I’m sure you’ve heard the sayings of being in “the zone” or “in the flow” or “in the groove.” Intuitively we know what it means. We’ve all been there, even if only briefly. We experienced it way back in childhood as we jumped rope in a rhythmic beat or clapped our hands in unison as we sang a song in class. Human beings from a very young age have the innate ability to get in the “flow” of life.
In 2009 Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi wrote a whole book on the subject. The title of the book was simply “Flow.” He described the flow state this way.
“Flow is an optimal state of consciousness, a peak state where we feel and perform our best. We become so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. You’re whole being is involved and you’re using your skills to the upmost. “
Do you know what your flow state is or what it feels like? How often would you say you’re in a flow state? Multiple times a day? Once a day? A few times a week? Rarely?
If being in the flow state means we are at our peak performance then shouldn’t we strive to get there more often? Especially in areas of our lives that matter most to us. What holds us back?
In the book Flow there is a famous chart shown here. In a very elementary picture we see exactly where the flow state is. It is where our skills and our challenges line up. If these two are not in alignment, we are not in flow. Simple enough, yes? But is it really?
This chart cannot represent what is going on at a deeper level.
The flow state is really an emotional experience where we “feel” our skills line up with our perception of our challenges. To get in our flow state more often we not only need to strive to align our skills with our challenges but we need to be cognizant of our emotional and perceptional state as well.
How many times do we have the necessary skills that match up with the challenges before us and and yet we don’t experience flow? For some reason we hold ourselves back. Something gets in the way. Usually that something is an emotion or an unconscious, perceived belief.
This is where understanding ourselves at the emotional level is crucial. The flow state is not as simple as Csikszentmihalyi makes it look. Fear of rejection, failure, judgement, making a mistake are all flow state killers. They affect how we feel about our skills. Limiting beliefs or misperceptions are also killers of flow. Instead of focusing on matching our skills with our challenges we should strive to match our emotions with our desires. In other words, aligning our head with our heart.
If you’re not experiencing a flow state in your life or business on a regular basis stop trying to approach it from merely adjusting your skills or challenges. Those adjustments only go so far. There is a deeper issue going on. Examine the emotions and perceptions and limiting beliefs that are behind the results you are getting. Quit beating yourself up for not being able to move the pieces around to make things work. Acquiring more skills may not be the answer. Lowering the bar and diminishing the challenges probably won’t do the trick either.
To get into your flow state more often be sure you are clear on the emotions of your heart and know the underlying beliefs in your head and work at those levels if there is a disconnect.
Flow is an inside job. Start doing the inner work and your flow state will be sure to follow.