Have you ever been in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you are using your complete potential? In this state you don’t feel much pain, you immerse yourself completely and go with the flow. The flow state is the most productive state of mind and helps you bring out your true potential.
What is the state of Flow?
Dr. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi describes the Flow as the state of complete immersion in an activity with full involvement and enjoyment where the outside factors no longer matter. He explained in a TED Talk about how the flow affects a person and brings out his peak performance. People all around the world would have experienced flow at some point in their life. When you do something that you’re really passionate about and have a sense of good understanding, you enter the flow state after some time. The Flow state is almost as if you have no conscious control over your body but you still give your full potential into doing an activity.
The brain controls the actions subconsciously and the pieces fall in the right places one after the other. Because of this, you are no longer bound to notice any other senses such as pain, emotions, etc.
The Flow state is sometimes referred to as “The Zone”. It is characterized by complete immersion as a result of enjoyment, the challenge, and ability that allows you to bring out your full potential.
When do you experience Flow?
You enter the flow state when you do the actions that you feel passionate about and excite you. In other words, if the activity is not boring and challenging enough to keep you engaged, you are more likely to enter the Flow state.
For example, if you play basketball with passion and determination, at a point in your career, you might experience Flow when you really enjoy doing it. While this is a factor, it isn’t inevitable that you will experience it no matter what.
It isn’t necessary that you enter the Flow only during intense sports. Some people find flow even in the smallest of things such as cooking, writing and even while performing music, dance, etc. But the experience is all the same that they gave their best without them putting effort consciously.
How does it feel to be in the Flow state?
After the research and study conducted by Csíkszentmihályi, they interviewed numerous people. They found these common traits among the people when they were in the state of Flow.
- You have clear goals, find the activity doable and well within your knowledge to finish it with ease.
- There’s an intrinsic motivation behind it and that’s influencing you to pursue it.
- You focus on the task at hand so much that you lose track of time and immerse yourself completely.
- Have a proper balance between the challenge presented and the ability you possess.
- You lose self-consciousness and find yourself doing that task sub-consciously as a result of doing that repeatedly.
- It gives you an ecstatic feeling and you no longer feel connected to the world as your actions go well past reality.
- The external factors such as pain, emotions no longer hold you back in any way and you feel highly motivated.
Depicting the state of Flow
This graph illustrates the conditions that must be met to enter the flow state. The challenge and the skills that you possess must complement each other and should be fairly high. Notice that the right balance in both of the aspects is required to get to the point that it excites you and puts you in full immersion. Whether you lack the skill or the challenge, the result isn’t likely to get you far.
If you are really skilled but have a moderate challenge level, then it implies that you have control over the task but it needs to be more challenging. On the other hand, if you make it really challenging but lack skills, then anxiety is bound to strike you. Based on this graph, you can work towards the aspect that you lack and enter the flow state.
How to enter the Flow state?
You can increase your chances to achieve the Flow state if you keep these factors in mind and work towards honing your skills. A blend of various skills is required to be in balance in order to maintain it consistently.
- Have a proper goal, the right mindset and the plan to achieve it – Without a clear vision, you will not go anywhere. You need to have a realistic goal and consistently put effort to achieve it.
- Hone your skills and rise above – It’s vital to keep pushing the limits and master your skills. This will keep you above the competition and overcome setbacks.
- Make it challenging – Every task should have a challenging element behind it to keep you engaged in the long run, otherwise, you would get bored of it at some point.
- Love what you do – This would be the deciding factor is most of the cases. You need to love the task at hand and be passionate about it in order to be able to master it. The difference between someone who loves his work and one who doesn’t really like it is huge.
- Focus on what matters the most and remove distractions – It’s so easy to get carried away by the distractions in daily life. But if you focus on the important aspects, it will give you an edge that you’re looking for.
- Keep track of your progress – You have to measure your immediate progress after each step you take and make necessary changes.
- Practice until you reach the peak – The flow state lies at the peak of your skills and challenge level. So it requires deliberate practice and consistency to get there. It isn’t something you can get to from day one.
The Advantages of the Flow state
Flow state comes with a lot of benefits that go a long way in helping one to overcome certain problems. Flow state helps keep away distractions, give you heightened senses, increase your productivity and give you pleasure. Finding the balance between the challenge and skill level is crucial. Once you reach that point, you will be unstoppable as there are no limits to what you can achieve. Gamers and Athletes can associate with them being in the zone more frequently. They can give consistent better performances and usually beat others that lack these aspects.
When you possess the skills, the passion, and the challenge, the flow state can put you in a better position to achieve your goals and reach success. As a result, the performance increases manifold. Through immediate feedback and the right balance, the right ingredients to control it can be found. Even though the flow state takes a while to master, it is worth mastering and integrating it as a part of your daily life.
Read the book for in-depth information about the Flow: Finding Flow: The Psychology Of Engagement With Everyday