You’ve probably been “in the zone” before. It’s when you are so focused and concentrated on something that excites you where your performance is optimized. This surfer is completely immersed on riding that wave. He is completely balanced under the extreme conditions of the water and in the moment so he doesn’t wipe out. That is being in the flow mental state.
Whenever you want to take on a task or objective with great efficiency, whether it be at your work, sports or even gaming and picking up girls, getting into the flow should be your goal to get optimal results. Psychologist, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, coined the term and gave a TED talk on this. He asked “What makes life worth living?” He says that happiness can come from doing activities that give us pleasure and get us into the “flow.”
The challenges and the skills used for the activity have to be high enough to get into the flow state. This produces the greatest results in the most efficient way possible and gives you pleasure doing so. Too much challenge without the high skills available, will produce anxiety. Not enough challenge and lack of skills required, will create apathy.
There are also 2 states that are borderline flow that are good as well. Being in an aroused state where the challenges are high, but you’re skills haven’t reached that point yet, can push you beyond your comfort zone and cause you too grow. Being in control is also good because you are still being moderately challenged, but you have the skills necessary to get the results without being bored. Check out the chart on the mental states achieved from the relationship between challenge and skill.
It’s pretty clear that many of the great artists or achievers have accomplished great success by tapping into that flow state. Most of them have stated a feeling of timelessness and complete lack of concern of anything else except the task at hand. They have no ego and have a sense of being outside of reality. Here are the rest of 7 secret ingredients, as talked by Mihaly, to achieve the flow state.
7 Secret Ingredients For Flow
- Completely involved in what we are doing – focused, concentrated
- A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality
- Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing
- Knowing that the activity is doable – that our skills are adequate to the task
- 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, hours seem to pass by in minutes
- Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes its own reward
You have a basic understanding of what flow is now and the effects of being in it. If you found the TED talk interesting and would like to know more about flow, you can check out Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. He goes into greater detail on principles and foundations of flow to give you a deeper understanding of achieving the flow state. Once you know the psychology behind it, you can start implementing the processes and setting up the environment to get the best results and be happier with your experiences.