We all know what flow state is. I don’t think there’s a person on the planet who hasn’t experienced it. Those moments when you’re doing something and become completely focussed on it. To the point where you lose track of time, and even forget about your sense of self.
It’s the feeling of oneness with the task at hand. You might have experienced it doing your favourite hobby, in the workplace, or during a late night conversation with a favourite person. It is the feeling of immersion in the moment. With no awareness of the past or future.
I love the idea of flow for many reasons. In particular:
1. It speaks to our experience.
We’ve all been there. It’s not something that is exclusive to a select few lucky people. We recognise it when we hear it described.
2. It is subversive.
It goes against the grain of the prevalent message that we should be busy and constantly doing stuff. Flow is the antithesis of multitasking, yet it’s also far more productive and effective.
Enjoyment, Pleasure, and Flow
Flow breeds enjoyment rather than pleasure, which as I’ve written before, Csíkszentmihályi describes as the key to happiness.
Pleasure is the good feeling we get when we fulfil an “expectation set by biological programs or by social conditioning.” These are homeostatic experiences that keep us on an even keel with our appetite. Linked to things like food, sex, wealth gain etc. These drives, when left to their own devices, can be the root of addiction (the endless pursuit of more).
Enjoyment is linked to a sense of movement. It is about progressing with purpose, accomplishing something, longterm momentum towards some kind of goal. These are activities that require full absorption, skill, feedback and use of your signature strengths. You do them because they carry a deeper sense of worth/value to your life. Not because they provide you with an instant pleasure hit. In fact, often these kinds of activities require you to stretch yourself and experience elements of discomfort.
Flow Happens Anywhere and Everywhere
You can experience flow in any activity. From driving a car, going for a walk, to cleaning your teeth. And there are some great areas to which we can look, if we want to create building blocks to more flow experiences in our lives.
I unpack these in this week’s episode:
- Video Games
- Exercise and Sport
- Exams and Other Challenges
Entering flow is pretty simple, but it’s far from easy. There are so many things that get in the way. I look at these in more detail in the Extended Play Private Podcast. Where we think about how to transcend and even use these struggles as ways into flow state.
Towards the end of the main show I explore some simple techniques we can use to enter flow state. These are little prompts to help us re-focus and peel away the things that want to cloud and overcomplicate things.
- Get Clear
- Start Small
- Turn Off Distractions
- Get Comfy
- Still Your Spirit
- Get the Time Right
- Set Boundaries
- Enjoy the After-Flow
The Pomodoro Technique
In the show I talk about how helpful I’ve found the Pomodoro Technique for getting focussed in small chunks. I’ve been using a USB LED timer to help with this, after Luxafor sent me their ‘Flag’. It communicates to others as well as yourself, whether or not you’re busy (with 16 million different colours, you can train your mind to react accordingly).
There is also a bluetooth version, which you can place on your door to stop outside distractions entering your workspace. Perfect for telling people ‘I’m recording a podcast, keep quiet’. Learn more here.
Over to You
Can you think of a time when you’ve experienced flow state? What were you doing? And what are the biggest barriers to flow for you? I’d love to know what this looks like for you. Please leave your response in the comments below.
Listen to The Gentle Rebel (Extended Play) Private Podcast:
If you like this topic and want to hear more of my (more personal) thoughts and reflections, you can subscribe to the bonus podcast right now, through Patreon