Psychological Flow is the positive mental state of concentrating so completely on an activity or task that you become absorbed to the point of losing track of time and whatever else is occurring in your surroundings.
If you have ever found yourself completely immersed in an activity – for example, writing or painting, or something physical such as running or dancing – to the point that you have no feeling of time passing, you’ve experienced flow. Some individuals refer to this as being “in the zone.”
Being in this state can help us feel more energized and involved, and experience greater enjoyment in the activities we engage in.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was a psychologist and researcher who first recognized and named the concept of Flow. In an interview with Wired Magazine in 1996, he described it 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.”
For his research Csikszentmihalyi interviewed top performers from a variety of different paths – dancers, surgeons, mountain climbers and more. All of these individuals exceled in careers that they found challenging and fulfilling.
There are some common criteria to achieving a flow state. The task should be something important to you and that you are already good at. It’s important that it is challenging but not too challenging. It should be something that requires present-moment attention. Think of a surfer waiting for an amazing wave to catch – and the beautiful experience he has when it comes along. It’s the pleasure one feels when you are in the moment doing something that you love.
The feelings generated by being in a flow state are not only positive but also long-lasting contributing to an overall sense of thriving in our lives.
Channeling our skill, energy and desire into those activities we enjoy in our daily lives – running, riding a bike, skiing, horseback riding, an intense tennis game or game of chess – we can begin to achieve a state of flow more often.
When we can bring ourselves to achieve this state more often, we can achieve a life rich in joy and satisfaction.