The Flow State

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“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. 
A state of flow can be intertwined with pleasure. It is usually reached when the difficulty of a task is optimal: not too easy that the project is sluggish nor too challenging for it to be demotivating.  This was determined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who is renowned for his research in positive psychology regarding the flow state.  Follow this link here for his TedTalk.  
The flow state is where our focus and attention is completely unavailable to all but a single activity which isn’t seen as effort, but enjoyment.  One receives a high level of gratification during and from the experience.  For example, hours spent browsing the web, reading a good book, or staring at a blank wall with a textbook open that you’re meant to study. 
Flow uses an individuals’ maximum capacity for a task of maximum difficulty.  It is a form of intrinsic motivation.  You lose track of time, awareness, consciousness, and concentrate only on the present which feels highly rewarding. The flow state can be reached in a wide variety of contexts, including the work place.  Therefore, Csikszentmihalyi states that there are three conditions that should be met to achieve a flow state:
  1. A clear set of aims and objectives. 
  2. Progress can be determined immediately. 
  3. Confidence. 
Activities can be classed as high-flow or low-flow activities.  We tend to choose low-flow activities as more motivation and drive is required to begin a high-flow one.  Thus, explaining the phrase ‘A job begun is a job half done’ as starting is, more often than not, the hardest part. 
How to enter and elongate the flow state:
A clear set of aims and objectives is necessary because a defined goal acts as a driver.  Prior to commencing any task, write or objectify what it is you want to achieve upon completion.  This will provide direction, guidance, and control during the process.  If you know what it is you are working towards, you are more inclined to finish or deliver the activity.  Hence, strengthening that intrinsic motivation.
It is extremely satisfying to see hard work pay off.  Thus, immediate feedback from the task has been proven to elongate the state of flow: whether it be an essay, reading a book, painting, or learning new skills.  Over time, it is visually detectable that you have improved and have gotten from point A to B. Whatever the business at hand, don’t hesitate to take a break and evaluate your progress.  Constantly refer back to the aims and objectives to assess how far you’ve come within a specific time period or when you’re lacking flow. 
Lastly, confidence is vital.  The task is challenging enough to push the limits of your brain, without seeming impossible.  Mental strength will exacerbate and lengthen the state of flow.  That is why one should enjoy the journey and learning process.  Therefore, self talk and faith in your ability will act as fuel.  Refer to the article on how failure is success if you’re finding the third condition difficult to meet.  If, during the task, you’re hitting a wall, try to hit some of the easier aspects of the work to regain your confidence.  
In essence, the hardest part of a flow state is initiation, but once you start it’s nearly impossible to stop.  You’ll become addicted to the feeling like a constant adrenaline rush.

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2 comments

  1. Was not expecting this type of post. But I’m definitely glad I read it. Very insightful! Keep up the good work

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    1. Hi Kala! Thank you very much for reading it. :D I like to mix it up every now and then.

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