“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).
Mihaly Csikzenmihalyi, one of the co-founders of positive psychology, was the first to identify and research ‘flow”, the state he refers to above.
There are eight characteristics of flow that transcend all classes, genders, ages and cultures, making it a universal experience available to anyone, arguably at any time we choose to stretch ourselves. And what happens when we arrive into that space of flow? A brain state of curiosity and creativity where distortion of time, loss of self-consciousness, and loss of inner critic occur.
So, let’s take a look at what these eight characteristics of flow* are:
Complete concentration on a task/ activity;
Clarity of goals + reward in mind and immediate feedback;
Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down);
The experience is intrinsically rewarding;
Effortlessness + ease;
There is a balance between challenge + skills;
Actions + awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination;
There is a feeling of control over the task/ activity.
There are three ways that you can begin to consciously achieve a “flow state” and none of these require you to be a high-performing athlete, master artist, a prolific writer or any other practice that you believe is “out there” beyond some imaginary barrier. While it appears that certain personality traits may influence the ease in which we can slip into flow, know that you have access to this deeply present and powerful state just as you are.
- Remove distractions
Before beginning the activity, set your smartphone to do not disturb, silence your desktop notifications, put on noise-canceling headphones or a soundtrack specifically designed for focus. Consciously choose to NOT be swept up by distractions. You may even wish to set a timer for yourself. Hello, pomodoro!
- Make sure the task/ activity challenges but doesn’t exceed your level of skill
Know thyself. If the challenge is bigger than your skillset, you’ll likely find yourself in a state of anxiety + stress, which is the opposite of ease that is induced in the flow state. Either reduce the level of challenge, or attempt the challenge with someone whose skill set up levels yours.
- Make sure your level of skill doesn’t exceed the size of the challenge
Really know thyself. If the activity does not challenge your edges and skills, you’ll likely find yourself apathetic + bored. This is not that rewarding feeling you need to be in flow. Either up level the size of the challenge or offload the task to someone who gets it done quickly so you can stay in your zone of genius.
That’s right. You’re seeking the experience that lies right in the middle of challenge and skill. When you quiet the distractions and find that harmonic space between, you find your flow.
Want to find your flow in community? Join us each month in-studio for The Flow State Experience or online in our monthly Business Flow Workshop. See our Events Calendar for details.
Written by Cari Rogers, co-owner of Tribe and founder of HealThySelf. Cari loves to partner with people who believe that the body has an incredible capacity to heal under the right circumstances and with the right support.
*cited from positivepsychology.com