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Get Into Your Creative Flow

Lesson 8 of 32


Steven Kotler

Get Into Your Creative Flow

Steven Kotler

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Lesson Info

8. Reframing


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 How To Watch Duration:01:15
2 Introduction to Workshop Duration:06:12
3 What is Creativity Duration:04:58
4 Mapping the Creative Process Duration:02:57
5 The Creative Personality Duration:10:57
8 Reframing Duration:10:36
9 The Bannister Effect Duration:07:17
10 Flow Overview Duration:05:33
11 The Science of Flow Duration:13:31
12 Your Brain on Flow Duration:22:34
13 Your Flow Profile Duration:10:22
14 Flow Triggers Duration:08:41
16 Overview of the Flow Cycle Duration:03:39
17 The Struggle Phase Duration:05:05
18 Hacking the Grind Duration:11:14
19 Hacking the Mind Duration:12:00
20 Hacking the Most Duration:07:38
22 The Release Phase Duration:03:00
23 Release Triggers Duration:17:49
24 Build a Trigger List Duration:12:38
25 The MacGyver Method Duration:08:12
26 The Flow Phase Duration:05:42
27 The High Perch Experience Duration:08:52
28 Flow's Creative Trigger Duration:07:59
29 Minimal Feedback for Flow Duration:03:54
30 The Recovery Phase Duration:10:27
31 Post-Flow Visualization Duration:04:08

Lesson Info


First mind hack we're gonna talk about, William James, godfather of American psychology, Harvard, founding father of psychology, wrote the very first American psychology textbook Physiologist Physician, brilliant brilliant man. Most unhappiness is caused by people listening to themselves instead of talking to themselves. There's a difference, and we're gonna talk about how we talk to ourselves. To explain reframing to you, I wanna start by telling you a little bit more about the brain. Under normal conditions, brain neuron patterns are all over the place, connecting whole brain things. These three different systems, the whole of the brain is being used. The more fear in your system, the more anxiety in your system, the smaller that shrinks. So what fear and anxiety do is they shrink the database, the size of the database, search by the pattern recognition system. Pattern recognition, finding those links between ideas, fundamental to creativity, so you need a big search space for your s...

earch engine to crawl around. The more fear, the smaller that space gets. So, if you're really really gripped, if you're really really anxious, and I put you in an FMRI and I look at your brain, you're gonna see the same six clusters of neurons. When you feel like your thoughts are spiraling, they literally are. That's what's going on inside your brain. To kinda give you a larger framework for this, so this is sort of a map of the decision making spectrum. Same issue. Fear on one side, flow on the other. Fear, at its most extreme, is fight or flight. When I am feeling fight or flight, you have three options available: you can fight, you can freeze, or you can flee. There are no other possibilities. And if you've ever been in a deep fight or flight state, you know exactly what I'm talking about cause there aren't any options. I'll tell you, a couple years ago I did this. I nearly severed my hand from my wrist while skiing, and I did it by jumping off a cliff, and I landed on some exposed rock and whatever. But for years afterwards, whenever I was on skis or on a mountain bike or doing anything in the mountains, and I was above exposed rock, automatic fight or flight response. My body would just freeze, and there was nothing I could do about it. So if you've ever had that experience, you realize how those options really get down there. Only thing that's below this is extreme pain. Extreme pain, you only have one option. All you can think is holy crap I'm in so much pain. So it's one option. Next up is fear, and then it goes all the way up. We're not gonna talk about flow too much in this first module, but it is a state of optimal performance. So when you're at your best, you can be creative in almost any direction. Any direction you want to walk in, cause you're performing at your best, you have that ability, so this is options wide open, very very few options. So obviously, we wanna learn to manage fear, manage anxiety. A lot of what is required for being a professional creative, a lot of what we're going to do today is talk about managing the anxiety and managing fear and how to do that. And the most effective is reframing, and to know that, another thing you need to know is that in the brain, anxiety, fear, and excitement, neurobiologically they're the exact same signal. Cortisol and norepinephrine. Cortisol shows up for stress. Norepinephrine is anxiety or excitement. Interestingly, in lower mammals, so for example, in cows, cows it's an either/or. They can feel anxiety or curiosity. They cannot feel both at once, and if you look at their brains, they flip back and forth between these processes. Dogs can sort of start to feel both at once. Humans can actually feel both at once, but they are still a binary. So, when either heart rates increase, cortisol surges, norepinephrine spikes no matter what. So the secret is, whenever we feel anxiety, we can reframe it. Now reframing is a term that comes out of cognitive psychology, and frame refers to the context you build around an experience, the box you put it in. I could walk up in front of this class looking like oh my god I don't know any of these people. I'm terrified, or I can be excited. Which do I choose to do? So I'm gonna teach you how to switch one to the other. This is going to sound really strange, but it came out of some research that was done at Harvard, and what they were looking at in the beginning is they wanted to know what's better: if you're trying to cope with excitement, as a creative, as whatever, is it more beneficial to try a breathing exercise, to try to calm yourself down to rid yourself of the anxiety, or is it easier to turn it into excitement? It is far easier to turn it into excitement. It is very difficult to calm yourself down when you're really amped up. It is a lot easier to flip it into excitement. And the way they started out doing it, and we're gonna do this together in a series of steps, and I'm gonna have you kind of walk through it in a second, the first thing you need to do is literally say I am excited three times in a row. Out loud to yourself. I am excited. I am excited. I am excited. So, we're gonna do this together. What I want you to start out by doing is I want you to write down a creative challenge that's now in your life that is scary, that is hard, that you have anxiety about. So just, top of your page, if you're doing this at home, write it down. This is an ongoing creative challenge. Give me a two or three lines. Talk a little about why it's hard, what's scaring you, what's frustrating you, all that stuff. Get it down in there. One of the reasons I'm having, you're gonna hear me use the term a sematic address a lot. Sematic is a fancy word for body. When I'm talking about a sematic address of something, I'm talking about the sensation of the thing in your system. So hopefully at this point, you've found the sematic address of whatever your creative problem is. So hopefully, right now, you're feeling a little more anxious than you were about a minute ago. If you did this right, you're now a little more stressed out. You need me a little more. (laughs) So now that you're a little bit stressed out over this, the first thing you gotta ask yourself to reframe it is do I have enough information? A lot of what freaks us out is stuff that's coming. It's stuff that we actually don't have the answer to. I'm worried that the answer's gonna be this and it's not. So you've gotta ask, first question you want to ask yourself is do I have enough information? So when we go back through this, the first thing you're gonna do is think about your creative problem. When we do this all together in a minute, you're gonna think about your creative problem, and then you're just gonna say to yourself, thinking about it, I am excited. I am excited. I am excited. You're gonna feel excited about your creative problem. You're gonna hunt for the sematic address of that. If you can't get there, if there's still some anxiety left, ask yourself do I have enough information to actually feel anxious about this? Is this something that I don't know yet, and I'm just like worrying about a future that isn't here yet? Creativity is about staying in the right here right now. Do I have enough information? More importantly, step three, and I want you guys to write this down as well. What is the payoff for turning your anxiety into excitement? What happens if you can actually get excited about the creative problem? What happens if you pull it off successfully? What do you learn? What will it mean for your career? What will it mean for your life? Think about what the payoff for turning it into excitement actually is. So here's what I want you to do now. I want you to reread to yourself the payoff, and after you're done rereading your payoff, say out loud, so we're all gonna be doing it together, I am excited. I am excited. I am excited. And while you're saying it, I want you to feel in your system, as much as you possibly can, the excitement that you've just generated for the payoff. Read it to yourself. Think about it. And then I am excited three times out loud. No room for embarrassment in here. We don't have to do it one at a time. (crowd laughs) By the way, this is not an AA meeting, right? Like you can speak over each other. I am excited. I am excited. I am excited. All right, did it work? Yup. Right? You reframe the fear as excitement and it flips. It's really easy to do. It's actually even really easy to do inside of crisis situations, all right. Jamie Wheal, my partner, used to tell me that I need to like walk into any room I'm speaking in, remembering that I am welcome, I am wanted, and I'm here to help. Cause I didn't love it, right? There were certain rooms I would walk into, really conservative business rooms when I'm going to help really conservative businessmen, I always walk up on stage and I think, oh I'm just an old school punk rocker. They can actually see the mohawk. I'm sure of it. (crowd laughs) Or the dreadlocks, or whatever. And he was like, "Dude, you just gotta reframe that, "like you are welcome, you are wanted, "you are here to help." So literally, when I walk on stage, you'll see, anytime you see me, I will walk on stage, I will take a breath, and in my head I am saying I am welcome, I am wanted, I'm here to help, and I'm excited. That's what I'm doing when I walk up on stage all the time. Reframing is very very powerful. And it's necessary. Creatives, over time, first of all, you have to get good at risk. You have to get very good at fear. Creatives, very successful creatives, learn to use fear as a compass. That's a little compass. It becomes a directional. Which way do you wanna go next? What scares you the most? That may sound kind of weird, but a lot of the game we're gonna be playing today is about how do you martial focus into the present moment. Stuff that scares the shit out of you, it's got a lot of focus built in. If you can reframe that fear a little bit, you have just massively hacked your brain. You have massively up-leveled your performance because that terror is gonna help you focus, and you're gonna need that, and you're gonna be able to use that.

Class Description

Do you want to learn more about flow? Take the Free Flow Profile to find out if you are a Deep Thinker, Crowd Pleaser, Hard Charger, or Flow Goer.

If creativity is already core to your life, then this program is perfect for you. This could mean you’re a copywriter at an ad agency, a scientist hunting a breakthrough, a coder designing software, an entrepreneur dreaming up your next start-up, a writer aching to finish that novel or a landscape painter trapped in the life of an accountant — all that matters is that generating novel ideas (and putting those ideas out in the world in some form or another) is core to your life and purpose.

Why Does “Flow for Creatives” even matter?

  • You keep losing the battle to be innovative in the rush to be productive.

  • You have writer’s block or coder’s block or painter’s block and the thing you used to love most in your life has become a source of pain and frustration.

  • You have trouble managing your emotions and fear keeps getting in the way of your good ideas.

  • You have trouble sustaining momentum on projects and tend to quit early rather than to finish what you started.

  • You have no idea how to gain access to groundbreaking insights and ideas when you need them most.

  • You don’t actually believe creativity is trainable.

  • You’re numbing yourself with substances and placating yourself with distractions as a way to ignore the fact that you’re not living up to your creative potential.

  • You get lost in the fixing to get ready phase, and never get down to business.

  • You keep bashing into creative walls but never breaking thru.

  • Your emotions keeping getting in the way of your desired outcomes. Fear of failure keeps you from committing to projects; perfectionism keeps you from making your work public.

Flow For Creatives can help.

It’s like an inspiration turbo-boost training program. It’s practical, experiential and experimental. You learn a new idea about Flow and Creativity, apply it to whatever problem you’re trying to solve, see what happens, then make it your own.

And, did you know…

  • When in Flow, your creative problem-solving abilities can spike by over 400 percent.

  • Research done at Harvard shows that the heightened creativity produced by Flow can outlast the state by a day, sometimes two—suggesting that Flow actually trains the brain to think more creatively over the long haul.

  • Creatives are more prone to depression than most people, but an understanding of the process can protect against this liability.

  • Creativity tops the list of 21st-century skills—meaning those skills that are essential for thriving in the modern world—yet 75 percent of people think they’re not living up to their creative potential.

  • The baseline brainwave state produced by Flow is also the ready condition for “Ah-ha” insight, meaning being in the zone makes you primed for breakthrough insight.

  • Fear blocks creativity, while Flow resets the nervous system, calming us down so we can avoid burnout and gain access to much-needed insight.

  • Unless you know how to train the brain properly, most people tap into their deepest creative potential at age 5.

  • Frustration is actually a built-in component of the creative process—it’s a sign that you’re moving in the right direction not a sign that you’re going about it all wrong.

Life is better than ever and we are feeling worse than evener. We are neurotic, stressed, unmotivated and it’s literally killing us. This class is for anyone that is serious about staying in their highest performing state.

*Warning: this instructor occasionally uses strong language. Viewer discretion advised*


Jeremy Richardson

I've watched and participated in many webinars and online classes, and this was by far one of the best. The depth and breadth of information that Steven covers in this class is not only really important, but he structures it in a way that is engaging and most importantly: PRACTICAL. I'm coming out of this with a clear list of ways to improve my ability to get into Flow while accomplishing all of my creative endeavors. I highly recommend this to anyone who would like to do the same!


This is amazing. Steven is hitting so many pain point for me about reframing my fear. He is also an amazing presenter. Thank you, Steven! I am excited, I am excited, I am excited!

Isaac Freed

Utterly mind blowing. Wow. A few hours listening to Steven Kotler felt more like a few days. He has done his research, and offers so much practical application advice that I will review this material several times. Well worth it, and highly recommended. Thank you, Creative Live!