Find your Flow

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Flow, another essential technique explained by positive psychology, is directly aligned with our intrinsic motivators. When in a state of flow, we are in fact, in a motivated state.

In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

The experience of flow is universal and has been reported to occur across all classes, genders, ages, and cultures, and it can be experienced during many types of activities.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, considered one of the co-founders of positive psychology, was the first to identify and research flow.

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Csikszentmihalyi became a happiness researcher because of the adversity he faced growing up. He was a prisoner during World War II, and he witnessed the pain and suffering of the people around him during this time. As a result, he developed a curiosity about happiness and contentment.

Csikszentmihalyi observed that many people could not live a life of contentment after their jobs, homes, and security were lost during the war.

Csikszentmihalyi’s studies concluded that happiness is an internal state of being, not an external one. His famous 1990 book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience is based on the premise that happiness levels can be shifted by introducing flow.

In Csikszentmihalyi’s words, flow is “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it” (1990).

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Here is a video we think you’ll find interesting: https://youtu.be/8h6IMYRoCZw

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Benefits of flow 

Research has hypothesised that the flow state is related to the brain’s dopamine reward circuitry since curiosity is highly amplified during flow (Gruber, Gelman, & Ranganath, 2014). 

Flow offers you as an individual:

  • Being in the present moment enables you to not worry about problems; you focus on the activity that allows you to be in ‘flow’. There is no stress, no regrets, no worry
  • savouring and making things last
  • giving the gift of time – time becomes longer, you achieve more
  • flow enables you to do what you love and what you are good at and will allow you to keep getting better at it, this can create a sense of ecstasy, the release of feel-good hormones in your body

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Characteristics of flow 

Csikszentmihalyi describes eight characteristics of flow:

  • Complete concentration on the task;
  • Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback;
  • Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down);
  • The experience is intrinsically rewarding;
  • Effortlessness and ease;
  • There is a balance between challenge and skills;
  • Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination;
  • There is a feeling of control over the task.

“Inducing flow is about the balance between the level of skill and the size of the challenge at hand”.

(Nakamura et al., 2009).

The experience of flow in everyday life is an essential component of creativity and well-being. It can be described as a key aspect of eudaimonia, or self-actualisation, in an individual.

The state of flow occurs under optimal conditions. Individuals who achieve a flow state more regularly tend to pay closer attention to the details of their environment, seek out opportunities for action, set goals, monitor progress using feedback and set bigger challenges for themselves – Csikszentmihalyi (1990).

According to Kotler, flow can only arise when all of our attention is focused on the present moment. To focus our attention on the present, we may need complete exercises to help trigger a flow state by guiding our attention to the here and now.

Interestingly, the capacity to experience flow can differ from person to person. Studies suggest that those who are living out their purpose tend to experience more flow. In psychological terms, they categorise this personality type as autotelic personalities. Such people tend to do things for their own sake rather than chasing some distant external goal. This personality type is distinguished by certain meta-skills such as high interest in life, persistence, and low self-centeredness.

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This article has a really nice overview of some key inputs that can help you build a state of flow: https://medium.com/personal-growth-lab/how-to-reach-flow-state-using-10-flow-state-triggers-473aa28dc3e5

What we find interesting about the state of flow is that it is about finding the balance between your abilities but stretching you within your capabilities. Our experience with the flow has brought us to understand that flow is about inducing a state where you are using your preferred thinking style, your natural talents and continuing to develop your skills and experience whilst doing or using them. 

How you find your flow, we believe, will depend on you discovering and doing, what you love to do and what you’re good at and continuing to stretch yourself within this, continuing to learn and grow.

Challenge yourself to continue growing in the space you love.

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There are some key tips and tricks that help induce a state of flow:

  • Focus – focus on one thing at a time, one project, one task. 
  • Remove all distractions, that means no emails, no social media, no phone calls, any interruptions will take you out of your state of flow.
  • Ensure your basic needs are met; make sure you are hydrated, fed etc, will ensure you are able to go into a state of flow

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This week your focus is to finish the Miro Board Activity and reflect on this experience in your Motivators Journal.