What is flow state and how can it transform your life?

What is flow state and how can it transform your life?

What is flow state?
Flow state is the mental state where certain activity, physical and mental attributes merge into a fluid rhythm where peak performance, productivity, accelerated learning and achievement occurs.

Have you ever experienced a moment so absorbing that the world around you seemed to vanish?  Consider which of these scenarios resonate with you.   Try to recall a similar moment in your life.

  • With every keystroke, you sink deeper into your plot, feeling a surge of creativity take your story and its characters to unexpected, thrilling places, surpassing all your expectations.
  • Every shot you take goes in without effort, you feel that tingling sensation throughout your body…you are in the zone, and in this moment, you cannot miss.
  • Your fingers move over the piano keys with unprecedented precision and grace, your skills and passion align, as you experience the feeling of mastery.
  • As you deliver your pitch, a quiet confidence washes over you; witnessing your colleagues nodding in agreement as you move from point to point, knowing you have sealed the deal.

These are glimpses of what it is like to be in a flow state – a zone where everything you do just works.

The first flow state definition and its origins of research[i]

Being in a flow state is a concept introduced by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the late 1960s and early 1970s at the University of Chicago.  His research defines flow state as a mental state in which a person is fully immersed in an activity, experiencing a sense of focused energy, full involvement, a lost sense of time and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

Here are the key attributes associated with being in a flow state of mind:

  • Complete Concentration on the Task: Deep focus and absorption in the present activity, with attention fully captured by the task at hand.
  • Loss of Self-Consciousness: Reduced awareness of oneself and one’s problems; the ego falls away as focus intensifies on the activity.
  • Transformation of Time: Perception of time is altered; hours can feel like minutes and time seems to fly by.
  • Effortlessness and Ease: Despite the challenges, the activity feels effortless, and actions seem to flow seamlessly.
  • Clarity of Goals and Immediate Feedback: There is an inherent and clear understanding of one’s goals and immediate feedback exists, facilitating progress, adjustments and goal alignment throughout.
  • Intrinsic Experience: The activity is inherently rewarding, and there is a strong internal motivation to engage in the task for its own sake, leading individuals to engage in flow activities for the sheer sake of the experience, rather than for external rewards.
  • Balance Between Challenge and Skills: The activity presents a challenge that closely matches one’s skill level, neither too easy to be boring nor too difficult to cause anxiety.
  • A Sense of Control: A feeling of personal control over the situation or activity; a sense that one can manage the challenge at hand.

These attributes work together to create a highly productive and satisfying state that not only enhances performance in a variety of tasks but also contributes to accelerated learning, overall well-being and happiness.

 

FlowVeda fun facts about flow state research:

  • Increased Productivity: Research by McKinsey & Co. found that executives in flow can be up to five times more productive than their counterparts.[ii]

Imagine only needing to work on Mondays and still accomplishing a full week’s worth of tasks. Such is the power of a flow state, where a fivefold increase in productivity can turn a 40-hour grind into eight hours of pure, focused work, or turn a year of quality flow-induced work into five years of production.  How would you view time?  Which would you choose, more free time or more production?  How do you see this level of production and performance impacting your life?

  • Enhanced Learning: According to studies in the field of educational psychology, flow states can accelerate learning, potentially doubling the speed of language acquisition or enhance problem-solving ability.

According to Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, “The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: [10,000] hours.”[iii]  What skills would you master if it only took you 5,000 hours?  How would you stand out in your field?  How much faster could you realize your dreams?

  • Improved Emotional Well-being: Csikszentmihalyi, who coined the term “flow,” discovered that people who experience flow regularly have lower levels of depression and anxiety. Regularly entering flow states can function similarly to an antidepressant, significantly lowering the likelihood of depression and anxiety.[iv]

According to a survey by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)[v], a sizable portion of working Americans experience stress or anxiety that interferes with their daily lives. Here are some key findings:

  • 72% of people who face daily stress and anxiety say it interferes with their lives at least moderately.
  • 40% experience persistent stress or excessive anxiety daily.
  • 30% of individuals with daily stress have taken prescription medication to manage stress, nervousness, emotional problems, or lack of sleep.

Imagine how flow states could improve the health of so many people?  How could improving your focus, concentration and attention, directed towards a subject or activity you enjoy, improve your mental healthWhat are you willing to do every day to mitigate long-term stress and increase mindfulness?

Flow states are not merely about getting in the zone or being productive; they enlighten self-discovery, boost personal growth and promote mental wellness. Such experiences elevate our consciousness and help us realize what is truly possible, naturally invoking self-actualization of our potentialIn many cases, we may realize an altogether new life passion and alter the outlook of our life’s purpose

The FlowVeda Way:  how to achieve flow states and live your best life.

  1. Attain self-awareness. Unlocking productivity begins with self-awareness. Many times, this starts with letting go of the past, shedding fears of an unknown future state and acknowledging who you are today.  There is a process we will address in later blogs to help you become present, objectively assess your strengths, weaknesses and what you want in life.  Knowing yourself and identifying your dreams, passions and desired lifestyle are critical steps in resetting your subconscious mind.  Focusing on your passions is what naturally induces flow, when you can harness the mental state where work feels effortless.
  2. Create an environment for peak performance. Ideal surroundings—both physical and mental—are crucial for accessing flow states. By establishing a distraction-free zone and simplifying your space, you enhance focus and performance. This practice extends to the mind: clearing mental clutter from your past and limiting beliefs about your future can significantly boost your capacity for flow.  Rebuilding your physical and mental environment is essential to elevate your productivity and lifestyle by curating an environment conducive to peak performance and success.
  3. Train your mind for unwavering focus and concentration.  Developing laser-sharp focus involves mastering mindfulness and engaging in mental exercises. Future posts will outline specific techniques to build unbreakable concentration, crucial for anyone keen on enhancing mental fitness and achieving personal goals.  One principle to know:  your thoughts are the seeds of your future reality.  They are short-term guideposts signaling where you are and where you are going on your life’s path.  Pay attention to them.  We will offer you an understanding of the pivotal role of mental discipline in nurturing a state of flow, essential for anyone keen on mindfulness, mental fitness and becoming the person you want to become.
  4. Define your life’s vision, set achievable goals and chart your path: As you transition from self-discovery through self-awareness, it is important to identify your life’s vision, core values and true purpose.  Start at your perception of unattainable perfection (based on your limited imagination today).  What are your true passions?  What do you want to achieve, in the perfect world?  What are your core values, the lines you will not cross, and the people, things and ideals of which you would risk everything?  Identify what truly matters—your passions, values, and purpose.  Shape a clear vision of your life. This clarity makes setting achievable goals simple, ensuring all your actions align with your deepest aspirations.  These are the ideals, beyond material possessions, which become your immediate feedback loop for decision-making.
  5. Align your skills with your passions and achieve mastery.  Self-awareness helps you identify skills that resonate with your passions.  Mastery may take years to achieve.  But if you embrace the opportunity to pave your own path towards your life vision through continuous learning, with patience and determination, time is not an obstacle.  Working backwards from your vision and purpose, you can develop achievable goals that holistically chart your path towards the life you envision.  You will feel motivation in this pursuit and a desire for continuous learning if you have aligned your goals with your vision.  This ensures you will enjoy every activity in your pursuit, helping you slip into a flow state of mind and maximize your performance, productivity and mastery.
  6. Eliminate self-consciousness and rise above judgment and distraction.  Cultivating presence and self-control, overcoming the fear of judgment from others, is your license to a life of authentic expression.  This is a power that transcends mere confidence and elevates you to a plane of existence that feels surreal.  This is a level of personal freedom where you feel a sense of control over everything you see, do, hear and interact, with a sense of joy, that opens the door to flow states.  In future posts, we will examine strategies to eliminate distractions and maintain focus, concentration and presence.  Attaining such a plane is essential to rising above the mundane chatter from society, social media, the news.  This is the rarified air where self-actualization occurs, when your potential becomes limitless.  This milestone induces motivation, sharpens focus and determination to attain your goals and live your best vision of your life.
  7. Start a meditation practice and rewire your brain.  Strengthening your mental and emotional health through meditation is crucial for maintaining flow readiness.  Developing presence, shedding self-consciousness and sharpening focus are not automatic assets once attained.  Life will challenge you.  Distractions will attack your focus or resurface from the past.  The limitations, opinions and beliefs of others, along with societal norms, will openly dismiss, ridicule or disgrace you.  Without continued practice in these areas, you can easily stray from your path per the influence of others.  A regular practice helps you stay focused and resilient against life’s challenges and distractions, empowering your journey towards fulfilling your destiny.
  8. Attain confidence, happiness and focus through flow.  Living in flow transforms practice into habit, cultivating a life filled with growth, happiness, and fulfillment. This state not only enhances personal well-being but also propels you towards self-actualization.  You were put on this Earth to fulfill a purpose.  Whether that’s to change the world, or even one person’s life, take the next step and live the life you intended.

 

Conclusion and forward look

In future blogs, we will describe several exercises and offer guidance and insights into how to develop and maintain your flow state focus.  We will attempt to apply them across various life domains—from the arts to sports, from business to personal relationships.  You can decide what works for you.  Keep an open mind; we all have limiting beliefs.  Be open to novel strategies, exercises and experiences.  At FlowVeda, we are committed to providing you with the products and resources to develop the physical and mental conditions for peak performance.  We believe you can develop the tools, practices, habits and personal essence to shape your destiny.

Join us on this journey from the ordinary to extraordinary, empowering you to live passionately and fulfill your life’s purpose.

Join Flow Club. Join FlowVeda.

[i] Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row.

[ii] McKinsey & Company. (2021, November 29). Leading Off: Creating creativity: A leader’s guide. https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/email/leadingoff/2021/11/29/2021-11-29b.html

[iii] Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The Story of Success (p. XX). Little, Brown and Company.

[iv] Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row.

[v] Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (n.d.). Workplace Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey. ADAA. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/workplace-stress-anxiety-disorders-survey

Share

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

top