#15 The Mind of Skill, Part 1: Optimal performance states – Christian Swann

Hør afsnittet

This podcast is the first episode in a series we called ‘The Mind of Skill’. As the name indicates, this series investigates the more mental dimensions of skill training and execution. To do so, the series interviews a line of contemporary researchers and experts on the nature of skill in different contexts.  

Besides being of interest in itself, the nature of skill is related to more general questions of human existence. To take some examples, many of the ancient Greek philosophers saw a clear link between virtue and skill: according to them, virtuous individuals who were capable of living well could in some sense also be seen as people who acquired the skill to live. In relation, Buddhist teachings often stress the virtuous and awakened person as a skilful person—skilful in conduct, concentration, and wisdom. This is, in many ways, highlighted in Zen Buddhist practice in which activities such as calligraphy, poetry, tea-making, and many other activities require a high level of skill. With this in mind, there seems to be clear connection between skill and the good life. The hope is that this series can clarify some aspects of this connection and aspire the listener to explore it.

The focus of this episode is on so-called optimal performance states, more precisely the states of flow and clutch. To clarify and outline these topics for us, the guest of the episode is performance and sports psychologist Christian Swann. Christian has long done research on flow states in athletes and published a long line of really interesting research studies on this matter. Today, he is associate professor at Southern Cross University and part of a team of researchers investigating and developing protocols for optimal performance states in athletic activity. The interview with Christian touches upon multiple interesting topics such as the difference between flow states and clutch performance, the importance of build ups for such optimal performance states, and the general psychological dimensions of high performance. Many of the points in the interview have relevance way beyond the athletic domain and concern human flourishing in general.   

We hope you enjoy the interview!

Host: Victor Lange

Production: Heine Volder

Music: Victor Lange & Heine Volder

Photo: Victor Cornelius