When was the last time you were in the middle of something and time seemed to slip away?
Actually, time didn’t slip away – it became irrelevant.
Everything became irrelevant.
The only thing that mattered was what you were doing right then and there.
Welcome to going with the Flow.
That feeling of time becoming meaningless, being completely absorbed in an activity or it feeling effortless is what can happen when you know how to go with the Flow.
Painters or musicians may often speak about “being one with the piece“, athletes talk about “being in the zone” or writers describe “the words writing themselves“.
Whatever the description, they’re all explaining a sensation of complete, unadulterated focus, energy and timelessness that comes with Flow.
Now, I need to be honest here. Originally this post was going to focus on the history and concept of Flow, but after spending a weekend away with friends I was struck by something:
A lot of people don’t find the time, or the activity, that allows them to enter a state of Flow.
I had assumed most people not only knew what activities helped them move into Flow, but also did it quite regularly and experienced that amazing feeling of freedom you get with Flow. Turns out this isn’t always the case.
So, moving away from the history of Flow and its father, Mihali Csikszentmihalyi, let’s focus on you, our upgraded community.
We’re going to focus on two questions to help you identify where and how you can get into the zone and experience Flow:
What do you do to get into Flow?
How can you help yourself get into Flow?
First things first, let’s find those activities you do that are more likely to help you switch into Flow.
I’m going to use a couple of examples from my experience to try and describe what it may feel like…without getting unnecessarily wordy or over the top (which my
wife editor-in-chief would appreciate).
There are certain times when the world around me literally fades away, noises and people disappear and this crystal clear silence fills my head.
Almost like I’m in a huge cave all alone with the ability to hear my ideas and voice perfectly.
Need a clearer example? Stand in a room with a vacuum cleaner and turn it on to its highest setting. Leave it on and start to do a simple activity: drawing, reading, talking or cleaning up.
After five minutes, get up, turn the vacuum off and move back into your simple activity…suddenly everything is easier to do, you are relaxed, breathing slower and don’t need to work as hard as you were before.
Thinking, doing and creating becomes effortless because your conscious energy and focus isn’t diverted to unnecessary things (like the TV that’s on in the background or worrying about wearing the right clothes in case someone from work sees you).
You become completely involved in the moment that is surrounding you.
Nothing else matters.
When we look around at the number of self-help books, motivation accounts on Instagram, or all of those #inspiration tweets or posts out there one thing is clear to see:
We’re desperately searching for ways to switch off from the unnecessary things and find happiness.
Martin Seligman, the founder of the field of positive psychology, talks passionately about Flow being part of the secret to living a happy and fulfilled life.
Yep, Flow can be that powerful.
For me I get into this unselfconscious, focused and clear state with a few activities – drawing, writing, shooting hoops, presenting, reading or going on long, slow jogs.
So let’s focus on you, what is something you look forward to doing? Consider a range of activities…walking, baking, weight lifting, gardening, drumming, dancing, knitting, bike riding, spreadsheeting, swimming, hair dressing or Pokémon Go…ing.
There’s a couple of steps you can take to help you reach those almost endless moments of Flow.
Find one thing you enjoy doing that is a little challenging and you want to be engaged in. The kind of thing your five year old self would high five you for doing, but also requires you to exert yourself a little bit.
The activity you choose is like a Goldilocks situation, if you have to exert yourself too much or you don’t have the required skill set yet it will make you too hot.
Too cold and you are cruising through the motions without thinking or really challenging yourself. You’ve got to find that just right, sweet spot of challenge, ease and enjoyment (which is why we suggested only searching for one activity to begin with).
Make time for this activity. If it’s that important to you, you’ll want to be able to do it and will block out time for it…otherwise that activity isn’t going to help you go with the flow.
Know why you are doing the activity. You need to know what you are going to get out of the activity…otherwise, why else would you do it? Whenever I’m walking down to my local basketball court I’ll often decide if it’s a shooting or dribbling day, as well as whether or not it is a ‘Work-On-My-Weak-Hand-Day‘.
Limit distractions and give yourself the best chance to get into the moment. Things that could distract you while you are getting into the activity will stop you from ever fully engaging in it. That’s the equivalent of walking off the field before the game begins…you’ve got no chance of winning.
Think of it like going to bed- you wouldn’t invite friends over, start blasting loud music and turn on the lights as you are trying to hit the pillow for a good night’s sleep, right?
What is it that helps you get into Flow?
How would you describe that sensation of Flow?!
Comment, post and share your experiences of Flow…we’re all ears and waiting with baited breath!
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Scott Barry Kaufman – The Creative ‘Flow’: How to Enter That Mysterious State of Oneness
The Pursuit of Happiness Inc.- Mihayli Csikszentmihalyi
Mihayli Csikszentmihalyi – Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – Flow, the Secret to Happiness (2004 TEDtalk)
Stephen Kotler – What Flow Can Teach Us About Limitless Performance (13 minutes)
Stephen Kotler – Decoding Flow (45 minutes…get a snack)