We’ve all experienced a time in our life when we lost ourselves in a task that we truly enjoyed. We were having such a nice time, creating, writing, playing sports, that we lost track of time and felt a deep, powerful feeling of wellbeing. We were completely in the zone. A Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, coined a term for this state of consciousness : flow.
What is flow?
According to Steven Kotler, author of The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance, “flow is an optimal state of consciousness, when you feel and perform your best. It’s the moment of total absorption. Time speeds up or slows down like a freeze-frame effect. Mental and physical ability go through roof and the brain takes in more information per second, processing it more deeply.”
Experiencing flow state has many positive impacts on our levels of performance and on our productivity, but also increases our concentration, reduces stress and increases our creativity and our ability to solve problems. Flow state is also linked to happiness; while in flow, we are fully present and usually enjoy ourselves very much. “The amount of time someone spends in flow, says Kotler, has a massive and powerful correlation to life satisfaction.”
“The amount of time someone spends in flow has a massive and powerful correlation to life satisfaction.” -Steven Kotler, author of The Rise of Superman
Can we trigger flow state?
Yes! According to Leo Babauta, author of the very popular blog Zen Habits, we can practice to achieve flow on command with a few simple steps :
- First, choose work you love. Choose a task that is challenging, but not too hard.
- Select your peak performance time to perform this task. For me, I know that I perform my best early in the day, right after my Miracle Morning.
- Next, clear away distractions. Put your phone on Do not disturb, shut down social media, allow yourself only to focus on your chosen task.
- Focus on your task for as long as you possibly can. If distractions come up, gently bring your focus back on the task.
- Flow can be deeply satisfying. Make sure to be fully present, take time to appreciate the moment and enjoy yourself.
- Keep practicing. The more you will deliberately practice flow state, the more easily you will fall into that state of consciousness and experience its benefits.
Nelly O’Brien, also known as Mrs. Mindfulness, reminds us that not only complex and challenging tasks can trigger flow, but simple, everyday chores can also make us feel in the zone. You can turn “a routine chore into a deeply satisfying and enjoyable moment” and Mrs. O’Brien shows us how:
- Before you start your chore, take three deep breaths. Breathing will create space for calm and presence.
- Bring your attention to the present moment. Try to experience it fully.
- Engage your chore in a meditative spirit and focus intensely on your task.
- Remain alert and fully present, engage fully in what you are doing and bring your attention back on the task when your mind wanders.
As you can see, Mr. Babauta and Mrs. O’Brien both emphasize the importance of remaining fully present in the moment. I believe that the key to flow state resides in this intention of presence. But it can also be the hardest part of practicing flow. I would suggest that you incorporate mindfulness meditation in your daily routine to learn how to focus and become fully present. I personally integrate mindfulness into my Miracle Morning routine, first thing upon waking up. It has helped me tremendously appreciate my moments of flow even more.
I hope that you will try to achieve flow state to experience what it feels like to feel and perform at your best. To me, writing is the activity that triggers flow the most. Time dissolves, I feel immensely serene, those are my happiest moments. Now tell me, have you ever experienced flow? What are the activities that trigger this sensation for you?
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