“Spend more time doing things that make you forget about the time.” ― Charlotte Eriksson
Ever been so absorbed in a particular task that you didn’t notice the phone ringing, the emails piling up or the dog whining for dinner? Or been so immersed in reading a great book that, despite being ravenous, you totally forgot to eat for 8 hours?
What activities suck you into this state of complete involvement and concentration that you lose contact with space and time?
The Concept of Flow
Flow was discovered by a Hungarian psychologist with an unpronounceable name who studied creative processes - artists, musicians and so on! He observed flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).
Feel the flow
Being in flow creates a series of positive reactions in our body and mind. We feel in an alternative reality, a reality where we are expressing our true colours.
When we are in flow, our body and mind perceive different sensations, carried from an external force, in a sort of creative Nirvana. Csikszentmihalyi (2004) describes how does it feel to be in flow:
Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.
Knowing that the activity is doable – that skills are adequate to the task.
Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.
Completely involved in what we are doing – focused, concentrated.
A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality.
A sense of serenity – no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego.
Timelessness – thoroughly focused on the present, our sin to pass by in minutes.
The best explanation is simply that by concentrating on a single task, all of our ‘bandwidth’ is used in the process and the external world disappears as it cannot be perceived.
Imagine booting up your laptop for the sole use of a single programme! Let’s say a single excel spreadsheet…. Boy would it work effectively. And in a nutshell that’s why flow is so important to our health and well-being.
Benefits of Flow
The evidence based benefits of flow are:
Improved performance: flow can increase performance in a great range of activity, including artistic creativity, learning process and athletic performance.
Skill development: due to the gratification achieved while on flow, new challenges are sought in order to maintain this state, resulting in increased quality of the original skills
Increased engagement: the individual on flow will be completely focused on the project and its achievement
Builds Inner Strength: flow lacks a fear of failure. Because flow is so effortless it feels like we gave up control to some kind of higher power, as if an external force is guiding us
How to find flow
We all feel happier when we are able to express what we truly are and do what we love. Being in flow allows us the let our true self free, connected with every element of our work, capable of realising any outcome we want to achieve. Mindfulness and awareness are important elements of success, and directly involved in the ability to reach a state of flow.
Try to find your flow, by taking these steps:
Have a specific goal and plans of action
Find an activity you are passionate about and enjoy doing
Face your challenge; Stretch your current skill level
a sense that one is engaging challenges at a level appropriate to one’s capacities, i.e. it's not overwhelming, it's DOABLE
Create milestones and a regular feedback mechanism
Be aware of yourself and your skills but Lose yourself into action
Focus your creativity energy. Unleash your passion. Let it come, let it go, let it flow.
I’d love to hear your own stories about the benefits of finding flow