MTB: Go with flow to arrive at sweet spot

By Graeme Simpson

Add a comment
FULLY FOCUSED: Riders descend a track in the Whakarewarewa Forest. PHOTO/DAMIAN BREACH
FULLY FOCUSED: Riders descend a track in the Whakarewarewa Forest. PHOTO/DAMIAN BREACH

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is not a name usually associated with mountain biking.

However, there is a case for the Hungarian-born psychologist to be in the MTB Hall of Fame.

Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced CHICK-sent-me-high-ee) immigrated to the US in 1956, when he was 22. In 1975, he was teaching at the University of Chicago and in pursuit of the psychology of happiness, when he became the architect of the concept of the "flow state".

It's purely coincidental, but mountain biking was being invented on the forest roads of Mount Tamalpais, north of San Francisco, about the same time.

People who experience the "flow state" usually have an autotelic personality, with a greater preference for "high-action-opportunity, high-skills situations that stimulate them and encourage growth" and with "curiosity, persistence, low self-centeredness, and a high rate of performing activities for intrinsic reasons only." (The Concept of Flow, by Jeanne Nakamura and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi).

In an interview with Wired magazine, Csikszentmihalyi described flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost".

It is the theory that the sweet spot in work and life is all about flow.

Which is also the sweet spot in mountain biking: flowing smoothly from corner to corner, carrying speed and holding your line.

Focus is important, as well. Lose that on steep, technical downhill sections and things can get very awkward, very fast.

I spend a lot of my life at a computer - writing for print, TV, websites and social media.

I need flow and focus there, too. However, every so often creativity flows in one direction only - out the window.

I'm currently working on a challenging and exciting project for an Auckland media and television production company.

It's not quite reinventing the wheel, but close enough. It involves cars and bikes, potentially, so that's an appropriate description. And it's with a substantial client - so, you know, no pressure.

A few weeks ago, I hit a creative speed bump with it all.

The solution was surprisingly simple - getting out in the forest on my bike.

I came home from a superb blast at Anzac Weekend and quickly scribbled down five key bullet points. The next day, when I sat down to write the full proposal, I just expanded on those same key points.

There is nothing like endorphins and adrenaline banging around your body and brain to stimulate the creative process and to shake up any writer's block. Especially this time of the year, when the air is cool and fresh.

If there is one piece of advice I can give, it's on your bike!

You'll feel a lot better for it, physically and mentally. And confidence, skill, focus and flow will follow.

The photo above shows Chris Southwood and Mick Ross (from Australian mountain bike website, flowmountainbike.com) following Gary Sullivan (from Rotorua design and clothing company, NZO - www.nzoactive.com) down Tihi o Tawa in the Whakarewarewa Forest.

Like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, these guys understand flow.

- Rotorua Daily Post

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 24 Nov 2014 05:27:32 Processing Time: 437ms