Flow is a state where you lose track of time and your surroundings. You are so caught up in what you are doing, your brain doesn’t process unrelated outside information.
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times…the best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the leading expert on flow, found that people who became really absorbed in what they were doing had higher levels of happiness. The more they got into flow, the happier they were.
Athletes call it being in “the zone”. That place where time stands still and you understand exactly what you need to do and how you need to do it. In your work, there are probably several tasks you seem uniquely suited to. Activities where you have been doing them long enough that you can focus and knock them out, but that always require you be at your top performance. You set aside time and start working. At some point, you are interrupted by a colleague about going to lunch. You look up and realize you have been focused for more than an hour and it seems like only minutes. You don’t remember anything else being in your life in the past hour but you and the task. You feel energized and happy at getting so much done. That is when you have achieved flow.
Flow is something we can control. We can work to find ways to achieve flow and as a result, we can find ways to be happier.
To find flow find adapt your tasks to include the following characteristics:
- Potential for Completion – you have a realistic chance of completing the task or that phase of the task.
- Concentration – you have or can create the silence or isolation in your environment so you can fully concentrate.
- Clear goals – you know exactly what you are going to accomplish and can clearly measure or see that accomplishment.
- Immediate Feedback – you know in the moment how you are doing and that you are accomplishing your task.
- Control – you feel you have a sense of control over your actions.
Finding Flow will help you be happier while the results of your work while you are in a state of Flow will help you be successful.