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How to enter the state of Flow? Interview with Raúl Ballesta

How to enter the state of Flow? Interview with Raúl Ballesta

June 12, 2024

Raúl Ballesta Barrera is a Sports and Organizational Psychologist oriented towards Positive Psychology, a current that focuses on the potential of human beings. Bearing in mind that in the sports world the management of attention is a good part of what leads us to excel, it is normal that the state of Flow, a state of consciousness described for the first time in the 70s, will generate interest. But Ballesta believes that knowing this psychological phenomenon and the methods to enter it can help us not only in sports, but in many other facets of life.

"Be water, my friend: strategies to flow in sport and in life", written by Raúl Ballesta and colleagues Marta Román, Juan Carlos Domínguez, Marta Ocaña and Juan Arza Mondelo, is the first book that deals with strategies to develop the state of Flow from the stream of Positive Psychology, and counting on testimonies from elite athletes such as David Meca, Ruth Beitia or Jordi Villacampa.

  • Related article: "State of Flow (or Flow State): how to maximize your performance"

Strategies to enter Flow: the testimony of Raúl Ballesta

In your story highlights your experience as a swimmer. How do you think that what you know now about sport and life fits with what you knew in your years in the pool? I mean knowledge that appears in the book and that at that time you could know at a more intuitive level, for example.

As you say, when you compete the learning that you can have especially at the mental level are very intuitive. When I was swimming there were many things that I did not know and that if I had known them, they could have helped me overcome situations that at the time were very difficult for me. For example to overcome competitive anxiety, learn to focus attention and what is more important to learn to enter Flow.

Sometimes we think about what we need to know how to face challenges effectively and only accumulative resources come to mind that can help us: to have more knowledge, more resources, more money, more contacts ... However, in the book we It gives much importance to something that escapes this cumulative logic: attention. How do you think this element affects our well-being?

The adequate control of attention is a very powerful tool to improve our quality of life in any field. There is only awareness of our thoughts and how they affect us to realize the importance they have on our wellbeing and health in general. Controlling the automatic thoughts we generate is a very important step to improve our emotional well-being and we can only achieve this by learning to focus our attention.

A chapter on self-confidence appears in the book. Do you think it is an aspect that we tend to underestimate when we think about solving day-to-day problems?

It's possible. Realistic self-confidence helps people get more success in the projects they carry out. It is demonstrated that people with greater self-confidence have what we call "presence" and that in turn is perceived by other people. They can express without doubt different points of view than expected, they are persistent in defending what they deeply believe in, they are determined and capable of making decisions under pressure. People with high self-confidence believe that they can take the helm of their lives and surely for this reason they do so.

Much of this work is also devoted to talking about the importance of attention management and, in general, of states of consciousness. The state of Flow, for example, involves both a special state of consciousness and an almost instinctive and natural form of problem solving. How would you describe these experiences in a summarized way?

Entering Flow is something automatic that occurs when the right circumstances exist. When you enter Flow, you act without thinking, automatically feeling a special connection with the task you are carrying out and executing it in the best way you are capable of. When you enter Flow you give the best of yourself, of what you are capable of. The main problem is that only one of the aspects that make up the state of Flow fails, entering Flow is impossible. Therefore, you have to work on these aspects in advance and in a constant way so that it ends up happening instinctively. Something similar would be when you learn to drive. At the beginning you have to think to the smallest detail and focus your attention in a correct way towards those relevant aspects to take a car and not crash with the first lamp. With constant practice (especially at the beginning) and time, the brain automates the right steps and it ends up being very easy to drive a car.

The management of expectations is also important.Between the pages of the book there is a point where it is expressly spoken of the need to be realistic, to find a balance between what we want and what we can do. Do you have any advice on how to get this kind of forecasts right?

Finding a balance between the challenge and our coping skills deserves a time of prior reflection. The objective knowledge of oneself is key to know if we have these skills or if on the contrary we have to work first with a lack to face the challenge with guarantees. That said, you should not be afraid of failure because you can learn a lot from error and defeat. When should we stop pursuing him? When it is no longer exciting to try again.

It is interesting that the book has the participation of several elite athletes. Why do you think your perspective is inspiring to many people who are not dedicated to sports and what do you think they can teach us?

It is a way of capturing the reader's attention on psychological aspects with which they will surely feel identified. I remember how gooseflesh got when David Meca told me how Flow's sensation invaded him as he made the swim from Jativa to Ibiza. I understood that this moment had been very special for him and that alone was worth all the effort.

The contributions of the other athletes are equally inspiring and teach you that behind success there are sensations that in many cases are more important to them than the medal itself. Maybe we can not aspire to win any Olympic medal but we can aspire to feel the same Flow sensations that they have felt.

The pages of the book deal with topics such as the relationship between the states of mind and the states of the rest of the body. This is seen, for example, in the sections devoted to relaxation and breathing exercises. Do you think we tend to think of these two areas as their things being totally separate?

It is very possible that it is so. We tend to compartmentalize everything because our Western thinking is focused on it, to shred things into their parts and work them separately. The mind-body concept tends to be increasingly holistic as the oriental thought is imposed on our society. In India, for example, they have practiced meditation for more than two thousand years. New trends in positive psychology and Mindfulness teach us that what we think has its physical effect on our body and affect the benefits in our emotional and physical health from the daily practice of meditation.

Interview with Jay Shetty (Daily Routines) @Vayner Media VoiceCon NYC 2018 (June 2024).

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