Three Ways Stoicism Can Foster The Flow State

posted on: October 24, 2019
author: Anthony Pellegrino

Photo by Adrien Converse on Unsplash

Can you think back to a past performance where you killed it?

I mean, really killed it?

Can you remember how good it felt? How effortless it felt to perform so well?

Are you struggling to get that feeling back?

Are you chasing that state of flow?

A “flow state” is when you’re fully immersed in an activity, with an energized hyper-focus, and a substantial feeling of enjoyment or fulfillment.

You’ve probably heard someone call it “being in the zone.”

It is a psychological state in which you perform at your absolute best, regardless of the activity.

A state in which there is a blending of actor and action, subject and object.

Therefore, this is the ideal state of every competitor during their performances, yet it can be a rather elusive and fragile frame of mind.

You may be completely in the zone one day, and an emotional wreck the next.

So what gives? What’s the deal with flow?

A state of flow is not necessarily easy to achieve. It depends on many conditions that must be present for it to happen.

These are:

  • A baseline level of skill
  • One’s capacity and desire to overcome obstacles to achieve our ends
  • The ability to be immersed and enjoy the activity we are doing

Ultimately, you only have your mind to blame for the lack of flow.

Check out our online course, The Great Competitor Formula, to strengthen your entire mental game.

Your mind is everything, and without proper mental states, attitudes, and thought patterns we can never achieve a state of flow.

With the right mental firepower, you are capable of nearly anything.

Don’t believe me?

Well, Buddhist monks have routinely been observed controlling parts of their bodies with nothing but their mind. The can meditate so deeply they can slow down their metabolism and core body temperature. This has been observed and verified by researchers.

Do not underestimate your power.



Ancient Stoic philosophy is in a unique position to aid you in getting your mind right.

If you’re having trouble with consistently attaining a state of flow in your performances, read on.

Here are three ways that Stoicism can help foster the flow state.



Human beings like to whine.

They love to get bored, and many don’t like to be uncomfortable for long.

Boredom and a lack of motivation will kill any trace of flow, as a certain level of intrinsic drive is a prerequisite for entering the mental state.

As a result, Stoic ideals can help keep you motivated when you’re struggling to do so.

Stoicism doesn’t promise that you’ll be happy. It doesn’t emphasize pleasure or joy or happiness as the greatest good. This isn’t hedonism were talking about.

Instead, it emphasizes virtue. It tells you that a good life is a virtuous life.

Shifting your perspective to emphasize the virtue of the task at hand can help foster the blending of action and actor, of object and subject.

If a performance isn’t going your way, it might feel easier to just throw in the towel. Yet, with Stoic virtue at the forefront of your brain, your motivation to succeed will stand firm, even when the performance isn’t going well.

Think of a competitor like Rafael Nadal, who fights for every single point regardless of the scoreboard. He might face down championship point, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be conceding the match.


Dismantles Negative Anti-flow Emotions

The state of flow is a very fragile psychological state, especially when competing against a direct opponent.

The nature of competition can easily give way to many hostile emotions, all of which will prevent you from sinking deep into this ideal performance state.

However, Stoicism teaches us to let go of the childish desire to control external events, and focus only on what we can control: our reactions, our way of viewing these events, our volition, or as the Stoics called it Prohairesis.

We can’t control many aspects of competition.

We, obviously, can’t control our opponent.

During our competition, we may get upset, aggravated, and discouraged. It’s easy for us to blame these anti-flow emotions on external events.

But Stoicism tells us that’s not the case. We’re in control over our emotions. We’re always in control.

These events aren’t making us upset.

We are, and Stoicism tells us we have the power to change how we react.



Photo by Form on Unsplash

And this emphasis on that which we can control will ultimately allow you to banish these pesky negative emotions holding you back and allow you to sink deep into the flow of your performance.

More than anything, flow needs concentration, it needs complete and total immersion.

We can meet all the other conditions, but the state of flow will always elude us without the necessary level of concentration.

But Stoicism has our back.

Photo by Robert Lukeman on Unsplash

Most of us, especially athletes, have personal experience with the flow state.

We know how pleasurable it is, and we know how amazing it is for our performances.

It’s natural that we would seek ways to foster it more consistently.

The Ancient Stoics have shined a light on that which is holding us back.

We just have to take their words to heart, take control over our volition, and we’ll sink into a state of flow on a much more regular basis.


Want to take control of your mind and fully unlock your competitive potential? Check out the PerformanceXtra Training System.

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About the Author

Anthony Pellegrino is a freelance journalist, writer, and content marketing strategist. He is currently studying to get his B.A. in Philosophy at Fort Hays State University. He works as contributor to Pulse Magazine and as a freelance content creator for several marketing agencies and brands. His writing is focused on philosophy of mind, metaphysics, politics, everyday life, and content marketing.

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