I watched a baseball game the other day and watched what I believe a case of “being in flow.” The batter was standing and looking at the pitcher as batters often do, with great level of concentration and intensity. The pitcher was also looking at the batter with an equal level of concentration and intensity. Were they trying to intimidate each other or were they really concentrating? Who was more in flow, the pitcher or batter?
The pitcher-batter duel is one of the best in sports. If one uses pure statistics as a measure of success it could be argued the batter in most cases is unsuccessful. Every 10 times the batter is up to bat he is unsuccessful at hitting the ball (the objective of the batter) about 75% of the time. He is only successful at getting a hit about 25% of the time. The average all-time baseball batting average is between 26.5% and 27.5%. The batter actually strikes the ball and gets on base only 25% of the time. The very best batters in baseball history (since 1900) have had batting averages that exceeded a success rate over 40%. In 1924, Rogers Hornsby recorded one the highest batting averages for a season of baseball when he hit the ball 42% of his recorded at-bats.
Only in baseball is one considered successful when they succeed at their task 25% of the time. Is that something you could get away with? Baseball considers you exceptional when you succeed slightly less than half the time you get up to bat (42%).
Back to our batter. The major league record for staying in the batter box is 21 pitches. For non-baseball aficionados this means after two strikes, as long as the batter keeps fouling off the pitches they stay in the box and get another chance. Success? The batter I watched fouled off any number of balls, in fact it seemed like more than 21 pitches, but I would say he was certainly in the zone. Why?
The third characteristic of Flow says: You are aware of your actions in a complete way. Distractions are at the minimal or non-existent. You are not thinking about anything but the task at hand and there is complete concentration. The is an ultimate convergence of thought and action.
When I watch a batter hit foul ball after foul ball it seems to me that he is flow. Baseball color analysts (usually former players themselves) say that the more balls get fouled off the more likely the batter will prevail. Why? Because he is “on”, he is “tuned-in”. In other words, distractions are at a minimum. There is just the pitcher the batter and the ball.
When have you been “completely aware of your actions in a complete way.” If you were, perhaps you were in flow. Being in Flow brings about the highest level of productivity and performance. One can be in flow doing any number of activities. It doesn’t have to be just sports. If you are reading this and an enjoying this and have decided I am a good writer then I was in flow when I wrote it. If not, well don’t be so judgmental.
The first two characteristics of flow that I have written about were:
- The goals and the deliverables are very clear. There is no question as to what you need to achieve or complete. The race or challenge has a clear and desirable goal and outcome.
- Immediate feedback is available. You know the steps taken to reach your goal are being reached because you can feel the pavement under your feet and the distance to complete the race is shorter and shorter.
And the third is:
- You are aware of your actions in a complete way. Distractions are at the minimal or non-existent. You are not thinking about anything but the task at hand and there is complete concentration. The is an ultimate convergence of thought and action.
The great thing about flow that I have learned is that it can be replicated. You can achieve flow if and when you want it. Follow along with these posts and in the end, you will have the complete picture.