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A game of chess is a good example of when a flow state might occur. For the duration of a competition, the player has very specific goals and responses, allowing attention to be focused entirely on the game during the period of play.
If you are trying to achieve a state of flow, it can help if:
You have a specific goal and plan of action
It is an activity that you enjoy or are passionate about
There is an element of challenge
You are able to stretch your current skill level
“Flow also happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable, so it acts as a magnet for learning new skills and increasing challenges,” Csíkszentmihályi explains. “If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can return to the flow state by learning new skills.”
Applications and Examples of Flow
While flow experiences can happen as part of everyday life, there are also important practical applications in various areas including education, sports, and the workplace.
Examples of Flow in Education: Csíkszentmihályi has suggested that overlearning a skill or concept can help people experience flow. Another critical concept in his theory is the idea of slightly extending oneself beyond one’s current ability level. This slight stretching of one’s current skills can help the individual experience flow.
Examples of Flow in Sports: Just like in educational settings, engaging in a challenging athletic activity that is doable but presents a slight stretching of one’s abilities is a good way to achieve flow. Sometimes described by being “in the zone,” reaching this state of flow allows an athlete to experience a loss of self-consciousness and a sense of complete mastery of the performance.
Examples of Flow in the Workplace: Flow can also occur when workers are engaged in tasks where they are able to focus entirely on the project at hand. For example, a writer might experience this while working on a novel or a graphic designer might achieve flow while working on a website illustration.