If you follow me at all, you probably noticed that conjuring your “peak state” is one of my favorite topics. For me, it’s right up there in importance with “Gratitude” and “Music Is Fuel” (and a couple other tenets, which I’ll write about another time).
As someone who has studied the mind, especially the subconscious, as well as meditation, happiness, creativity, and “getting in the zone” for decades now, I think a lot about different states of being.
Recently, I asked myself this question: “Are conjuring my ‘peak state’ and getting into ‘flow’ the same thing?” In my opinion, they’re not the same. Both are beneficial, yes, but they have different results and purposes. Let me explain…
What’s “Peak State” and Why Do You Want It?
I define “peak state” as the most high-vibe mood or feeling you can achieve in the moment. When you are in your peak state, you feel confident, motivated, energetic, clear-headed, focused, happy and competent. You’re excited about your life and your day. You’re ready to get busy and make progress.
The details are different for each of us (you might be Tony Robbins or you might be an artist selling your wares on Etsy), but the point of conjuring your PS is to feel good and be productive. It’s a High-Vibe Frequency.
Important distinction: peak states are relative. In other words, they might vary every day, like working out. Because you are different every day—one day you’re recovering from the flu, for example, and another day you’re in perfect health—your PS is going to be The Highest State You Can Achieve At That Time, but it’s not going to be exactly the same every single day of your life.
Another difference: most of us have to train ourselves to summon our Peak States. We don’t just wake up that way. Whereas the state of “flow” (which I’ll get into next) is usually triggered by certain activities.
“It’s a ritual to go into peak state. Peak states don’t just show up. They don’t interrupt you. You have to pursue them.”
The reason you want to learn to conjure your PS is that you feel better and are more productive and effective when you are operating in high-vibe mode.
Think about it: how much energy do you have when you are feeling “tired” or “depressed”? How much do you actually accomplish? On the other hand, when you are feeling good, confident, motivated, you can accomplish so much more, right?
And this isn’t just about “the feelz”. There’s an actual branch of science that now studies happiness and they’ve found something they call “The Happiness Advantage”, which states:
“Your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, what we found is that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19% faster and more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive, instead of negative, neutral or stressed. Which means we can reverse the formula. If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully, as we’re able to work harder, faster and more intelligently.” -Shawn Achor
Clearly, there are advantages to getting into your Peak State. So what about “flow”? How is it different and why do you want it?
What Is “Flow” and How Do You Get It?
“Flow” has been discussed by many different teachers over the years. (There’s even a famous book about it.) It is that state of consciousness (or subconsciousness?) where you are so engrossed in whatever you are doing that you become single-focused, lose track of time, tune out other stimuli, and just melt into the moment. Flow is sometimes referred to as “being in the zone” (or, for runners, “breaking through the wall”).
You might experience flow when you are painting. Or running long distance. Or playing a musical instrument. Or driving a repetitive route. It is actually a state of trance in which your mind is operating more from its subconscious mode, instead of the usual conscious micro-manager.
Flow is beneficial because your subconscious houses your creativity. You are less likely to hold back due to fear while in flow because you’re not “thinking”, you’re just doing. Most creative types recognize this state and have noticed that when they are in flow their creations (words, paintings, music) seem to stream out of them effortlessly.
While regular meditation can help you to access Flow more easily, it’s more of a result (from allowing yourself to sink into a repetitive or creative activity) than it is a conscious destination, like conjuring your Peak State.
To use a different analogy: Flow is the stream of creativity and art that comes out of the faucet once you’ve turned it on by picking up your paintbrush or sitting down to write. It’s the “Intuitive Assistant” that will become your right-hand when you’re creating.
Peak State is the feeling that makes you feel confident and motivated enough to actually pick up the brush or sit in the chair. It’s the “Cheerleader” and “Life Coach” that says, “Hey! We can do this! Let’s make some art right now!”
So you need both Peak State and Flow in order to create at your highest potential.
Conjuring your PS will keep you motivated and feeling confident; it’s what gets you out of bed on those days when you feel discouraged or tired. Summoning Flow while you work will help you be more creative and produce more art with less conscious effort.
That’s my take on “Peak State” and “Flow”—they are both key staffers for every creative. If they’re not already in your inner circle, start recruiting today!
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