630 Diane Allen:

What are you doing when time simply disappears because you’re having so much fun … or feel like you’re …creating or producing in the “zone” – you know, that feeling of flow and ease, where everything is just coming together beautifully? We’ve all had those moments – and some people know how to get into “flow state” at will.

MELINDA

I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who has helped thousands of people around the world to break through their performance gaps and unleash their potential in a state of flow.

Diane Allen is a TED Talk maven, a professional violinist, and an expert with the Flow State and the Positive Psychology of Peak Performance who speaks on how to ‘Own Your Potential’ and is known for her Experiential Keynotes that empower people to be in their A-Game anytime, anyplace, no matter how high the pressure.

Today we get practical on how to create in flow and summon this state with ease, so you can wildly increase your productivity and success, so I can’t wait to introduce you to Diane! First…

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Diane Allen is an International, award-winning speaker with a proprietary process that helps entrepreneurs increase their bottom-line success by empowering them to be in their A-Game anytime, anyplace, no matter how high the pressure.

Diane was the Concertmaster (or lead violinist) of the Central Oregon Symphony for 15 years, a well sought-after Violin Teacher of 28 years, and the author of Sixteen Music Workbooks sold worldwide. She has been the keynote speaker for Women’s Conferences, Talent Development Professionals, Human Resources Associations, Hospice-Palliative and Home Care Associations, and many more.

Her flow state work has been published in Authority Magazine, Thrive Global and IDEAS.TED.COM. Diane’s been seen on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, Ticker, and The List, and her TEDxNaperville talk has been elevated to the main TED platform.

Today we talk how to know whether you’re in flow state, the neuroscience of flow, plus three practical steps you can take to summon it and make flow a repeatable process.

Let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Diane Allen.

Melinda Wittstock:

Diane, welcome to Wings.

Diane Allen:

Thank you, Melinda.

Melinda Wittstock:

I really want to just start where so many women are stuck, this idea that they think or that we all think that we have to do it all to have it all, and so many women end up in burnout. So I know you help people turn that around, tell us how.

Diane Allen:

I have found myself by losing myself in the flow state. As a violinist, it is demanded of me to always be at the top of my game, always be deeply engaged in what I’m doing, getting into the music. I can’t be going through the motions, because if people aren’t hearing the musical interpretation they’re just going to walk away, and it’s demanded of me to be into the music, which is a musician’s version of getting into the flow state. And so it started out as a incredible passion to play the violin, the training, the years, the New York City violin training, just the amount of focus in the preparation stage where you are pulling everything together, then I would go to take my orchestra auditions and I would just fall apart. And I’m playing a high precision instrument, and so instead of playing a line like this, when you’re nervous this comes out like this, literally.

Melinda Wittstock:

Interesting. We’re just so much more effective, obviously, when we’re in that flow state.

Diane Allen:

Yes. So-

Melinda Wittstock:

Everything is connected, well, flow just implies what it is, you’re in flow, that sounds so much better than not being in flow.

Diane Allen:

Right. So in my journey, I discovered that when I would get into the music, be so focused and so into it, that my nerves would go away, and I would have personal bests, and I would reach the top of my game. Then I discovered later on, well, what is flow? What is it? What are all the things it does for us? And so it is the positive psychology of peak performance. It’s something that was coined by a psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is his name, and it is characterized by being so engaged in something that you lose all sense of time, you feel one with the activity, ideas and insights are coming in from out of the blue, things are coming together with a sense of ease. Maybe you’ve struggled with your tennis stroke for a while, and all of a sudden, it just like, boom, it happens with that feeling of joy and ease.

There’s this very important aspect of the flow state which is called the positive feedback loop, where the more you get into it, the more you get out of it, the more you get out of it, the more you get into it. And then there’s this joy and exhilaration, it’s really a fulfilling experience. And so these are the key indicators of being in the flow state. And so if you think about when these things happen, when maybe you’re having a conversation with somebody and a rush of ideas comes in, and you’re bouncing off of each other, that is an example of flow.

It turns out that it actually shuts down your fight or flight response. The prefrontal cortex turns off temporarily, that’s where your inner critic lives. So for me, to go under high pressure of auditioning, the inner critic would get in the way. When I did the coaching for the Bend Venture Conference for people to pitch on stage in front of these investors, it’s the same thing, how can you keep that fight or flight response from taking over? So it’s getting into the flow state, it turns off that prefrontal cortex, it turns off your inner critic so that you can stay engage.

The neocortex amps up dramatically increasing your learning speed, and then there’s this cocktail of hormones that are released into your system, and they are endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and anandamide, these are it’s like a rush of euphoria, determination, motivation, performance, happiness, a sense of rising to the occasion, and bliss. So this is something that naturally occurs in each and every one of us. And as a musician, I’ve learned how to cultivate it and get into it on purpose. And it’s used for so many different ways. I’m going to pause for a minute, but before I do, I just want to say that 95% of thoughts are repeating, but when you’re in your flow state, you have new thoughts.

Melinda Wittstock:

I know that in my journey as an entrepreneur, the more I’ve moved from, say, a to-do list into the realm of inspiration, being able to quiet my mind and be able to actually receive information, channel in a way, get that inspiration, in those moments, that’s where I have the most leveraged impact on everything to do with my business and it’s become more purposeful. I know that earlier in my life, flow state would happen by accident. I think everybody’s experienced it, but they don’t know how to summon it. So what do you do to purposely get into that state?

Diane Allen:

So I love that you just mentioned that it used to happen by accident, but I’m wondering if you find that you’re able to tap into it more frequently?

Melinda Wittstock:

Yes, now. Yes, it’s absolutely essential to being in peak performance. I mean, if you’re an entrepreneur of a highly scalable company and you’re leading a team, you’re going to be so much more effective. It’s actually necessary, I think, to succeed.

Diane Allen:

Right. So as a violinist, I did overcome my nerves, I did get a job, I was the lead violinist, the concert master of the Central Oregon Symphony for 15 years. And so that’s second in command to the conductor and I’m the one who not only leads the orchestra, but I also lead the audience. So all eyes were on me, high pressure, I always had to show up and getting into the flow state became routine. And it was like, okay, it’s showtime, it felt like turning on a switch, until the day that I couldn’t get into the music, it was a horrifying event. There was an interruption at the event to the point where I got thrown off, and interruptions are the number one killer of the flow state.

Melinda Wittstock:

The phone ringing, or someone just tapping you on the shoulder, or an email, or anything, it could be anything.

Diane Allen:

Exactly, anything. Which is why one of the key things you want to do is eliminate distractions. And then what was so troubling is that I couldn’t get into the music after the distraction. I should have been able to just turn it right back on. And so that was my defining moment of, okay, Houston, we have a problem. I’ve taken this for granted, how do I really get into the music?

And so, what ended up coming, it was one of those moments on the couch afterwards feeling humiliated and grilling myself with questions, and I’m really digging deep, and my first thought was, okay, where am I when I get into the flow state the most? I am on stage. Okay, well, what am I doing? Well, obviously, I’m playing the violin, that’s what I’m doing on the outside, or if I’m at a speaking engagement, I’m speaking, that’s what I’m doing on the outside. But the real question is, what are you doing on the inside? And so a lot of my friends would say, “Well, we’re creating the music. By us playing the music, we are creating it.”

Somebody else might say, well, it’s like it’s giving or it’s, I don’t know, there’s just so many different ways that people would describe playing an instrument. For me, it feels like I’m sharing. I’m sharing the message of the music and I’m sharing the experience with the audience.

Melinda Wittstock:

Well, the music is flowing through you in essence. I mean, this is where you, Diane, become the instrument. Does that make sense to you?

Diane Allen:

Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:

And that’s my experience of flow state in my own life, whether as a competitive figure skater as a kid, and I knew the difference of what it meant to just be at one, put all thoughts of outcome, whatnot, all that aside and just be in it for the joy. [crosstalk 00:10:33] In those moments where you’re in it for the joy, you love doing it, and you literally become the instrument. All the jumps and spins and all those things, they just happen. It feels easeful and effortless as opposed to the grind of being in your left brain and overthinking it, and all that stuff, or being self-conscious, or aware, or feeling the pressure of, oh, I have to do this well. I learned that very early on as an athlete, the difference between those two.

Diane Allen:

Exactly. So ice skating is the activity that you’re doing, that’s what you’re doing on the outside, but then what is it that you’re doing on the inside that gets you into-

Melinda Wittstock:

For me, it was joy.

Diane Allen:

Joy. So let’s just backtrack for a second, because we’re going to come back to your story. For me, it was a personal activity of sharing, it was this outpouring of feeling very compelled to share the message of the music, it’s how I would get very deeply engaged in the musical interpretation aspect rather than just playing the notes.

Melinda Wittstock:

Exactly. Yes, rather than functional activity, you’re letting go of all that almost so it’s just coming to you. I mean, I watched this my daughter is a singer songwriter, and she channels, I mean, the words and the music just come to her.

Diane Allen:

Yes. Then the third question is, why is it so meaningful? And that’s the joy that you’re talking about. And in my case, I was like, okay, I’m on stage, I’m sharing. That’s what I’m doing, that’s a personal, internal, intrinsic motivator. It’s an activity that I am actively doing, I am sharing, but why? Why is it so meaningful? Well, these concerts were just … what would bring the tear to my eye was the universal language of music and how you could have a huge group of people together being combined in this activity together, it was all about unity, and that’s what touches me to the core. And I like to call that an external motivator.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Diane Allen:

So what I’d like to do is just review those three steps. First of all, whether the flow state is new to you or whether it’s something that you’re like, oh, yes, I know what that is, you’re going to use these three questions. So if it’s new to you, you’re going to observe yourself over the next couple of weeks, looking for a time when ideas and insights come from out of the blue, you lose all sense of time, you have that sense of ease. If you have an experience that you remember, you’re going to replay that experience in your mind so that you can answer these questions for yourself. And for those people who are looking for a time to slip into flow, you’re going to apply these three questions when you get to that moment.

So, the first question is, where are you? Where are you when you get into the flow state the most? And then what are you doing on the outside and on the inside? And that inside piece is your most compelling internal self-motivator? And then why? Why is it so meaningful? That’s your most compelling external self-motivator.

So what I do on the inside is share, and that’s how I shift into the flow state on purpose. And why it’s so meaningful for me is unity, and that’s how I shift into the flow state with purpose. So if you take what you do on the inside and why it’s so meaningful, you will design your personal way of getting into the flow state of what I like to call, you now have a flow strategy that you can then use repeatedly to get into the flow state anytime, anyplace, no matter how high the pressure.

Melinda Wittstock:

I’ve been at so many entrepreneurial events where an exercise that was really helpful to myself and other people was to remember a time in your life or a situation where time was disappearing. And often when we were kids, sometimes we look back at just the things we loved to do intrinsically as kids where time disappeared. For me, it could be drawing, or it could have been dancing to music in my living room, or it could have been skiing, I mean, all kinds of different things, obviously, skating, where you’re listening to music, or you’re outside and around nature, or whatever it is for you, or just playing with a dog, I mean, there’s so many different things.

And when you start to think about that, okay, so what was different about that compared to what you’re doing on a day to day basis? One of the things that seems obvious to me is that you’re not overthinking anything, right?

Diane Allen:

Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:

Not overthinking or being, you mentioned it earlier, in that negative self-talk, you’re not self-conscious, you’re just doing it. It could be for sharing, it could be for joy, it could be for whatever. And once you become conscious of that, actually actively conscious of it, to me it seems like the critical step to being able to summon it or leverage it, right. Where you know yourself, what is it that gets you into that place?

Diane Allen:

What you can define and identify for yourself, it then becomes a tool. For example, I once had a mentor ask me, it took me 10 years after I graduated from college, when I was going to auditions and embarrassing myself over, and over, and over again, because my nerves would get the better part of me. And that was 10 years, I could have easily gone and changed my mind and trained and done something else, I don’t know why I was determined. And so this mentor asked me, “How did you stay committed? How did you stay committed during those 10 years?” And I really had to jump back into my 25 year old mindset and get in there and think about it, and I realized that my belief in myself was bigger than the obstacle.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Diane Allen:

Now, that was my way of staying committed, but identifying that ever since I’ve identified that for myself, whenever I come up with an obstacle, I’m like, oh, I got this, because I identified that core belief, that’s a principle that I’ve been living by without realizing it.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Diane Allen:

So what you identify, you can summon up, and that’s what we’re doing with the flow strategy. So-

Melinda Wittstock:

Well that’s a necessity for an entrepreneur, because the entrepreneurial journey, especially depending on what business you’re launching, if you’re launching the sort of business that is inventing something new or creating a whole new market for something, there’s so many challenges along the way, even for just any business, right? So, you’re going to have this up and down thing, you have to have that self-belief, right?

Diane Allen:

Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:

The other way people talk about it is a mission, a mission that’s bigger than you as well, which is part of the sharing, you’re invariably solving a problem for other people. As an entrepreneur, you have a mission, you have something you want to change about the world, you want to improve people’s lives, all those sorts of things. And so staying focused on that North Star gets you through a lot of the down part of the entrepreneurial journey or the challenge part, because there’s so many that come at you all the time.

Diane Allen:

I also believe that people could probably figure out what their flow strategy is by reading their mission statement.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes, absolutely. Well, the one that’s critical for me is meditation in the morning. And on the days that I don’t do it, I notice a difference.

Diane Allen:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Melinda Wittstock:

And it’s vital just to take pauses through the day. For me, what’s become really critical is just being in the present moments, being conscious of that, because I think so many of us live in the past, live in the future, we’re not even aware necessarily of how we’re feeling in a moment, just not in the present, not in the now.

Diane Allen:

Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:

And so the meditation, for me, helps me to … yes, it’s like the quieting of the mind, of the rapid thinking and all that sort of thing, right, where you just get on this, can easily fall into what I call that task treadmill, right, where you’re just running faster and faster in the same place, right? Which is good for anybody.

Diane Allen:

Right. Right. So I want to circle back to the inner critic. If you pluck a violin string, you’re saying it in motion. And if I pluck it and I dampen it, that’s what happens if a lot of people, when they have a flow state moment, it’s similar to a shower moment or maybe you’re in a car and you’re solving all these problems in your head, and they’re just flowing, and you think you’ll ever forget them, and then for some reason when you get out of the car, you forget them all.

My friend likes to say, “Stop, drop and write or grab your phone and just make a quick voicemail so you can grab those thoughts.” But if you set things in motion and you’re like, oh, that’s unrealistic, you’re just stopping the vibration of it, right? You’re getting in the way of the flow. It’s like, for me, I’m stopping the vibration here with the string. So every time you poo poo an idea, if you think about the people who do improv are always yes, and, and it’s another way to get into flow state. So there’s no-

Melinda Wittstock:

Not overthinking. I’ve done improv too and in those moments, yes, the yes, and is really critical of just saying, in that case, whatever comes into your mind and trusting your first instincts rather than overthinking.

Diane Allen:

It doesn’t mean that you have to act on all of them, but you do have to receive all of them to have new thoughts and to have new ideas and insights. And so to your story about thinking back to when you were younger and what were those things that you were doing when you were losing all sense of time. And for me, I have this very, very powerful memory of being 15 years old, and I’m in my bedroom, and I’m blasting the music. And no, I’m not blasting rock and roll, I’m blasting a violin concerto, where you have a soloist who’s standing in front of an orchestra in some glorious, gorgeous concert hall, dressed to the nines. And in this moment, I am imagining that I am the soloist. I’m not relegated to playing in the orchestra, I’m standing front and center stage and I-

Melinda Wittstock:

So you’re visualizing but visualizing in a very experiential way.

Diane Allen:

I was the soloist. I am in my room being the soloist in my mind, right. So this was, I believe, 10th grade, and a week later the Career Counselor says, “So Diane, what do you want to do?” I was like, “I don’t know, I’m thinking about maybe music therapy.” I mean, look at the distance. Look at the distance between that vision of myself in that one scenario and what actually came out.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Diane Allen:

And so I did actually pour my heart and soul into my training, I found that in the orchestra setting, I would experience what I felt like in that 15 year old fantasy, but it was always in the safety of an orchestra with a whole bunch of people around me and, yes, I was the leader and I would use the flow state and it felt very much the same. So I did have a memory of what that was like that I did use in my day to day life, but the violin, I grew out of it, I actually put it down for a few years. I was in a very strange time in my life, I was caregiving for my mom with Alzheimer’s and my son was at the height of his teenage rebellion, my violin students were leaving me, I was very confused, I didn’t know what was going on. I sold my violin, I sold all my music, it was done. And I had a few years earlier fallen in love with speaking. And I was developing my speaking and I was pursuing a speaking career.

And fast forward, I was at a film festival and they showed a origin story of counterculture artists called Meow Wolf, if you’re familiar with them, if you’re not, they’re a group of counterculture artists from Santa Fe who were challenging the norms of art. They were really innovators pushing the boundaries saying, “Who’s to say what art is? Who’s to say what’s valuable art and what’s not valuable art?” I mean, they were questioning everything. And the documentary got me so into my flow state that on that night I couldn’t sleep and I could feel the power of the violin coming back in my life. And what I learned was that I was done with classical music, I wasn’t done with the violin.

So, I had experimented, I borrowed an electric violin, all of a sudden, I’m writing my own music, I still feel like it’s a very strange thing for me to do, I’m completely in flow when that happens, it’s very different than when I’m performing. When I’m creating piece of music, my flow strategy is, I’m problem solving and why it’s so purposeful for me is freedom of speech. And so now I combine my violin playing with my speaking, so I play and I speak, and I play and I speak. And here’s why I’m sharing all of this story, okay. So I’m delivering keynotes.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes. Well, when you’re [crosstalk 00:26:03].

Diane Allen:

Wait a minute. Wait for it. I’m standing center stage, I’m pouring my heart and soul into every word I speak and every note of music that I play, and I have realized that I have become the soloist.

Melinda Wittstock:

Right. Yes. Exactly, it’s that vision from when you were a teenager. I mean, it’s interesting that you talk about … and you’re a very accomplished speaker with TEDx talks, all of the things that you do. One of the things that I discovered about speaking, is it if I overthought it and wrote it down sentence by sentence and tried to memorize it or whatever, I wasn’t as good as if I’m extemporaneous. I know my topic, if I was able to just trust in my own, I don’t know, my own ability to communicate, those talks are always much better. So for me, I go into talks with, I have a structure, I have the points I’m going to make, but it depends on who’s in the audience, it depends on the energy of the place, it depends on all of that. And if I let all that overthinking go, I’m much better, but it’s a real exercise in trust and trusting yourself.

Diane Allen:

Right. And so the biggest mistake that people make with public speaking is they say, oh, I don’t want to memorize this, I just want to come in and speak from my heart.

Melinda Wittstock:

Yes.

Diane Allen:

And so they’re afraid to prepare, whether it’s doing it your way, which is creating maybe a loose outline and having some bullet points and knowing your content really well, or, there’s a lot of people who actually find much more safety in actually memorizing, but then how do you do it in a way that it sounds spontaneous? So in either case, the mistake is, I’m not going to over-prepare, I’m not going to practice it too much, I might jinx it. And the mistake is thinking, I’m speaking from my heart, when actually what you’re looking for is a flow state experience.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Diane Allen:

So if you know how to get into your flow state and you practice getting into it, then you will be able to speak anytime, anyplace, even if it’s off the cuff, even if it’s memorized. And this is what I did with the pitch coaching, the people who were for the Bend Venture Conference that I worked with, I would show them how to get into this state so then they could just be able to take their very well-rehearsed pitches, that you have to do with the timeline and all that, don’t go over time, how do you still summon up that passion piece?

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes. Well, I mean, you summon it up because you are passionate about it. I mean, to me, that’s the thing, you’re either passionate about it or you’re not, right.

Diane Allen:

Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:

So I’m a big believer in living your passion, first of all, right. So a lot of people get into trouble with this when they’re trying to do something that they think they should do but it’s not really what’s truly in alignment for them. So assuming you’re in alignment, you’re doing the thing you want to do, you have a joy about it, that to me is a pretty essential ingredient really of being in flow, because it’s hard to be in flow with something that doesn’t resonate with you.

Diane Allen:

Right. The whole word authenticity comes to mind.

Melinda Wittstock:

It does, right, because when you’re living your true path and expressing your true gifts, and that’s bringing you joy, then almost automatically it’s going to be authentic because it’s what you’re meant to be doing, it’s why you’re here in an earth suit right now. So to me, that’s vital. It’s the overthinking that I think we fall into.

And a lot of that, I wonder, I don’t know, I’m curious what you think about this, whether the overthinking is just a symptom of being in a situation where you think you should do something, or you’re doing something that’s not authentic to you but there’s a demand, okay, this is how I should be, or, say in a pitch competition. I’ve raised money for a number of my startups previously, I’m in a financial raise right now, and so I know all about those pitch competitions and pitches to investors and whatnot, and the importance of being in that flow state for those because it conveys a confidence that investors want to have in you, they won’t invest if they don’t have that confidence. So the flow state is critical actually to that.

So you know your company, you know your business, but if you start to fit yourself into someone else’s way of doing it, then you can fall into the overthinking and then you can fall out of flow. I mean, that’s been my own experience anyway.

Diane Allen:

Exactly. Yes. I don’t think I need to add anything to that. Passion is persuasive, and confidence is contagious. And when you are in your flow state, you are in a natural state of confidence, it’s how I found my confidence under high pressure situations.

Melinda Wittstock:

Exactly. And it’s where you build your influence too. I’d love you to talk about that, because all entrepreneurs, in essence, have to be influencers, I mean, especially when we’re bringing something to market that’s new or different, you got to persuade people to use your product or your service, right? You’ve got to get people excited about it, you’re growing a business. And so that presupposes a need for influence. And so talk to me about the link between flow state and influence.

Diane Allen:

There’s what to say and how to say it, that’s left brain stuff, and then there’s how you convey it, right? And that’s if you could come from that place of doing what you do on the inside to the Nth degree and why it’s so meaningful. So what happens is that, that statement I mentioned earlier, it’s Stanford researchers on the topic of influence came up with that statement, passion is persuasive and confidence is contagious. And the reason why goes back to those key indicators of being into flow, the positive feedback loop, where the more you get into it, the more you get out of it, the more you get out of it, the more you get into it, it self-perpetuates.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Diane Allen:

And it’s those, we were talking about the interruptions lot, those were the killers, right.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Diane Allen:

So the thing about the positive feedback loop is if you take a look at how positive feedback loops function in biology, it’ll help you to understand the importance of being in your flow state, especially in group situations. So when an apple ripens, it has to become exposed to the gas ethylene in order to ripen. But yet, when an apple ripens, it releases ethylene. And so all of the apples around it will now be exposed to that gas, and because of this, entire trees are known to blossom or to ripen at the same time.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Diane Allen:

And so instead of it being a chain reaction, it’s exponential. Well, according to the HeartMath Institute, the electromagnetic field of the heart reaches out 15 feet all around us.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Diane Allen:

And so as the concert master of the symphony orchestra, by me getting into the music, that energy field would make a 15 foot circumference all around me, which would then loop in maybe a good 10-15 other musicians.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Diane Allen:

And just like the ethylene is to apples, the energy of me being into the music in that 15 foot sphere will get all of those people much deeper into the music themselves, then they are in their 15 foot circles. And so the audience gets looped in, and before you know it, you have this giant group flow experience.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Diane Allen:

During all these Zoom calls and giving keynotes on Zoom, what’s been fascinating, Melinda, is to see how in the chat, while I’m playing a piece of music or talking about flow and doing voice over with the music going back and forth, I see in the chat, “I’m getting into my flow state just by listening to her”, and I’m like, yes. So if you want to enroll people, that’s how you do it.

Melinda Wittstock:

So we’ve talked about it in the context of public speaking, or influence, or sales, or some of these things, entrepreneurs often have a lot of stuff to do, like the doingness as opposed to the beingness. I’ve come to the conclusion that, ultimately, as a CEO and a founder, it’s who I’m being that’s the most important, more important than what I’m doing, although who I’m being is influencing what I’m doing. But it’s really easy to fall into, yes, that task treadmill, that doingness, there’s so much stuff that has to get done. How can the flow state apply to the getting stuff done part? Is there parts of your day that aren’t necessarily the things that bring you joy, not your favorite things, but they’ve got to get done?

Diane Allen:

We have to do them all.

Melinda Wittstock:

Yes.

Diane Allen:

So in my experience … So there’s two things I want to share. The first one is that, to me, if I don’t have some portion of my day in my flow state, then I get off. So I’m more likely to do the creative work first thing to make sure that I have that as the basis of my day. If I start off with the busy work, especially-

Melinda Wittstock:

Yes, you never recover from it. You’re required to go from busy work to the creative, I found that too, first thing in the morning, meditation and all the creative work, all the thinking, I mean, the strategic thinking, quietening the brain so you’re open to inspiration, and sometimes those inspirations just hit you out of the blue. It’s like why often on this podcast people talk about having their best ideas when they’re in the shower, or when they’re walking the dog, or when they’re doing something completely unrelated to their work day, that’s where the big ideas come from.

Diane Allen:

Right, and that’s the second tip that I had, which is, the flow state exists at the intersection of skill and challenge.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Diane Allen:

So if what you have to do is way … for example, for some people, whatever their skill is, that’s fine, maybe they have to work on a particular project, but they have a deadline. And for some people a deadline is the challenge that releases those hormones that I was talking about where you rise to the occasion and you get into flow. For other people, a deadline crushes them. So you have to know what challenges get you going.

Now, I frequently will get to a place where I’m frustrated, I have to solve a problem, and so walking is actually a skill, taking your dog out for a walk is a skill, going swimming, that’s a skill, driving a car, these are skills, and I know in the shower as well that the prefrontal cortex turns off in the shower, it just happens when you’re in the shower. So that silences the inner critic and it just lets those ideas flow. So what I like to do is I will literally take a problem for a walk.

Melinda Wittstock:

Yes.

Diane Allen:

I will say, I need to solve this problem, and if I know it’s a bigger one, I’ll have to take a walk. I dedicate the walk, I give it an intention. I start taking the walk, I let that intention go, I let my mind wander, and then usually about two thirds of the way through the walk it’ll come. And then with the shower, I use that for quick things. It’s like, Okay, I need to write this email, I’m stuck on what to say, go take a shower, that’s the dedication, that’s the challenge I’m assigning to the shower.

Melinda Wittstock:

Right. See, this is so important. So these are practical ways you can work this into your day, because I think a lot of people think flow state is some elusive thing, they can’t quite put their heads around it, like what do I do? And these are things that we do every day, that everybody does every day that just get you there. So it comes back, I think, all these things, it’s being conscious of it and looking for the patterns and the repeatable patterns.

Diane Allen:

That is exactly why I am sharing this message, because as I talked about earlier, I overcame my nerves with the auditions by getting into the flow. So there was a very practical application of it. And so, I already knew that I had the skill, and the talent, and the passion to play the violin, but I had this performance gap that really needed closing, and it was the flow state that closed that gap. So for people who know what they’re capable of and you see that you’re just not where you want to be, you can use the flow state to get there.

But like my story with the 15-year-old vision and now here I am actually living it, the flow state becomes a window into seeing what you are capable of. And instead of brushing that under the rug and saying, that’s unrealistic, go, this is where that saying comes, if you can dream it, you can be it, I’m like, no, you already are it.

Melinda Wittstock:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, so beautiful. So Diane, tell me how you work with entrepreneurs to help them in this way. I mean, I know you do a lot of speaking and whatnot, but I’m curious how people can work with you to put this into practice in their lives.

Diane Allen:

I have an online course that I would love to give people a $100 discount to, it’s called, The Discover Your Flow Strategy online course. It goes through all the steps we talked about, how to uncover your unique way that you tap into the flow state and then how to apply it to influence others. And so, the link for that, everything is dianeallenspeaker.com. So if you’re going to look for that particular course, just go to dianeallenspeaker.com, there’s a section called Learn, and in the cart, if you put in the coupon code, Wings, you’ll get $100 off, it’s usually 150, so it’ll be $50 for the listeners. So that’s-

Melinda Wittstock:

That’s amazing, what an invaluable and generous offer, because this is critical. I mean, I really hope everybody takes you up on your offer, because this is something that, gosh, I wish I’d known much earlier in my life. I mean, the funny thing is I did know it but I didn’t. You know what I mean? I didn’t know how to operationalize it. I do now in my life but I wish I’d had the shortcut of an online course much earlier.

Diane Allen:

Well, thank you. I aim to please. My social media, it’s all dianeallenspeaker.com, so whatever platform you’re looking for, it’s Diane Allen Speaker, my email is diane@dianeallenspeaker.com, and if you’re looking for a speaker for your event, you can always just email me directly and I’ll be happy to chat with you.

Melinda Wittstock:

Fantastic. Well, Diane, I want to thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today in flow.

Diane Allen:

Absolutely. And to help people to use the flow to fly.

Diane Allen
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