Experience the Victory of Flow State

Long before there was a study of the flow state I could tell when I was experiencing it. I would be engaged in something that I was confident that I was made to do. What would happen next was nothing short of amazing. The confidence I would feel. The energy I would experience. The deep concentration and focus on the task. All of those things I always referred to as being in the flow. The results were nothing short of miraculous.

I didn’t need anyone to tell me what was happening. I knew I was in the flow. Today we have extensive research on the psychology of flow. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from it.

Flow States and Finding Meaning in Life

And how do you ensure you spend more of your time in flow? Simple: you start doing things that you absolutely love. You find your true life’s purpose and your passion.

You may be familiar with the concept of the flow state if you’re at all interested in self-development.

When writing this can happen too. You can end up so fixated on what you’re writing that everything else seems to take a backseat.

And it is said that many startup companies spend their entire time in flow states and that this is one of the biggest predictors of their success.

A flow state is a state of mind that is characterized by a reduction in activity in the prefrontal cortex known as transient hypofrontality. In this state our sense of self shuts down and we become highly engaged with whatever we’re doing, to the point where it just seems to flow out from us without any conscious input.

It is also said that flow states are the ultimate state of human performance, the key to amazing creativity and even the secret to happiness.

In sports, this can sometimes happen in response to a highly tense situation. At this point, time might seem to slow and dilate down as everything moves in slow motion around us. We’ll find ourselves able to react with amazing speed and reactions.

Why Meaning and Purpose Create Flow State

This comes from a belief that thing is important or a feeling that it is fascinating and exciting. That then causes the brain to focus entirely on that thing going on. Nothing else seems more important and so all of your resources are directed that way because it seems so important.

You have a single set goal and something that you feel highly intrinsically motivated to accomplish when you find your purpose in life.

flow state

Because our body knows it needs to promote flow in order to survive, we attain flow states when we are snowboarding down the side of a mountain at breakneck speeds. When we are working on something we love, the same effect is caused by our simple love for that topic.

The incredible inspiration, focus and sense of fulfillment that can come from this is unmatched and that is why it is so important that you discover your life’s purpose and your meaning.

When You Are Experiencing the Flow State

According to Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, there are ten factors that accompany the experience of flow. It is not necessary to feel all of 10 of the components below to be in the flow state of mind you will experience many of them when you are in flow:

  1. Clear goals that, while challenging, are still attainable.
  2. Strong concentration and focused attention.
  3. The activity is intrinsically rewarding.
  4. Feelings of serenity; a loss of feelings of self-consciousness.
  5. Timelessness; a distorted sense of time; feeling so focused on the present that you lose track of time passing.
  6. Immediate feedback.
  7. Knowing that the task is doable; a balance between skill level and the challenge presented.
  8. Feelings of personal control over the situation and the outcome.
  9. Lack of awareness of physical needs.
  10. Complete focus on the activity itself.
    Taken from: ‘Flow’ Can Help You Achieve Goals

The Flow State and Creativity

When in the flow state of mind my greatest experiences are in the area of creativity. For me, this is accomplished when I am fulfilling my God-given purpose in life, I see purpose in the task and I’m experiencing many of the components in the list above. When that state is achieved then I experience the greatest level of creativity not only for the moment but for days to follow. The quote below may help to explain exactly why that happens.

During flow, the brain releases an enormous cascade of neurochemistry. Large quantities of norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, anandamide, and serotonin flood our system. All are pleasure-inducing, performance-enhancing chemicals with considerable impacts on creativity. Both norepinephrine and dopamine amp up focus,  boosting imaginative possibilities by helping us gather more information. They also lower signal-to-noise ratios, increasing pattern recognition or our ability to link ideas together in new ways. Anandamide, meanwhile, increases lateral thinking—meaning it expands the size of the database searched by the pattern recognition system. via: Flow States and Creativity 

So what does that mean for you? The problem isn’t that you lack creativity. The problem is not experiencing a flow state of mind. Instead of asking, “how can I be more creativity?” You should be asking, “how can I get into a flow state?”

How Do You Achieve the Flow?

According to Csíkszentmihályi flow is most likely to happen when certain elements are present.

Your Skills Are Well-Matched to the Task

When your ability level is perfectly aligned to the challenge that the activity presents, flow is most likely to occur.So a writer might experience flow during a project that he or she has sufficient background to guide the necessary research. A coach might reach this state while helping a client that presents the perfect challenge. In other words, gaining practice, experience and expertise in an activity will make it more likely that you will achieve flow in the future.

Stretching Your Skills Can Lead to a State of Flow

A slight stretching of your abilities, or undertaking something that is a little more advanced than your current capabilities, can also stimulate a flow state. For a writer, this might involve attempting a project that presents a bit of a challenge. For a graphic designer, it might involve taking on a project that requires employing a new type of software. Focus on adding new challenges on a regular basis. Not only will you become more competent, you may find that the state of flow becomes much easier to achieve.

You Have Clear Goals

You need to have a specific intention for focusing on the task, such as winning the game, performing a piece of music, completing a work project. But you don’t  enter into in an activity only in order to accomplish a goal. People who achieve flow frequently are often intrinsically motivated to complete certain actions. In other words, they may have specific goals in mind, but they engage in these actions for their own sake. It fulfills a great purpose for them.

Your Environment Is Free From Interruptions

You want to dedicate all of your concentration to the task at hand. Multitasking and other disturbances will disrupt the flow state. Set aside a time and space that will allow you to work on a project without being disrupted or distracted.Turn off your phone, television or other devices that might pull you away from the task at hand. Create a surroundings conducive to creating flow state. Add back those things that could enhance flow.

When You Focus on the Process and Not the End State

Achieving flow can be a satisfying experience, but it may also have other rewards. Research suggests that the benefits of flow include increased competency development and improved performance. Becoming more skilled and capable at a task can help improve your self-esteem in that area and give you a boost of self-confidence related to those skills.

While having a goal is important, flow requires taking pleasure in the quest and not just fixating on the end product. Allow yourself to simply live in the present moment without stressing too much about the ultimate outcome of your efforts.

Taken from: 5 Ways to Achieve Flow

Are You in a Position to Achieve Flow?

Take this quick quiz to see if you are prepared to experience the flow state…

Written by
Eric is the Chief Strategist and Creative Thinking Coach at EricSaid. He applies the principles of success to help business owners to achieve their fullest potential.

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