When work makes you feel skillful and challenged, you’ll be happy, strong, creative, and satisfied. This is Flow.
Just like an athlete who achieves great things when they are ‘in the zone’, you can significantly boost your own performance by triggering the state of ‘Flow’. Flow is that state you’re in when you’re completely concentrated and absorbed in the use of your strengths and find yourself performing at your peak for a fixed period of time (anywhere from minutes to hours).
In his book “Flow”, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi outlines 7 properties of flow. Fortunately, each of these properties can be influenced to some degree, and that is what I do with my clients. I help people trigger flow, in themselves and others.
Your Flow Checklist
- Goal is clear– Flow happens more often in sports because a sport represents ‘a goal directed, rule based, action system’. Set yourself a short term dichotomous (you either achieve it or you don’t) goal that you can picture. This will draw together and focus your talents towards achieving the goal. The sense of challenge is motivating because aspiration releases energy.
- Feedback is inherent in the task– When it comes to performance, it is very important to know how you’re doing in real time. This allows you to course correct without having to ‘think’ about it. Try to design your work in such a way that it is instantly apparent if you are ‘on track’ or not.
- Challenge is stretch– Push yourself. Don’t try to do something you’re easily able to do. Some researchers argue that you should think you have a ‘50/50’ chance of meeting the challenge, as that will bring out the best in you. Don’t make it too easy, and don’t make it too hard.
- No fear or worry – or extraneous input of any kind! All that enters your awareness is pertinent to the challenge, no distractions of any sort. That doesn’t mean you have no negative feelings, it means you ‘rise above’ them when you are completely focused and concentrated on only those things that are relevant to the performance.
- You are absorbed in the exclusive use of your talents– You are only doing those things that are your strengths. The task is energizing, not draining. You actually feel your talent grow as you use it.
- Time has no meaning – This is by far the most commonly reported experience of flow. You look up at the clock and are shocked that hours have flown by. For some, time flies, for others it stands still, either way, you lose your sense of time.
- The task is autotelic – You love doing it just of the sake of doing it, the purpose is inherent in the activity.
Think of those things you love to do and are quite good at, and then think of ways to increase each property listed above and before you know it, you’ll find yourself experiencing flow more often. Remember, there is more in you.