down to do same it might be enjoyable, but easy for me to leave the studio on time to get to my next appointment.
Flow also happens in very intense situations. When it is you vs the rock and the goal is the move you have been working on for weeks. This is strenuous and even stressful, but it is a task you have chosen to which you are laser focused. Again here, the emphasis on “choice”.
The universality of situations where flow can occur also sets it apart. Think about all the places where it can apply…prayer, painting, rock climbing, juggling, hiking, mountain biking, sewing, and gardening to just name a few. Having such a high value mental state available to literally everyone across an infinite array of activities is a bounty of epic proportions.
We dream of building a platform that allows every human the ability to safely chase down their flows in the wilderness without breaking the bank. Used outdoor gear is our way of breaking down the barriers. Go get a cheap backpack, some slightly dusty rain gear, an old camping stove and hit the dusty trails. Finding your flow really only takes one action. Get out there and start playing. You’ll never find it until you start looking.
Everyone should get out there and get your flow on! Treasure those unbridled moments where time stops, stress and anxiety fade to black and where you fully and completely immerse yourself in something you love.
If this is the first time you are hearing about this and you are regretful that you haven’t reveled in it until now then take solace in my favorite Chinese proverb:
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now!”
So, get out there with some pre-loved outdoor gear & get your flow on!