I know it has been a childhood dream of yours to become a pilot, but now is the time to find out the reason behind your brain’s love for flight!
What is really happening inside your brain, and when you walk away from the final flight of the day, why are emotions of positivity, pleasure, and happiness all over your guts? Why does your brain send you so many signals of reward?
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When you pull through a new task, emergency, difficult approach -and so many different kinds of challenges – you feel a sense of rewarding. The reason for this is that dopamine (and not only), is running through your brain and so, you end up getting amazed by the beauty of conquering these difficult tasks.
Well, science has the answer for all these, and it is called flow. Your brain enters the state of flow, a state where full consciousness is achieved.
”More than anything else, men and women seek happiness”. Aristotle
”Flow is the state of which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The experience itself is so enjoyable, that people will do it even at great cost” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Psychologist, Author.
So now it seems that everything is starting to make sense. When you are so involved in an activity your brain can reach a state where you are not normally in. Athletes, rock star singers, doctors, pilots can often recall this state. They are so involved in the task at hand, where time does not matter, your performance gets better and at the same time, this feels so good. Certainly, this has happened to you. Just think for yourself, when being so involved in an enjoyable talk with friends for hours, felt like minutes.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi spent 25 years of research and studied thousands of people, and what he found was amazing!
- Independently from what individuals were doing, from sports athletes, farmers, doctors to chess players, they were describing success when it was achieved, in nearly the same way.
- Individuals from a different culture, color, job, sex and social status while working on a task, were describing success and happiness in the same way.
- It also seemed that people usually entered the flow state when they were pushing their limits. As Csikszentmihalyi points out in his book Creativity, ”It was clear from talking to them, that what kept them motivated was the quality of the experience they felt when they were involved with the activity. The feeling didn’t come when they were relaxing, when they were taking drugs or alcohol, or when they were consuming the expensive privileges of wealth. Rather, it often involved painful, risky, difficult activities that stretched the person’s capacity and involved an element of novelty and discovery”.
- Flow can be achieved by anyone anywhere.
”Rather, it often involved painful, risky, difficult activities that stretched the person’s capacity and involved an element of novelty and discovery” Do you recognize these elements in flight?
According to scientists and researchers, there are 17 flow triggers. Here you can find 4 of them. In the next post you are going to explore more, but here are some of the flow triggers that explain why your brain experiences all these emotions during flight.
A Challenging Activity That Requires Skills
From times to times people report ”extreme” happiness and motivation while challenging themselves with a difficult task. A task where their skills were the solution to the problem. Studies have shown that the most likely case for someone to feel the optimal experience – flow- is through evolving, in a process that requires skill. Such as your job as a pilot.
The Merging of Action and Awareness
Getting absorbed in the process. When you are practicing or learning something that requires skills, there is no room for lack of concentration. Your focus must be there, at the task at hand. Just remember yourself when you were first learning to land.
The Paradox of Control
There is no room for worries about failure. No worries to block your mind. As Csikszentmihalyi clearly writes: ”The important thing to realize here is that activities that produce flow experiences, even the seemingly most risky ones, are so constructed as to allow the practitioner to develop sufficient skills to reduce the margin of error to as close to zero as possible”.
In every environment you fly, it can contain novelty, complexity, and unpredictability.
- Novelty is both a danger and an opportunity. Flying, following a river’s route, can prove to be both dangerous and an opportunity for you to check your skills.
- Complexity, when you receive plenty of important information, like communications, indications in the cockpit, pilot’s or copilot’s recommendations, weather etc.
- Unpredictability in terms of we don’t know what’s going to happen next, so we pay extra attention in the very next second. These three, when mixed up together, can drive our focus as much as the risk. Just imagine how common is the above ”picture” when you fly.
Flow is the optimum state of consciousness. Scientists have proven that the happiest people on the planet are the ones that enter the flow state most often. When you experience this ”state”, emotions of happiness derive from the procedure.
”A sense that one’s skills are adequate to cope with the challenges at hand, in a goal-directed, rule-bound action system that provides clear clues as to how well one is performing. Concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant, or to worry about problems. Self-consciousness disappears, and the sense of time becomes distorted. An activity that produces such experiences is so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, with little concern for what they will get out of it, even when it is difficult, or dangerous”, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Founder of Enjoy Flying
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990)
Steven Kotler The Rise of Superman, (2014)