Practice Makes A Perfect Flow State

It’s only after you reach a state of competence that you’ll be able to achieve a flow state. How do we get good at getting into this optimal zone?

  • Learn how others do it
  • Try it yourself
  • Analyze your performance
  • Try again, based on what you’ve learned
  • Repeat

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The Flow State

Flow is characterized by complete concentration in the activity at hand, resulting in a loss in one’s sense of space and time. It’s a state of both high challenge and high skill—a place where we’re capable of stretching ourselves to overcome difficulty.
Anyone is capable of inducing such a state of deep productivity and creativity.

  1. Intense concentration on the task at hand.
  2. A merging of action and awareness - “being and doing become one”.
  3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness.
  4. A sense of personal control over the situation.
  5. A distortion of the perception of time.
  6. Autotelic experience: the activity itself is intrinsically rewarding, rather than the expected outcome.
  • It’s not easyFlow is not just a state where we love the work so much it just pours out. Flow is a state where hard work meets joy and meaning. 
  • It’s not for beginners. The act of learning how to do something won’t always allow us to get into the flow. Getting into the zone in a specific discipline is something that needs to be learned and practiced.

It's almost impossible to get into the flow state if you're doing something you don't like. Look for experiences that are inherently enjoyable, meaningful, or satisfying.

Even in our dream job, we might have to do repetitive or unpleasant work. But, if you generally find it difficult to find flow in your work throughout the day, question whether your tasks are challenging or complex enough.

Distraction is the enemy of flow. 

If you can, sit somewhere quiet. If you’re in an office, try using noise-canceling headphones.

Music or ambient sounds can be really helpful; preferably calm, repetitive, atmospheric sounds so your brain doesn’t focus on melody or words.

Your ability to achieve a lasting flow state hinges upon your energy and health.

The four types of rest necessary for creative flow are:

  • Mental rest - Meditation, reading fiction and things unrelated to your work.
  • Social rest - Using social connectedness to relax.
  • Spiritual rest -  Going to a place of worship, or just taking time to think about the big questions in life.
  • Physical rest - Getting horizontal or taking a bath. Exercising can count as rest if you normally sit down all day.

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RELATED IDEAS

Steven Kotler
Steve Jobs artificially created the environmental conditions that massively upped the amount of novelty, unpredictability, and complexity in the environment because people across departments and disciplines started running into each other and having conversations. As a result, flow, innovation, and creativity went up.

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IDEAS

What Flow is

Flow is an optimal state of consciousness, when you feel and perform your best. It’s the moment of total absorption.

Time speeds up or slows down like a freeze-frame effect. Mental and physical ability go through the roof, and the brain takes in more information per second, processing it more deeply.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
“I developed a theory of optimal experience based on the concept of flow—the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it”

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