Last year, I’d often feel like it was a simple coin-toss between running on all cylinders during work or slightly coasting along on one. Work always got done, but it wasn’t until I discovered the flow state that I was able to make the changes to my mindset that have easily doubled my productivity and results.
The flow state is a psychological phenomenon that describes a person entering a mental state of full immersion and involvement in the process of an action or activity.
This isn’t some sci-fi or fantasy mumbo jumbo, being in the zone is a regularly observed occurrence in the study of positive psychology.
That’s right, humans have the capability to hyperfocus and become temporarily godlike at ANY skill and nobody ever told you how.
Again with the exaggeration Shcteve — come on.
Though we aren’t talking supernatural abilities here, while in the flow state, we do experience maximized enjoyment in the moment and the most powerful surges of creativity and talent.
Masters of their craft have mastery over entering flow. Though, for someone just being introduced to the concept, it will take time and complete focus to even recognize that they are capable of entering this unique state of mind and have been all along.
I’m not really that special, can I really enter the flow state?
Firstly, you are special.
Secondly, to help you understand in a real world context here is an example of what the flow state can look like.
When trying to portray the flow state, I often start by picturing someone attentively playing video games. As any fan of gaming would probably know, during the moments that require precise commands and extreme focus you sometimes enter a state of mind that feels a lot like an adrenaline rush.
You quickly become completely engaged in the process of inputting commands and smashing those buttons.
Though this may not be indicative of flow in the case of a 12-year-old trolling on Call of Duty, professional eSports players seemingly slow down time as they reach peak levels of performance.
While this is the extreme of flow states, being in the zone isn’t limited to pro gamers and extremely talented athletes. All humans are capable of achieving this state of mind and scientists have been gradually building up more data showing exactly how we manage to get there.
The Flow Genome Project
The researcher who originally studied the flow state, Dr. Mihaly Chentmihalyi, did tons of research regarding the disconnection between wealth and overall happiness. He studied the level of happiness found in people with middle-class incomes to that of people who had working-class incomes. The discovery he made was quite interesting, as a matter of fact.
Chentmihalyi discovered that one thing far exceeded factors like wealth, luxuries, and personal possessions when it came to determining overall happiness — how frequently the person was engaged in the flow state.
The Flow Genome Project was established by co-founders Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal. This awesome organization is basically a massive team-up of athletes, academic researchers, entrepreneurs, and specialists. They have all come together with one goal in mind, mapping the flow genome by 2020, massively expanding the current understanding of neurophysiology and maximizing human performance.
Okay, that is awesome, but how can a normal person like me enter the flow state?
I’ve found success using a combination of the quick tips listed below. It takes real patience and practice, but once you begin to understand the feeling of entering flow the steps become semi-automatic. I haven’t yet mastered this, but I have basically become dependent on this skill, especially at times when I need to pump out high-quality work, fast.
Step 1 – Meditation
Before starting an activity, set your mind at ease. Though we may imagine meditation looking a lot like this super weird picture I just found on Google —
meditation can be as simple as a few deep breaths and silent moments reserved to yourself. Engage your mind entirely in the moment and allow yourself to grow calm.
Step 2 – Live in the moment
And no, I don’t mean just say YOLO.
To this method, living in the moment simply means taking awareness of your senses and not acknowledging your past or future state. Focus everything into the present.
Step 3 – Take it easy
This is the part where I tend to fall off the most often. As you prepare to enter flow, you must make slow and planned movements to ease yourself into the ideal state of focus. I’ve found it particularly helpful to treat this part as a meditative action while still maintaining my deep focus.
Step 4 – Go with the flow
During this phase you just keep the wheels moving. Remain aware of the activity you are participating in, tuning out the mindless chatter in your head. This requires complete absorption into the process.
If you don’t falter in remaining alert, you will come to notice that the assignment you are working on, painting you are creating, or in my case — article you are writing, has come to life.
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Categories: How-to Reinvent Yourself