02. Experts Corner

The Art of Achieving Flow With NeuroTracker - Part 1

December 4, 2020

Welcome to this first part of a two part blog taking a deep dive into the art of achieving flow. Flow is not a new concept, it's been a key theory of psychology for decades. However, what is new is that it can be achieved much more effectively with the help of a digital age neurotechnology - NeuroTracker! I love to explore this exciting space between neuroscience, psychology and human performance, exploring all the latest neurotechnologies to discover the next level game changer. In this first part I will cover the concepts and then the known psychological and environmental triggers of flow, and illustrate why NeuroTracker meets these needs so well.

The Concept of Flow States

It was mid 2017 after training hundreds of clients with NeuroTracker that I learned about the concept of flow states. I’ve known about “the zone” and “being unconscious” from White Men Can’t Jump and the NBA Jam arcade machine… when you just can’t miss and as Michael Jordan said, “the hoop was a big ol’ bucket… and I can’t miss!” The scientific definition of flow was developed by the founder of the concept, renown psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In a nutshell, it's this,

''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. In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one's sense of time.''

It's when you achieve this state of mind that you are truly in the growth zone. The book, Rise of Superman, clearly outlined over a dozen ‘flow triggers’ and the more I looked at what I do with clients at The Brain Room with NeuroTracker, the more I realized I was inadvertently using almost all of those flow triggers. Let me lay them out for you and map them in terms of how NeuroTracker is a very flexible tool for actually stimulating these triggers.

If you are new to NeuroTracker, then before reading on, I recommend watching this video to get a quick idea.

Psychological Triggers of Flow

There are 4 psychological triggers for flow that are used to define an optimal state of human consciousness when we feel and perform at our best. Here they are.

1. Intensely focused attention - with NeuroTracker nothing else is possible if you want to complete this 3D multiple object tracking training at your best. You must devote your entire field of peripheral vision, attention, concentration and working memory to keep track of those pesky yellow balls buzzing and whirling around the screen.

The NeuroTracker task

2. Clear goals - with NeuroTracker the instructions are very simple and clear. Track a set amount of objects for a set amount of time (usually four out of eight objects for 8 seconds). Do this a set amount of times (usually 20 repetitions per set).

Snowboarder Josh Miller on NeuroTracker

3. Immediate feedback - NeuroTracker lets you know whether you succeeded or failed after each trial with a sound for success and a different sound for failure (as well as showing which targets you were supposed to be tracking).

Brain Christie conducting research with NeuroTracker

4. Appropriate challenge/skills ratio - here’s where the NeuroTracker speed threshold staircase design takes the cake. When you get all four balls correct, in most session types, the speed of those balls increases the next repetition. Eventually pushing you beyond your capacity to track accurately. As you can see here, it doesn't matter who you are, or what your tracking level is, NeuroTracker constantly adapts the speed to your optimum threshold.

I’ve found from over 7000+ sessions an average 80% success rate for targets identified. Therefore maintaining a positive challenge without being overly frustrating and conversely, not being so easy that it becomes boring. This is known as the zone of optimal function, also known as optimal arousal. This is exactly where NeuroTracker's scientific algorithms love to keep you! And, as you get better, the NeuroTracker always gets faster. As I've written about before from my personal training, repeatedly getting into this zone with NeuroTracker drastically boosted my brain's processing capacity through a continuous improvement across 600 sessions.

Environmental Triggers of Flow

There are also 3 environmental triggers required for flow, which are,

1. High consequences - pushing your limits on NeuroTracker requires that you will fail at least 20% of the time. Failure feels heavy. Each time we step up to perform a NeuroTracker set we may fail and score low, especially if others are around. When you add in balance or sporting skills the risk can be falling, losing your balance or just not being able to perform the skill in the manner you normally would - because your brain is overloaded!

Rob Gronbeck doing NeuroTracker dual-tasks
Challenging myself to balance on a Swiss ball while NeuroTracking - harder than it looks!

2. Rich environment - when an environment is novel, complex, and ever changing our brains demand full attention, as we have not yet worked out what to predict will come next. Hence we’re on full alert…which ties back to intensely focused attention. When we add a NeuroTracker Optic Flow session we create a rich sense of instability and distraction, sending us deeper into focused attention and flow just to be able to keep track of the target balls. The 3D, the complexity and the unknowing paths of the targets means NO TWO NEUROTRACKER REPETITIONS ARE EVER THE SAME. This isn’t something you can do passively, and when you reach high speeds like above 3.0 - then the task and it's virtual environment completely absorbs your attention.

3. Deep embodiment - here’s once again where NeuroTracker excels. This because the dual-tasks which can be performed while conducting a 3D-MOT session, are so rich, wide and deep. Some of my favorites include,

● Balancing on a swiss ball

● Skipping rope

● High intensity interval training (stationary bike)

● Juggling

NeuroTracker Agility+ session (like dodging oncoming cars)

As you can see in this video where I attempt the insanely difficult task of juggling while balancing on a bosu ball and tracking, multiple neurophysical skills can be combined to challenge literally anyone's limits!

The Sky is the Limit

Once you start to experiment with NeuroTracker dual-tasks to trigger flow states, you quickly realize the only limit is your imagination. Some of my wilder dream dual tasks include,

● While in a sauna, ice bath or while treading water

● While slacklining or doing aerial silk hangs

● While in a floatation chamber

As an example, I provided a special flow program for my client, Motocross rider Jackson Richardson. For this program the goal was to utilize as many of these flow triggers as possible. We progressed him through basic standard sitting, standing, and balancing stages of NeuroTracker training. He improved rapidly with a 400% increase in max visual tracking speed (VTSmax). I then added riding a stationary bicycle at a rate to keep his heart rate about 150bpm.

Then we added in an audio recording from the onboard GoPro from an actual Monster Energy Cup race. The sounds of the engine revving, the crowd cheering, other bikes on his tail. We were simulating a race scenario…heart pumping, intensely focused attention, and real sounds he’d be hearing while racing. He went on to win the Australian Championships two years running - the first time he’d won that title!

I have dozens of other examples where I’ve crafted experiences to prime flow for athletes such as while dribbling a basketball while performing an Agility+ session. Then also touch passing a soccer ball back and forth while also doing that Agility+ session. I trained a Police Tactical Response officer by having him perform NeuroTracker while standing in ice cold water to prime him to block out pain and to maintain his tactical and situational awareness. Also Australian Kendo athletes who performed NeuroTracker in their full kit, with the bars on their helmets causing difficulty tracking the balls when they were out of view.


In the second part of this blog I will move onto the creative and social triggers of flow, and cover how NeuroTracker works great for these too. Here are the key takeaways for this part.

  1. Flow is a positive performance state of mind that can get you into the growth zone of continuous personal development.
  2. NeuroTracker is a great example of a neurotechnology that is flexible and effective at triggering states of flow in many ways.
  3. No matter what your performance goals are, dual-tasks can be used to activate flow to develop your specific skill needs to potentially any level.

In the meantime, if you'd like to read more about my own personal development journey, check out my earlier blog.

Boosting Your Brain's Processing Capacity

Or if you want to learn more about psychological techniques for accessing flow for competitive sports performance, read this practical guide by a pro hockey goalie.

How to Achieve a State of Flow

New to NeuroTracker? Find out what our latest NeuroTrackerX platform has to offer to accelerate your path to improvement.

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