Originally Published January 25th, 2019
Have you ever been so absorbed in an activity that the world around you seems to fall away? You become so focused on the task that you get out of your own head, time seems to stop, your ego disappears.
You’re in the zone.
In psychology this state of mind is known as The Flow State.
According to positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the flow state is:
“A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” —Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
So how do you know you’re experiencing flow?
- FOCUS—utter & complete focus on a task #yodafocus
- TIME—seems to slow down or speed up
- GOALS—become crystal clear, with an immediate reward or feedback
- REWARDING—in a meaningful way—doing for the sake of doing
- TASKS—seem effortless
- BALANCE—the challenge is neither too difficult nor too easy
- LOSS OF EGO—you no longer exist—there is only action
How do you experience flow?
“Inducing flow is about the balance between the level of skill and the size of the challenge at hand.” —Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Flow can be achieved by playing sports, learning a difficult subject, or working on a creative project.
I experience flow when I am:
- Taking photos
- Lifting weights
- Doing Yoga
- Reading a good book
I have a friend Julie who experiences flow when she’s:
- Thinking about eating
- Looking at foods
- Wondering where she’s going to eat next
Other ways of experiencing flow:
- Putting a puzzle together
What are the benefits of engaging in flow?
Research suggests that flow temporarily slows down the prefrontal cortex—a process called transient hypofrontality.
The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain associated with memory, time regulation, self-consciousness, among other things.
Slowing down this part of the brain results in the distortion of reality—allowing us to fully focus our attention on completing a task.
It’s kind of like a super power.
Research also indicates that flow allows different parts of the brain to communicate more effectively—resulting in increased creativity!
Why pursue flow?
“People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.”
I can say from personal experience that I’m much happier when I’m pursuing activities in which I can enter the flow state.
I think being able to leave my thinking mind, escape my negative self talk, and focus fully on completing a task, not only helps me psychologically—it makes me a more competent photographer, writer, creator etc.
You don’t have to be an artist to experience flow.
“If you are interested in something, you will focus on it, and if you focus attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble of paying attention to them.” —
Find something that you’re passionate about and chase it. Become a runner, a singer, a chess player, a stand-up comedian—make it your life goal to master a craft. In the process, experience the joy of flow in your daily practice.
“A joyful life is an individual creation that cannot be copied from a recipe.”
Pursue a passion.
Master a craft.
Go with the flow gang.
For more information on flow check out