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Welcome back to the 11th season of the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast. In today’s enlightening episode, we unfold the phenomenon of ‘flow’—a state of profound immersion leading to peak performance. Our exploration is rooted in the teachings of Grant Bosnick and psychologist Mike Csikszentmihalyi, as we look at how strategies like rigorous self-awareness, customized planning, and potential improvement assessment contribute to achieving this state of blissful productivity.

We delve deeper into the neuroscience of flow by understanding the brain changes that occur during this state. This discussion is enriched with insights from neuroscientist Arne Dietrich. We learn about the shift from conscious to subconscious intrinsic system that results in heightened creativity and enhanced mood—making tasks appear effortless and enjoyable.

The episode also sheds light on the key neurochemicals responsible for inducing and sustaining the flow state – dopamine, noradrenaline, serotonin, and endorphins. This understanding paves the way to comprehend the ecstasy felt during flow, accompanied by an absence of pain and hunger, resulting in a beautifully enhanced mood.

Flow is reported to multiply productivity and happiness. It accelerates learning and creativity while improving problem-solving skills. We conclude the episode with practical tips to help you understand better, induce and maintain flow and thus multiply productivity, reach your goals, and experience profound joy in your efforts.

On today’s episode #326 we continue with our 18-Week Self-Leadership Series based on Grant Bosnick’s “Tailored Approaches to Self-Leadership: A Bite Size Approach Using Psychology and Neuroscience” that we first dove into with our interview on EP #321[i] just a few weeks ago.  Now that we have started this series, I hope you can see how practicing and strengthening the skills we are learning each week, is cumulative. Each week, we are learning something new, that builds off the prior week, to help take us to greater heights in 2024.

In this 18-week Series that we began in the beginning of February, we are covering:

✔ Powerful tactics from this Grant Bosnick’s award-winning book that illustrates how change and achievement are truly achievable both from internal (‘inside out’) and external (‘outside in’) perspectives.

✔Listeners will grasp the immense power of self-leadership and its transformative effect on personal growth and success by applying the neuroscience Grant has uncovered in each chapter.

✔Explore practical strategies for habit formation and the impact of a self-assessment system.

✔Gain insights from Grant’s expert advice on maintaining a balance between strengths and weaknesses while chasing after your goals.

✔Embark on an intellectual journey that has the power to elevate personal achievement and self-awareness to uncharted levels while we map out our journey over this 18-week course.

There is great power and self-awareness that comes along with mapping out a plan designed specifically for YOU and I encourage everyone to take Grant Bosnick’s Leadership Self-Assessment[ii] so you can see the areas for you that score a high, medium of low level of importance for you to focus on this year.

EPISODE #326, Chapter 5, “The Neuroscience of Flow” we will cover:

✔ A Review of Peak Performance and Using Flow for Increased Productivity in the Workplace with EP 27 with Friederike Fabritius.

✔ What is the Flow State?

✔ How to prepare for the Flow State.

✔ What does the Flow State feel like?

✔ Getting into Flow

✔ The Neuroscience of Flow

✔ The Benefits of Flow in the Workplace and Beyond

✔ 4 TIPS for Getting into the Flow State to Increase Productivity

Today we dive into Chapter 5 of Grant Bosnick’s book as we cover “The Neuroscience of Flow” which came out as MEDIUM importance (orange score) alongside the topics of Mindfulness[iii] that we covered last week.

Flashback to Friederike Fabritius on Peak Performance

What I loved about seeing this topic included in Grant’s 18 chapters was that I remember watching Pioneer in Neuorleadership, Friederike Fabritius presenting on “The Recipe of Peak Performance and Flow” that I shared on our first interview together back on EPISODE #27[iv] in October 2019.  When I watch some of these earlier interviews I remember what life what like before I had invested in a high-tech recording system. You will hear some bugs that today, AI can erase, taking our peak performance to new heights. Talking about Peak Performance, these days, I record as usual, (using a Rodecaster Pro Recording System) and then after production, AI cleans up every recorded for me. It’s new, and still ironing out some bugs with it, but mind-boggling to see where we started out, and where we are today. We can always strive forward and improve where we were yesterday.

What I remember loving the most about Friederike’s first talk that I found back in 2017 that she did for high level executives in Barcelona, Spain, was that she accurately described what the psychologist, researcher and “father of flow”[v] (known in his work environment as Mike C) that he devoted his entire lifetime to. And that is, what constitutes a happy life. “Mike C,” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, (from Claremont Graduate University in CA) along with Professor Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania (who we’ve mentioned before on this podcast “set out to develop a focus on happiness, well-being, and positivity with a goal to create a field focused on human well-being and the conditions that enable people to flourish and live satisfying lives.”[vi]

Friederike explained this concept of “flow” or “peak performance” as an optimal state that occurs when our brain releases three chemicals: noradrenaline (released with a challenge), dopamine (released with anything that gives you pleasure), and acetylcholine (released when you have focused attention).

She reminded us about learning to find our “optimal level” of performance by knowing thyself. Some people she says, need challenge to perform optimally (I’m like this for sure), and other people, you must take the challenge or pressure away for them to perform at their best.  One person performs better with an element of “threat” that they perceive as a “reward” and this motivates them, while another person shuts down with this “threat.” To reach peak performance levels with YOUR work, it helps to know how you reach your optimal levels best.

Take This Understanding to Create Flow in the Workplace

How can we create this “flow state” with our work? If you are working in an environment that’s too easy, or not challenging, you will be under challenged, and reaching peak performance in this scenario is difficult as you will be bored. Or, be careful if you are in a workplace with too much challenge, where you are over aroused, constantly putting out fires, and under high stress or pressure, all the time. Over time, without balance, this person will burn out. At the brain level, their amygdala grows bigger, and they will begin to see threats where there are none. Friederike reminds us to find a workplace where we can reach optimal levels of challenge, (if you look at the image in the show notes, it’s at the peak of the curve). Boredom or too easy on the left of the curve, and stress/anxiety at the right of the curve, with optimal levels, or our sweet spot for peak performance at the top.  It’s working here where we can access peak performance or flow where we are able to get into the zone with our work, and lose track of time. [vii]

(Image credit: Achieving a flow state)

You can see why it’s important to find your optimal level of performance for this magical brain state to occur.


When have YOU accessed flow? What were you doing? Maybe you’ve lost track of time reading an enjoyable novel, or while writing, or running?

There are two activities where I’ve experienced this state: hiking in the mountains, or writing these podcast episodes. I can be running through the mountains, and hours can go by before I look at my watch and decide to turn back before darkness hits, or I run out of time, or I can sit down at my desk in the early morning, to write one of these episodes, and find myself still there, and the whole day has gone by. I can easily lose track of time in both these scenarios, and feel exactly what the research supports, that this state of mind “is accompanied with a sense of accomplishment, meaningfulness, and positive mood.”[viii]

So what does Grant Bosnick say about flow in his book “Tailored Approaches to Self-Leadership?” He mentions the “father of flow” in the second paragraph, and defines flow as “the mental state of being fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of an activity we are doing. In essence, it is characterized by complete absorption in what we do, performing at the edge of our capabilities, peak performance. In this state, it feels effortless, as if things are flowing together.” (Chapter 5, Bosnick).

Grant mentions that “we are in micro flow all the time. When we look for it, we can ride it into jacked flow. We can train ourselves into flow. And heighten our performance.” (Chapter 5, Bosnick).

Now we are talking. I’ve only noticed flow AFTER it has occurred, and have not been in the habit of training myself into flow, so this is going to be a new practice for me this year.


Grant prepares us for flow, just like Friederike, who suggests that we find the right amount of challenge, and then says that “it’s something that we make happen; it is not something that happens to us.” (Chapter 5, Bosnick).

“Flow depends on our ability to control what happens in our consciousness moment by moment. Each of us has to achieve it on the basis of our own individual efforts and creativity. We are in control of consciousness when we have the ability to focus attention at will, to be oblivious to distractions, and to concentrate for as long as it takes to achieve a goal, and not longer.” (Chapter 5, Bosnick).

We have talked about ways to develop our higher faculties of our mind[ix], like our will, on recent episodes, which is one way to help us to focus our attention, moment by moment and block out distractions, and Grant brings us back to chapter 4 on Mindfulness that he mentions helps us to control our attention at will. See how all of these chapters work together? Developing Mindfulness, will help us to strengthen our ability to access the flow state.


Grant gives some examples from a dancer who describes flow as “your concentration is complete” or a rock climber who says “you are so involved in what you are doing that you aren’t thinking of yourself as separate from the immediate activity.” (Chapter 5, Bosnick).  Grant shares that he feels this state while drumming, or designing a presentation saying that “his body and mind are one, working together.” (Chapter 5, Bosnick.

When I’m running in the mountains, in this state, it’s like me and the mountains are one. I don’t see what’s around me, just the small area of pathway right in front of me.  Or when I’m writing at my desk, it’s just me, the keyboard and the computer screen. All sounds are blocked out, and it’s difficult to break me away from the desk, mid-thought. I have to finish writing, or the flow is gone, and my family knows when I’m in this state, and not to knock on the door, which will break this state of deep focused concentration.


Grant has a reflection activity to help us to practice getting into this flow state.  He suggests:

  • THINK: When have hours passed by without you realizing it?
  • THINK: When did things just click into place and felt effortless?
  • OBSERVE: Once you know what flow feels like for you, notice the type of activities you were doing to obtain this state in other areas of your life.

The Neuroscience of Flow

DID YOU KNOW that in flow “as our attention heightens, the slower and energy-intensive extrinsic system (conscious processing) is traded off for the far faster and more efficient processing of the subconscious, intrinsic system?” (Chapter 5, Bosnick).

Grant quotes Arne Dietrich, a neuroscientist from the American University of Beirut who says “It’s an efficiency exchange of the energy in our brain—trading the energy we normally use for resource-intensive conscious thinking activity for (resource-efficient) heightened attention and awareness. The technical term for this exchange is transient hypofrontality.” (Chapter 5, Bosnick).

Grant also explains the changes in our brain waves. “When we are in flow, we transition from the faster-moving beta waves of normal waking consciousness to the slower, deeper alpha waves and even borderline theta waves. Alpha waves are like a day-dreaming mode…theta waves are the ones we experience during REM or just before we fall asleep, where ideas combine in amazing and unique ways.” (Chapter 5, Bosnick).

When I got to the part of this chapter where Grant wrote about the neurochemistry of flow, I stopped and remembered Friederike’s presentation from 2014 and the graphic I created with the three brain chemicals she listed that were important for getting into flow; noradrenaline, dopamine and aceylcholine.

Grant sited the research from Neuroscientists at Bonn University who determined 5 neurochemicals present during this flow state. They found that endorphins (that help with pain and stress relief), norepinephrine which is the same neurochemical Friederike mentioned, noradrenaline (not sure why scientists have two words that mean the same neurochemical…maybe they couldn’t agree on this name and so now we’ve got two words for the same thing (that’s released with a challenge), anandamide (that regulates pain, anxiety and hunger) and serotonin (that plays a key role in our mood) that are all present during the flow state. Understanding the functions of these neurochemicals helps me to understand why during this state of flow I don’t notice aches and pains I have, hunger and thirst disappears, and I’m happy for hours at a time.


When you are in flow, I’d say it feels almost dream-like, or trance-like as our brain waves slow down, allowing us to access higher levels of creativity.

In Chapter 5, Grant points out that

  • “In a ten-year study at McKinsey, top executives reported being five times more productive in flow.”
  • “Flow helps us to learn faster. Recent research says somewhere between 400% and 500% faster according to research by Advanced Brain Monitoring and DARPA, subjects had a 490% increase in skill acquisition in the state of flow.”
  •  “Flow enhances creativity and problem solving. The University of Sydney tested flows impact on creative problem-solving abilities…in a flow state, creative problem-solving increases by 430%”
  • The father of flow, Mike C “Csikszentmihalyi also found, through his research, that the people on earth who have the most flow in their lives are the happiest people on Earth.”
  • “When we are in flow we forget the unpleasant aspects of life.”

I knew that the flow state was powerful, but until reading the research that Grant put into this chapter, I didn’t realize just how powerful the flow state really is. Now I’m thinking I want to use this state to make life more enjoyable and help me to develop new skills at a faster rate.


You’ll have to read chapter 5 for all of Grant’s tips. I liked his tips on Getting into Flow Through Mental Stimulation, since this is what I’m doing while writing this episode. I’ve been sitting at my desk, writing this episode since early this morning, and I just looked at the time and it’s well into the afternoon. I’ve been in flow, writing for at least five hours.

How can I use Grant’s Tips to ride myself into what he calls “jacked flow” that will help me to 5x my productivity and accomplish more with less effort?

Grant suggests:

    1. PICK A GOAL: Think of whatever it is you are working on a decide on the goal. Finish the presentation, or write the proposal or for me, finish writing this episode so I can record it tomorrow.


    1. PRIME YOUR BRAIN FOR FLOW: Next he suggests bringing in mindfulness, that takes us back to our last episode where we learned about PQ reps. Use mindfulness to filter out your distractions and maintain control with your attention. I found it does help to let others around you know you’ve blocked off a time where you cannot be interrupted.


    1. THINK ABOUT THE BENEFIT OF THE GOAL: Why do you want to complete the thing you are working on. For me, with each podcast episode I write, record and release, it helps me to not only implement these new ideas into my own life, but I know I’m gaining skills that help me far beyond the content. Hosting this podcast, writing and recording these episodes, helps me to improve my presentation skills, communication, which improves my overall levels of confidence, let along what I’m gaining from implementing these ideas myself. What benefits do YOU receive from whatever it is that YOU are working on?


    PUT YOURSELF ON THE EDGE: Ask yourself, is this challenging me? If it’s not, it might not get you into the flow state. If it is, then keep working, and see how far you can get. How long can you stretch your flow state.


To review and conclude this week’s episode #326 on “The Neuroscience of Flow” we asked the question:

DID YOU KNOW THAT “When we are in flow, we transition from the faster-moving beta waves of normal waking consciousness to the slower, deeper alpha waves and even borderline theta waves” and “we are five times more productive in this state.” (Bosnick, Chapter 5).

We reviewed an early episode with Friederike Fabritius where she taught us about Peak Performance and How to Create Flow in the Workplace.

We dove deep into how to prepare for the flow state, what it feels like, urging us all to think about WHEN we access this state ourselves.

We looked into The Neuroscience of Flow, the neurochemicals that are present in our brain during flow, with some additional ones that were new for me.

We covered the benefits of flow, that opened my eyes to how important this brain state is for workplace productivity, creativity and innovation. The research from McKinsey mentioned productivity soared by 5x while using the flow state, making me decide it was time to work on inducing flow more often in my work week.

We ended with 4 STEPS to getting into “jacked flow” as Grant calls it, to give ourselves 5x more productivity, with less effort.

Grant tells us to:

  • PICK A GOAL: With what we want to accomplish is this state.
  • PRIME YOUR BRAIN FOR FLOW: By using PQ reps from our episode on Mindfulness, and blocking out all distractions.
  • KNOW THE BENEFIT OF THE GOAL: Which takes us back to the deeper meaning of “why” we do what we do.
  • PUT YOURSELF ON THE EDGE: You must be challenging yourself. This made me think of something my mentor Bob Proctor would say all the time. He’d say “If you aren’t sitting on the edge, you’re taking up too much space” and I used to think about this. What exactly does he mean? Don’t slouch in our chairs? He meant always lean in, take on difficult, challenging work, or you are wasting valuable time.

It’s here I want us to think back to where we began on the map of Grant’s Tailored Approaches to Self-Leadership.

 REVIEW Chapters 2, 3, 4

EPISODE #323, Chapter 2, “Using Neuroscience to Level Up Your 2024 Goals”

✔ What is Kurt Lewin’s “Field Theory” and how can we use it to improve our performance towards our goals in 2024?

REFLECT: What are you doing today to gain the momentum needed to reach NEW and HEIGHTENED levels of performance?

EPISODE #324, Chapter 3, “The Neuroscience of Inspiration”

✔ Uncover WHO or WHAT inspires you.

✔ Learn what happens to our brain when we are inspired (by a person or a thing).

✔ Apply the Neuroscience of Inspiration to our life in 3 steps: WRITE, THINK and LEARN to Level Up Our Results in 2024.

REFLECT: How are you using people or places that inspire you, to take your results to greater heights?

EPISODE #325 Chapter 4 “The Neuroscience of Mindfulness”

✔ A review of our past episodes where we covered the topic of Mindfulness.

✔ Defining Mindfulness and where many people begin their practice.

✔ Putting Mindfulness into practice using PQ Reps, coined by Positive Intelligence Founder, Shirzad Chamine, to build our mental muscles over time.

✔ My challenge to you to keep working on Mindfulness for improved productivity in our personal and work lives.

REFLECT: Where are you in your Mindfulness Journey?

Which leads us to connect the dots to chapter 5 on The Neuroscience of Flow.

REFLECT: When do you experience this brain state, and how can you use it intentionally to reach 5x your usual levels of productivity in your work life?

With that thought, I’ll close out this episode, with a quote from the “Father of Flow” Mike C, who reminds us

The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.

No one is going to do this work for us.

I’ll see you next week for our review of Chapter 6 on Physical Health.

See you next time.


[i]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #321 with Grant ‘Upbeat’ Bosnick

[ii] Self-Assessment for Grant Bosnick’s book

[iii]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #325 on “The Neuroscience of Mindfulness”

[iv]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #27 with Friederike Fabritius on “The Recipe for Peak Performance”


[vi] IBID

[vii] Achieving a flow state by Allaya Cooks-Campbell March 7, 2022

[viii] The Neuroscience of Flow: Involvement of the Locus Coeruleus Norepinephrine System by Dimitr van der Linden et al Published April 14, 2021

[ix] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #294 “Beyond our 5 Senses and Using the Six Higher Faculties of the Mind”