Discover Your State of Flow. Flow is a state of effortless and spontaneous involvement. Flow is the physiological state of full engagement and abundant reward. Flow is a state we can learn to bring ourselves into and is necessary live a life of complete fulfillment.
“People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 1990
You have been there, although we may be aware of it or not. Flow is that state of complete involvement in an activity where you lose track of time, forget to eat, and thoroughly enjoy the absorption. If you know how to take yourself there, you are probably there often. If you do not know how to take yourself into a state of complete involvement and focused concentration on an activity this week is for you. We will be exploring the state of flow and how to create the state effectively.
Many describe the state of flow as a sense of ecstasy, being outside of your everyday reality. However, we can learn to take ourselves into a state of flow every day and make this sense of ecstasy a frequent occurrence. Today let’s define flow and start thinking about flow inducing activities.
Flow is identified as a time of great inner clarity. For me I know I am in a state of flow when ideas start coming forth. Often I feel an idea brewing at a level I cannot quite access, but when I become fully involved in an activity and release the external distractions those ideas surface so I can capture them for either another time or work on them in that moment. The inner clarity can also appear as a “knowing”, knowing what needs to be done and knowing how well you are doing. At times when I am not in a state of flow, I can be very distracted and pulled in a variety of directions. At these times I have a difficult time making any progress because all the tasks at hand have my mind unfocused. When I am in this scattered state I know I need to find my flow state and use my trigger activity to get me there right away.
Flow is identified as a time of confidence. When one is in a state of flow our skills are matched to the task that provides a reasonable challenge. Anyone who has watched a kid play a video game has experienced this. Or if you have been drawn into a video game you have experienced this as well. Video and other computer games start us off at a lower skill and simpler challenge. As we develop our skills the game provides us with more challenge. We keep climbing the levels of the game and discovering the new challenges as we build greater and greater skills. We’ve probably all heard or said it, “I will quit playing after this level”, but an hour later we are still either mastering that level or have advanced a few more. As we continue to develop our skills and confidence we are met with more challenge that builds more skills and more confidence…we are in a Tetris State of Flow.
Flow is identified as a sense of serenity. When we are fully engaged in activity we let loose of the ego, of having to do things “right”, of awareness of others, and of judgment from ourselves or others. We can gain a sense of being one with our activity. When I am in a state of flow my mind is calm and I am sheltered from all the activity around me. I work in a large corporate environment and sit in a vast land of cubicles. It is rare to experience silence in that environment, yet when I enter a state of flow I exit the effects of that environment and enter the serenity of flow.
Flow is identified as a sense of timelessness. Flow is not only a time of silent focus on a project, but can also be a state of being with others. There are a few people in my life that I get so involved in our conversations and we have so many different things to talk about I completely lose track of time. Hours pass by in minutes and before I know it I am late for something else. I would almost be best served setting an alarm if I need to leave by a certain time, because without fail I will stay longer than originally planned.
Flow is identified as its own intrinsic motivation. The greatest reward of flow is not the results of your intense focus, but the actual state itself. Although I love and benefit from the results of my states of flow, I love even more being swept up into the state itself. It is a great place to reside and learning how to take yourself into a state of flow will transform your life.
Today’s Simple Mindfulness Igniter is to identify your flow inducing activities. Now that you know what a state of flow is, when have you experienced it your life? Search your passions. Which activities do you not have enough time for or want to make more time for? When does time fly much too quickly for you. Check your calendar. Where have you have to shift your schedule because you were so engaged in a project you just did not want to stop. Check your happiness gauge. When is your smile the brightest? When are you the most content?
For those taking the Mindfully Living in the Moment Challenge consider your new habit. Our habits are small consistent actions that gently guide us to the improvement we desire in life. Is there a way to connect your new habit to a flow state? For some a state of flow can be obtained when performing daily routines, is your new habit one that can be incorporated into other daily routines? Or would your new habit be better served by a state of flow.
For me rather than connecting my new habit to a daily routine it is better served by a state of flow. My new habit of more fully engaging in conversation requires me to take myself into a flow state with those I am speaking to. I do not do this for every verbal interaction, but when the conversation is focused there is more to be gained when I can enter a flow state of conversation. When I fully engage, block out distraction, listen without ego, and converse with calmness the flow of the conversation is the reward. Conversations are more insightful and a new clarity and understanding for the other person and/or topic surfaces.