Flow triggers explained: unpredictability

As a reminder: Flow states have triggers we can use to make it more likely we drop into flow when desired!  Links below to the ones we’ve already covered!

Unpredictability is a flow trigger that works by driving dopamine and norepinephrine into the system.

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Does the stress of unpredictability, not knowing what’s next, and wanting to be in control start to feel overwhelming sometimes?  I’m guessing if you made it through 2020 and 2021, unpredictability might even feel like the “new normal,” and likely exhausting. 

But what if unpredictability is actually a flow trigger and you could reframe the thing that’s exhausting you into one that energizes?  

When we don’t know what will happen next, we pay more attention to the next and are driven into the “deep now,” our present experience.  Also, because anything can happen, our brains release a huge amount of dopamine into the system, heightening attention and pattern recognition to help deal with the unknown since our survival could be at stake (speaking evolutionarily).  

As we know, dopamine is also quite pleasurable, which is part of what can rich environments and the unpredictability of them, so rewarding.  

So, why does uncertainty so often feel like stress?  Well, dopamine release is generally accompanied by norepinephrine, a neuromodulator involved in the “fight-or-flight” response – our classic stress response.  So, uncertainty can often feel stressful and unpleasant (despite the dopamine), UNLESS we train our brains to interpret it differently.  

Here’s the thing: anxiety and excitement both have the same “footprint” in our brains – norepinephrine.  As we know, changing state from anxiety to calm is challenging – this is because it requires flushing chemicals and replacing them with new ones.  Changing from a state of nervous system arousal (i.e. anxiety) to another aroused state (i.e. excitement) is far, far easier because it’s the EXACT SAME CHEMICALS.  

The neuromodulators in our brains are general, and the top-down control of our prefrontal cortex allows us to add subjective interpretation.  What does this mean for us with uncertainty?  Reframe it as excitement.  

But, how?  Well, maybe too simple for complex minds: 

1) feel the sensation in your body – where is it, how does it manifest — connect to it.  

2) Say (out loud if you can) 3 times: “I am excited, I am excited, I am excited!” 

3) Feel it again in your body.  Has it changed?  Has it moved?

4) Say it again 3 times: “I am excited, I am excited, I am excited!”

So, use that dopamine that comes with uncertainty, teach your brain to understand the norepinephrine as excitement, and use them both to drop into flow.  As it turns out, in any flow state, these are the first 2 chemicals to show up, so you’re well on your way with just this one trigger of uncertainty.  

Sound like a lot?  Play with it and see how it works in your body!  Or, if you’d like to have an authentic conversation about your relationship with uncertainty, let’s hop on a call.  I’d be happy to dive deep with you!  

I use this flow trigger a lot in travel.  Some travelers love a plan – they need to know where they’ll eat, stay, visit, etc. for a trip.  That’s not me!  I love to see how a country unfolds, leave space to discover cool things I’d never find via internet, and be guided by the vibe/feel of the experience – using the unpredictability of it all to drive a flowy travel experience.  

 

Do you use this flow trigger? How is it most effective for you?!?!?
Did you miss the past descriptions?  Check them out!
FLOW TRIGGERS EXPLAINED:

 

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