Flow State: What It Is

Imagine the moment before running a race. Deep breaths behind the starting line keep your pounding heart at bay, and every second seems to be an eternity; yet, as soon as the starting gun sounds and your feet hit the track, every thought slides from your mind.

You are focused and sure, challenging yourself to achieve something you know is right within your reach. Before you know it, time has flown past, the race is over, and though your chest is heaving, you barely notice that you are tired.

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According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, what you experience in that moment is known as flow state, defined as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” Csíkszentmihályi, who popularised the term in his 1990 book, the mental state of flow involves

“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.”

The ten factors that can accompany this state of flow are:

1. Having clear goals about what you want to achieve
2. Concentration and focus
3. Participating in an intrinsically rewarding activity
4. Losing feelings of self-consciousness
5. Timelessness; losing track of time passing
6. Being able to immediately judge your own progress; instant feedback on your performance
7. Knowing that your skills align with the goals of the task
8. Feeling control over the situation and the outcome
9. Lack of awareness of physical needs
10. Complete focus on the activity itself