The term “flow” as conceptualized by Csikszentmihalyi (1975) describes the optimal experiences that are most enjoyable in human life while fully engaging in an activity.
Intense focus that also brings great joy.
A bit more than what many have been calling it:
a specific mental state that allows us to focus intensely on a single task or subject matter.
Similar, but not the same.
The “flow” state is when we are the most productive in getting something done while at the same time completely blocking out all distracting thoughts and our surroundings.
Many people struggle to get into the “flow”, and a few are able to do it quickly and with ease.
Common examples of this “flow” state in sports include being “one with the wave” in surfing or being fully connected to the water and wind while sailing. A better way to describe it is the moment when you have lost track of time and have been completely immersed in the activity without distraction.
This level of focus also happens to musicians in a band or orchestra when they become “one with the music”. And, for many people, it occurs when they’re fully engaged in a discussion and they lose all track of time.
Why would you want to access this incredible mental state? Because the results are the most optimal you could ever hope for and the feeling of satisfaction you get is tremendous. It’s not an understatement to say that your heart will be filled, your mind will be at peace, and whatever it is you’re working on will be on par with your best work.
How to Access This Flow State
Athletes and high performers in business and music and other fields are often able to get into this laser focus mental state because they have practiced the pre-flow routine. It is a combination of physical and mental movements and thoughts that they use so often it becomes easy to “trigger” into happening when they need it.
First, you must understand that this mental state requires you to be 100% focused on what you’re doing.
Second, you must build up the importance of what you’re going to do in your mind. Meditation will help you to improve your focus abilities.
Third, you can change the way you feel about the activity you will be doing so that it becomes a pleasurable activity. Coincide this with the improved focus and you’re close to experiencing the “flow” state.
The Routine That Sets You Up For Success
The following is a basic framework you can use to as a pre-flow routine. As you get comfortable using it and you experience success with it, you’ll find that the more you practice it the easier it will be for you to get in the “flow”, just like athletes and high performers are able to.
Take time to review why this activity you’re about to undertake is important to you. Get in touch with that feeling of need and urgency.
Begin taking deep breaths as you get in touch with the feeling. You’re tapping into that energy, that urgency, that enthusiasm.
Be in the moment. Ignore all distractions and think only about the task in front of you and the feeling you’re tapping into.