How Does It Feel to Be in the Flow?

Thousands of people from every wake of like were interviewed by Dr. Csikszentmihalyi and his team in order to identify the key components of the flow state. These seven points summarise how those interviewed responded that they felt when in the flow state:

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You’re completely involved in what you’re doing: you’re completely focused and concentrated.

There’s a sense of ecstasy–of being outside of everyday reality.

There’s a great inner clarity: you know what needs to be done and you get immediate feedback on how well you’re doing.

You know that the activity is doable, that you have the necessary skills to complete the task successfully.

You lose your sense of self and all of your worries and concerns drift away.

You lose track of time and you’re completely focused on the present moment.

There’s an intrinsic motivation—whatever produces flow becomes it’s own reward.

Interestingly enough, the idea of flow came into being as result of research on happiness. Researchers began asking themselves: “What makes us happy?” and “When are we most happy”? As a result of this research psychologists realised that being able to enter the flow state–which is a very enjoyable experience–is a key component of happiness.

How to Achieve the Flow State
From everything stated above it can be seen that in order to achieve the flow state you need to do the following:

Find a challenge. Choose something that you enjoy doing. It can be anything, whether it’s playing the piano, working on your novel, skiing, horseback riding, playing golf, and so on.

Develop your skills in order to be able to meet the challenge. Remember that if something is too easy you’ll be bored–and your mind is likely to wander so you won’t achieve the flow state–, and if something is too hard you’ll be overwhelmed and you won’t be able to achieve that subconscious competence that is necessary for the flow state.

Set clear goals. You want to be very clear on what you want to achieve and how you’ll know whether you’re succeeding. Here’s an example: “I’m going to write a blog post on how to achieve the flow state. I’ll know that I’m succeeding if I can clearly set forth what the flow state is, what it’s major components are, why it’s beneficial, and how to achieve it.”

Focus completely on the task at hand. Eliminate all other distractions. You don’t want anything to take your attention away from the task that you’re performing; if your concentration is broken you’re going to exit the state of flow.

Make sure that you’ve set aside sufficient time. It’s very likely that it’s going to take you at least fifteen minutes to start to get into the flow state, and a while longer after that until you’re fully immersed. Once you enter the flow state you want to make sure that you make the most of it, instead of having to stop prematurely because you have to go do something else.

Monitor your emotional state. If you meet all of the requirements above, but you’re having trouble entering the flow state, monitor your emotional state. If you’re in an aroused state–angry, anxious, worried, and so on–, try doing something that will calm you down. Do you feel that your energy level is low and you’re feeling sluggish? Do something to pick up your energy levels, whether it’s doing jumping jacks, having a healthy snack, reading something motivational, or calling a friend who makes you laugh.