The 5 Essential Ingredients for Experiencing Flow on a Daily Basis
Have you ever had an experience where you have just been so completely switched on, extremely motivated, determined and focused that you have completely lost track of time? How was that feeling? How was the success that you achieved? This is not an uncommon feeling or situation, and what you have most likely experienced is "flow", an intense feeling of being completely immersed by an experience.
Being in the flow is perhaps the epitome of being able to harness your energies, your focus and help you achieve peak performance. Your feelings are channeled in such a way that you lose track of everything else that is taking place around you. Perhaps you don't notice that the TV is on in the background, perhaps it's that you forget about the coffee you made an hour ago, or perhaps you end up completely missing an appointment. Although missing an appointment may not be the best of things, the experience of flow is such a positive feeling that is likely to help you in all facets of your life. Experiencing flow gives you a sense of joy, success and achievement in what it is that you are doing.
The question is, how do you maintain such a mental state? If we could experience flow on a daily basis, we would then be able to drive continual development, learning and peak performance on a more regular basis. This is something that I have tried to uncover recently by researching the state of flow and applying my learning to my daily life. Below are the 5 fundamental and key ingredients that I have come to learn and practice in my everyday life to help experience flow as often as possible.
1) Have a clearly defined goal
The foundation of being able to get into flow is having a clearly defined goal as to what it is that you are going to be doing and what you want to achieve. If you simply rock up to your desk and ponder what you may or may not do today then this won't facilitate a strong sense of focus or attention. Know what it is that you need to achieve and have that clearly defined in your head. Write down exactly what it is that you will achieve. Don't write broad statements such as "perform well in my meetings", make your goal clearly defined and specific such as "take the lead in my meeting by opening the conversation, articulating my ideas clearly and closing the meeting with all participants in the room in agreement". With clearly defined goals, you will be able to focus your attention and energies more directly and experience the feeling of flow.
2) Create a sense of purpose and meaning
Ensure that what it is you are doing is important to you. What is the "why" behind what it is that you are doing? What will this actually achieve for you in your life or your community? To be able to experience flow, what you are doing needs to be of importance to you. If what you are doing is not aligned to your values or not of importance to you, then your motivation and attention will simply drift away. Find what it is about the task that makes it important for you and you will naturally reinforce this, leading to an experience of heightened motivation, focus, attention and flow.
3) Have ownership over what you are doing and your decisions
To be able to experience flow, you need to have the power and control to make decisions in line with what it is that you are doing. If you need to rely on someone else to provide some information before you can act, or if there are outside influences beyond your control, it is going to be a tough ask for you to get into the flow. In saying that, groups or teams can get into flow by working collaboratively together, bouncing ideas around and taking action as a collective. The key is to ensure you have complete ownership over what it is that you are doing. You control your life and when you're experiencing flow you feel as though nothing can shift you from your high performance.
4) Know what you need to do
Knowing what it is that you need to do is fundamental for getting into flow. What I mean by this, is knowing how to approach the task in a way that will help you reach your goal. Knowing the path that you need to take to reach your goal can give you that clear sense of direction and confidence in what will translate into heightened awareness, focus and attention to the task at hand. Sometimes you may not have a clear path, but potentially you may know how to go about clarifying that path, such as conducting some research, speaking with people or reading a book. Whatever it is, if you know that what you are doing is on the path towards reaching your goal, you are more likely to experience flow.
5) Know that you can do what you need to do
Following on from the above, you need to believe in yourself, your skills and abilities in being able to perform the task that you are doing. Normally when entering a task, you may become discouraged or even give up when presented with a barrier or challenge. When you have a strong sense of belief in your capabilities, you can easily push through the boundaries and overcome the challenges as this belief is translated into heightened focus, attention and awareness, and therefore heightened cognitive ability for performing the task.
When you combine all of the elements above how do you feel? Having a clearly defined goal, having a sense of purpose and meaning behind the task, having ownership and control over your decisions and performance, being able to see the path that you need to take and knowing that you have the ability to be able to reach your goal, is definitely a sure-fire way of experiencing the feeling of flow on a daily basis!