In a world that captivates our attention and pulls us in a million directions all at once, being able to focus intently on one task at hand has become a rarity.
Our phones go off, social media sends out notifications, calls come in, and shorter attention spans have settled into our minds, making it harder for us to be ‘in the zone’ with everything from physical to creative tasks.
Let me introduce you to the art of flow state.
What is Flow State?
Being in a flow state means there is a sense of fluidity between your body and mind, where you are totally focused and absorbed by something deeply.
In fact, your mind is so intent on whatever you are doing that distractions have no bearing on your productivity and performance.
Time doesn’t play a role in the equation anymore. You and the task at hand have become one, and the effortless momentum can’t be interrupted.
Simply stated: flow state is when you become fully immersed in whatever it is that you are doing.
This was first unearthed and discussed by positive psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura. Csikszentmihalyi’s explains during his 2004 TED Talk that
There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, it leads to a sense of ecstasy and a sense of clarity. You know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other with immediate feedback.
By giving a task at hand your fullest attention, you are able to dive deeper into those requirements – and those alone – without any outside force that can distract you.
The background noise in your mind begins to fade away as your brain enters a laser-focused zone that makes you disregard hard to ignore feelings such as hunger, fatigue, and pain. It’s just you and your craft. That’s it.
Characteristics of Flow State
Flow can be found in everything from the workplace, sports, and education, to creative pursuits and output.
According to Csikszentmihalyi, there are 10 distinct factors that accompany the experience of flow state:
- The activity is intrinsically rewarding
- The goals are attainable but also challenging
- There is complete focus on the activity
- There is a feeling of personal control over the outcome
- Loss of self-consciousness
- Immediate feedback – “Clear goals tell us what we’re doing; immediate feedback tells us how to do it better”
- The challenge is at least 4% greater than the skill set
- Lack of awareness of physical needs
- Strong concentration
- Timelessness, or a distorted sense of time
Research has confirmed there are changes in the brain during flow states, distorting how we perceive time and our surroundings. Furthermore, these same studies also confirm there is an increase in dopamine activity when we enter flow.
How to Achieve Flow State
You are most likely to enter a flow state during challenging activities that need to be followed up with a quick response.
Achieving a flow state requires a mental motivation to go above and beyond and do something that’s not generally ‘easy.’
A mind that is able to enter into the present moment without considering the past or the future is one that can more easily enter into a flow state. This form of concentration can also be found in meditation.
Additionally, here are other common conditions that need to be met to trigger a flow state:
- You need to have some general passion for the task at hand.
- The task can’t be impossible, but it can’t be too easy, either.
- The task should be something you are good at or have the ability to complete if you remove all distractions.
- Your mind should be focused on the journey of completing the task, not the actual reward at the end.
- The task should be intensely important.
The Benefits of Achieving Flow
Enhanced Concentration: The quality of work dramatically increases during flow state due to interrupted and enhanced concentration.
Faster Skill Development: Flow accelerates the process of mastering a skill, hence making a person seek for more challenges and skill sets to develop in a compacted time-frame.
More Creativity: Flow helps the mind become less critical, allowing an individual to become more capable of connecting thoughts and more courageous to pursue out-of-the-box ideas.
Happiness: A lasting sense of happiness can develop during and even after a flow state, increasing a person’s overall well-being.
They say that on the other side of resistance is the flow. Most of us end up stuck in resistance and settle there because society conditions us to accept it as a viable way of life. Fear, anxiety, and self-doubt become the premises of our daily decisions.
The good news is, it is entirely up to you to change it.
Your mind is already capable of replacing the inner-critic with profound presence to achieve anything you want in life.
The decision to enter flow is fully under your control.
How amazing is that?