Finding your flow – what it really means
Typically, when we think about finding flow, our mind conjures up images of people achieving flow state. We imagine rock climbers, elite athletes, and fist-pumping CEOs achieving peak performance. But flow runs much deeper than optimal performance.
When we’re in flow we feel fully ourselves. In this optimal state of consciousness, our sense of self disappears, time distorts as action and awareness merge. These flow state experiences provide a momentary glimpse of how it feels to be whole, get out of our own way and express ourselves fully. And as we become fully human, we access almost super-human capabilities (for example when we’re in flow our productivity increases by 500%, skill acquisition increases by 490% and we have a heightened sense of creativity).
Yet, flow isn’t a one size fits all, cookie cutter approach. While our collective experience of flow shares similar characteristics, flow unique to each of us.
In short, flow is where we become fully ourselves and realise our full potential. You can read more about what flow is here.
And if you’re feeling lost, stuck, disconnected from who you are – finding your flow offers a scientific guide to becoming more of who you are, and less of who you should be.
How do I find flow? Simple, Evidence Based Tips
A flow experience won’t appear on demand. Rather, achieving flow state will require cultivating the curiosity and awareness to spot this elusive state. At the same time we can use the flow theory to increase the likelihood of flow occurring by practically applying it to daily life. (This is a great overview of flow theory).
Let’s look at three instantly actionable ways to find your flow.
#1 Where are flow experiences already occurring?
One of the easiest ways of finding flow is to notice where it already shows up for you. Take a few moments to think about where and when you have flow experiences.
Useful questions to ask include: In what types of activities do you lose track of time? When does your self-consciousness disappear? What are you doing when you feel in the zone/ totally absorbed in the task?
It can be helpful to track these trends noticing where you are, what are you doing, and who you are with.
#2 Achieving Flow State (Fast)
Flow activities can provide a really simple way to achieving flow state. Flow activities, like sports or games, lend themselves to flow as they already have the core conditions necessary for flow weaved into them. Achieving flow state and finding flow can be found by breaking out the board games, learning a new dance, working out, or playing a game of football. You’ll access in a flow state of mind with ease.
#3 Access Unified Flow
Unified Flow is the second type of flow experience that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced cheek-sent-me- high) referenced in his work. Unified flow is where we turn life into a complete flow experience. And occurs when we have a clear personally compelling goal, one that is achievable but will stretch our abilities.
As Csikszentmihalyi writes in his work “If a person sets out to achieve a difficult enough goal, from which all other goals logically follow, and if he or she invests all energy in developing skills to reach that goal then actions and feelings will be in harmony and the separate parts of life will fit together – and each activity will “make sense” in the present as well as in the view of the past and of the future. In such a way, it is possible to give meaning to one’s entire life”. Having a goal hierarchy helps order our consciousness, diminish distractions and move us into alignment through consistent action.
For unified flow, I suggest not overcomplicating the process – think of a large personally compelling goal, then reach day write down one small goal that logically aligns. You’ll soon be finding flow on a more daily basis.
If you’d like a daily practice to structure flow into your day my book Find Your Flow outlines a practical journal system for flow using high flow priorities.
It’s hard not to be seduced by the ease, meaning, happiness, peak performance, and connection to the present moment finding flow offers. But set against the backdrop of rising burnout and dropping fulfilment levels – flow can feel like an unattainable ideal not worth flirting with. But for those willing to put in the effort, flow is an ideal partner worth pursuing. And simple, consistent steps coupled with awareness will tease out your flow & your full self with greater ease.
What was your key takeaway? Do you have any tips on how to experience flow? Or on how to have flow in your life.
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