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“There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other; you get immediate feedback,” Csikszentmihalyi said in his February 2004 TED talk. “You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears, you forget yourself, you feel part of something larger. And once the conditions are present, what you are doing becomes worth doing for its own sake.”
Some people also call this period of hyperfocus ‘being in the zone’. Whether you call it ‘flow’ or ‘the zone’, it’s not just a state of mind. It’s accompanied by physiological changes, too. In a 2010 Swedish study on classical pianists, the musicians who entered flow exhibited deepened breathing and slowed heart rates. Even the facial muscles that enable us to smile were activated.
You can be hyperproctive in flow, but don’t forget that completing a big project involves a lot more than the ecstatic periods of flow
The benefits of being in the zone stretch beyond the experience itself. Flow is associated with subjective well-being, satisfaction with life and general happiness. At work, it’s linked to productivity, motivation and company loyalty.
Some people may be naturally prone to flow – especially those who score high on personality tests for conscientiousness and openness to experience, and low on measures of neuroticism. But if you don’t experience flow every day, can you find a way to trigger it?