What am I?
I am the experience people have when they are completely immersed in an activity for its own sake, stretching body and mind to the limit, in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. I am the key differentiator between those who are “good” at what they do, and those who are recognised and celebrated as “great” at what they do.
I am the place where your attention, motivation, skill set, and the challenge before you collide. An experience often characterised by words like “rapture,” “timeless,” and “single-pointed-focus.”
I am the joyous, productive harmony, where you become your best, your most innovative, productive, and brilliant.
I am Flow, a state of peak performance first proposed by one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of positive psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
The good news is we have all experienced this and can recreate this experience by knowing what characterises it.
According to Csikszentmihalyi, there are three components that are necessary to generate a ‘flow state.’
- One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals. This adds direction and structure to the task.
- One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and his or her own perceived skills. One must have confidence that he or she is capable of doing the task at hand.
- The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows him or her to adjust his or her performance to maintain the flow state.
As can be seen in this graphic, flow state occurs when you have the courage to embrace a higher than average challenge, while, at the same time, stretching your skills to meet that challenge.
High challenge, but it requires low skill? Flow is blocked and the experience instead is one of anxiety or worry.
High skill, but not a challenge? Flow is blocked and instead the experience is one of boredom.
The Four Elements to Creating Flow
While a flow state can never be forced, you can intentionally set yourself up to create a state of flow by incorporating four key elements:
- Intrinsic Motivation. Take on a goal or challenge that you are intrinsically-motivated to achieve. This is different than a goal that motivates you because of an external reward (like money) or recognition (like an award).
- Uni-task. Choose to create a single-pointed focus during the times you are working on that goal or challenge (no email, no phone, no multi-tasking).
- Stretch. Select a goal or challenge that makes you stretch. You know what that is – it’s the thing that keeps knocking on the back of your mind and it has the power to both excite and scare you at the same time.
- Build skills. Is there is a system you need to implement, a mind-set you need to adjust, or a skill you need to build? Do it. Then get to work.
Where are you experiencing flow in your work? What’s keeping you from having more flow experiences? Is it time to change something so you get to enjoy more flow?
I have found these monthly Blogs to be excellent experiences to entrain to flow, and remind me of the value and ease of working in this state and the other times I don’t quite get there, and find myself trying to force the creativity J … you got it, that never works!!
HACKABLE FLOW TRIGGERS
Insights from Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Flow is an optimal state mind between boredom and anxiety where you perform your best and feel your best. Flow is the experience of being so engaged in a task that you lose track of time.
4 Flow Factors
Conditions that lead to more flow at work
“Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.” ‐ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Chart of Flow Factors sourced from ProductivityGame.com