1: The answer: Yes.

It’s what scientists call “flow” or the flow state.

Flow is defined as “an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best,” Steven Kotler writes in his powerful book The Art of the Impossible.  

“More specifically, the term refers to those moments of rapt attention and total absorption when we get so focused on the task at hand that everything else disappears,” he writes. “Action and awareness merge. Our sense of self vanishes. Time passes strangely. And performance–performance just soars.”

Flow impacts both our physical and our mental abilities.  

“On the physical side, strength, endurance, and muscle reaction times all significantly increase while our sense of pain, exertion, and exhaustion all significantly decrease,” Steven notes.

However, the effect on cognition is even more significant. “Motivation and productivity, creativity and innovation, learning and memory, empathy and environmental awareness, and cooperation and collaborations all skyrocket,” Steven writes, “in some studies as high as 500 percent above baseline.”

2: So, why would evolution create a state of consciousness that amplifies all of these particular skills? 

Our brains have been shaped to enable the survival of the human race. “But evolution itself is driven forward by the availability of resources,” he writes. “Scarcity of resources is always the largest threat to our survival, making it the largest driver of evolution. 

“And there are only two possible responses to this threat. We can fight over dwindling resources, or we can go exploring, get creative, innovative, and cooperative, and make new resources.”

Which is why flow amplifies all of these skills. 

“Since impossible is a form of extreme innovation, this explains why the state is always present when the impossible becomes possible,” Steven notes. “Flow is to extreme innovation what oxygen is to breathing–simply the biology of how it gets done.”

3: Flow drives our highest levels of achievement.

“It is the state created by evolution to enable peak performance,” he writes. “This is why, in every domain, whenever the impossible becomes possible, flow always plays a starring role.”

Flow is required to achieve the impossible. Or to experience giant leaps in achievement. 

“But it also requires training up many of the same skills that flow amplifies: motivation, learning, and creativity,” Steven writes. 

Learning how to amp up these drivers of intrinsic motivation is also a key driver of high performance. 

“The road toward impossible is long, and there will be lengthy stretches that we need to navigate without flow. What’s more to handle the massive amplification the state provides, we need an exceptionally stable foundation.”

In The Art of Impossible, Steven outlines a path to train up this quartet of cognitive abilities—motivation, learning, creativity, and flow—the skills that together are integral to peak performance. 

Together, these capabilities “significantly accelerate ourselves down the path toward the impossible.”

More tomorrow!


Reflection: How often do I experience flow, that feeling of being “in the zone,” fully engaged, fully focused on a specific activity? What activities tend to trigger this experience? How much more energized and productive am I in the flow state?

Action: Journal about my answers to the questions above.  are areas in the brain linked by high-speed connections or areas that tend to co-activate.

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