Seeking Flow State And The Value Of 4% Improvement – Lynn Hileman | Ep. 66




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This episode of the podcast is one that I’ve been excited to do for a long time. Back in February, I saw a post that Lynn Hileman, assistant professor of bassoon at West Virginia University (among many other things), posted about her research on flow. That particular post was describing the concept that 4% jumps were the right amount of increase in tempo where we can retain our skills but continue to challenge ourselves as practicers.

At that point, I was in my infancy as a practice program writer, relatively speaking. Reading that post dramatically affected the way I approached the design of my fundamentals routine, and I knew there was so much more to learn.

This interview is packed full of great conversation unpacking what it means to be in flow state during practice, how to reach it, and the benefits of pursuing this feeling long term. While I could highlight the whole interview, I’ll stick to two of the main points that stuck out:

The Four Stages Of Flow

Although the stages of flow are a general feeling, naming them can help guide your understanding of what they are so you can find your way to flow state.

The Struggle Phase – the struggle phase sounds ominous, but it simply means you haven’t quite found the groove yet. Either you’re playing too fast and it’s not doable, or you’re playing too slow and it’s not engaging. It takes a little bit of trial and error to dial in the work for flow state.

The Transition Phase – this phase it short, and it simply means that the struggle phase has “ended” by finding the right tempo, and further work will hopefully transition into flow.

Flow State – this phase is defined by a feeling of ease. It doesn’t mean the work itself is easy, but rather you aren’t fighting your self and struggling with the work. This phase often brings a sense of a loss of time – either time slows down or you completely lose track. This phase is where we do our most effective practicing and deep learning.

The Recovery Phase – this phase is arguably the most important. In order for the work during the flow state phase to be applied, we need to recover. Active recovery is better than doing nothing, so things like meditation, exercise, reading, writing, and especially sleep are needed to give the brain a rest from the intense focus that flow state requires. This phase is also essential to allowing us to get back into flow state for our next practice session.

Anyone Can Reach Flow State

The other big takeaway that I hope we are all encouraged by is that flow state does not discriminate. You don’t have to be a world class musician to be able to enter flow state. The only requirement is simply to be aware that it is possible, and to consider how the work in your practice session might be affected by this knowledge.

Think about your practice right now. Are you constantly assessing whether the work you’re doing is balanced? Or do you find your practice sessions to be a constant struggle to make progress?

I believe although actually being in flow state is hugely beneficial, the pursuit of being in flow state is just as important. Whether or not you have perfected this process is irrelevant – striving to improve the process through effort is what will get you there.

Lynn Hileman’s website –

Questions about practice? Sign up for a free, 30 minute meeting with me. I’ll do my best to help!

I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you wouldn’t mind leaving a rating and a review on iTunes, that would help out a lot. Don’t forget to share on social media!

Stay strong, be kind to yourself, and never stop growinging.

Until next time,


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