While a lot of the day can seem like a blur against the background buzz of busyness, there are those magical times when we find ourselves in flow. By this, I mean when we seem to be at our peak. Time just slows down and expands at the same time. Tasks are easier, our concentration is dialed in, and – most importantly – we are really enjoying the effort that we are expending.
In the field of positive psychology, a flow state was first talked about in 1970 and it is known as being ‘in the zone.’ Although, the concept of this has been around much, much longer. This is known as an immersive mental environment where a person experiences high levels of energized focus. In this sense, the work you are doing doesn’t feel like work.
More simply put, flow is fun.
As responsible adults navigating a noisy world, flow and fun both feel like nice-to-have options that seem more suited for planned-ahead weekends or holidays.
The Bottom Line of Top of this episode is that flow is an inherent superpower that unlocks the best of your brain.
Flow isn’t a special state only available in small doses or to certain people. It can be developed as a skill set much like many of your other skills.
The root of flow is tied to attention. It is the melting together of action and consciousness in pursuit of academic, professional, and personal efforts.
This episode walks through a few thoughts on the fundamentals of flow and offers ideas on how to navigate your energy and attention to spend more time there.
Flow is an intention. It is rarely summoned on demand or by command. Research suggests that it’s easier to achieve when you have a clear goal or goals on which you
can intently focus. The more specific, the better. For example, an athlete will look for the micro improvements that can be applied to an aspect of their own skill or the game. Start with small, simple tasks as steps to larger ones. The rhythm and repetition that follow are part of what kickstarts flow.
Flow is fragile. Even with a clear plan in place, the daily distractions around us can disrupt our flow state. Wherever possible, set up your environment to be open to creative thinking, movement, and ideation. Lean into your senses and use the sights,
sounds and touch that inspire and center you.
This is the time to step out of routines and let your mind wander. Consider this cognitive recess without rules. Don’t stop to fix mistakes, typos, or to do extra research. That can all come later. Allow the freedom to simply have the experience without any expectation.
Flow is a practice. Inspiration may not always strike when it’s been invited to. But
each time a conscious effort is made, we strengthen the mental muscles that help fuel future progress. Flow is close friends with fun, so if you feel yourself getting stuck, go outside, power down tech and pick up paper, put aside your achievement stickers and just play. If that word feels too much, then consider this an intellectual intermission – a prelude to the next Next.
Flow is also meta. Yes, that sounds trendy but it’s more than that. Flow is a meta
skill that enables us to better learn, enhance, and expand our existing skills. The more time you spend in flow, the more access you have to it. So this goes beyond a productivity practice – it’s a conscious key that helps unlock the brain. And as we use this key, we will be able to do fewer things deeper and better.
Finally, flow is a pull. There’s a great quote from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, which
says: “If you’re working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you in.” That’s the essence exactly.
You’re most likely to notice flow in what’s called your primary flow activities. These are the things that you already do, the uniquely You aspects where you find yourself lost in the pull of your passions. Part of the pull is a physiological benefit because time spent in flow serves as a reset for your nervous and immune system. And when those two have more time together, the entire body benefits.
Sometimes you find flow and other times flow finds you. There are many things that will fill our time, but making time for flow provides a larger canvas for our time to be well spent.
Pay attention to the places where there is a positive pull in your life. Spend time exploring your superpower and see what gets unlocked and upleveled. Taking time to stay and play in flow is one of the best ways we can take care to take good care.