Find Flow: Have More Fun in Sports
Sports are meant to be fun but that concept is often lost by many competitive athletes. Sports should be fun because it allows athletes to get into Flow.
However, many athletes only have fun when they are winning. Of course, losing is not fun. No athlete has every said, “I’ve just lost 10 games in a row; I’m having the time of my life!”
But there is a certain reality that comes when something is not fun. When you are not having fun, it negatively affects your effort and focus.
When you are not having fun, it is both mentally draining and physically draining.
Think of anything you have done that is not fun… How much effort do you actually put into something that you have no fun doing? How much are you able to focus when you are not having fun?
You may say, “How can you have fun in a long, boring practice?” or “How can you have fun during a losing season?” or “How can you can have fun when you are being destroyed by your opponent?”
Is winning the sole factor when it comes to fun?
Winning does give an athlete satisfaction, a sense of pride that their hard work has paid off.
It’s not the joy of winning that makes sports fun, as much as it is the joy of competing.
If you were on a basketball team and you practiced hard all preseason.
You busted your butt running drills, pushing to your limit in conditioning, playing scrimmage after scrimmage, having your coach barking out comments, repeating shooting drills over and over…
Then you showed up to the first game and were told that every team in the league folded, the season was cancelled and you were awarded a championship trophy… Would you be satisfied?
Would you identify that as fun? In that instance, was it your hard work that paid off?
Fun is in the challenge. Fun is finding a way to improve. Fun is making a comeback. Fun is making the necessary adjustments to turn things around.
Fun is challenging yourself to be the best athlete you can be.
To see how fun affects performance, look at the Boston Celtics as they head into the 2019 All-Star break.
The Celtics have under performed throughout the season, despite being one of the favorites to be the 1-seed in the Eastern Conference.
In back-to-back games, the Celtics squandered a 20-point lead that lead to embarrassing losses for the team. It is not losing that has some team members upset, but the lack of attitude and effort, both a direct result of not having fun.
Boston forward Marcus Morris talked at length regarding the team’s effort and attitude and points to a lack of fun as having a significant impact of the team.
MORRIS: “For me, it’s not really about the loss. It’s about the attitudes that we’re playing with. Guys are hanging their heads. It’s just not fun. It’s not fun. We’re not competing at a high level. Even though we’re winning, it’s not fun. I don’t see the joy in the game. I watch all these other teams around the league and guys are up on the bench, they’re jumping on the court, they’re doing all of this other stuff that looks like they’re enjoying their teammates’ success, they’re enjoying everything, and they’re playing together and they’re playing to win. And when I look at us I just see a bunch of individuals.”
Performing to your potential requires that you focus on the process and enjoy the challenge, not solely the outcome.
Winning is great, but winning is a result of challenging yourself to be the best you can be.
Put the Fun Back into Competition:
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote about how athletes and people in general find an altered-like state, which he called “Flow.” He spend his entire life researching why people enjoy activities…
In a state of Flow, you become fully absorbed or focused in the moment on what you are doing especially when you feel challenged. In this moment of flow–similar to peak experience–you might feel in an effortless state and perform well.
Csikszentmihalyi says happiness happens when you have both a goal and get clear feedback about how you are doing, which sports provides these two things.
He said you must feel challenged but at the same time have the confidence you can meet the challenge.
The concept of “flow” says that athletes have fun when they feel challenged and become fully immersed into their performance.
- If you’re bored, it’s hard to have fun…
- If you feel anxious or “in over your head,” it’s hard to have fun…
- If you don’t have a goal or objective, it’s harder to have fun…
- If you don’t have a clear objective, it’s hard to find flow…
- If you don’t get immediate feedback, it’s hard to find flow.
To get into the flow and enjoy sports, you must find an objective or challenge to help you become immersed in the moment and strive for improvement.
The research from Flow, says that you must become immersed in your performance in order to have fun. Time flies when you’re having fun, right? This requires that you let go of outcomes and focus only in the moment on the task at hand. Easier said than done for many athletes.
Learn how to focus your best with The Focused Athlete Audio and Workbook program.
Listen to this sports psychology podcast on flow.