I have a nice collection of resources on Flow State so I thought I would publish most of them here!
Flow is a special psychological state of total absorption in a task. When in flow, athletes are fully focused on what they are doing, and this heightened attention is associated with a number of positive factors. Accompanying a focused mindset are factors such as knowing exactly what one is going to do and how one is doing, having a sense of oneness with the task being performed, and feeling in control of one’s performance. A number of factors have to be in place for flow to occur, and it’s not an easy state for most to attain. However, once experienced, individuals are motivated to re-experience flow, because of how intrinsically rewarding an experience it is. Understanding the flow experience is important because it provides a gateway to optimal subjective experience.
Truthfully, the concept of Flow, in and of itself, is a paradoxical state of mind. The concept has elicited detailed descriptions and analyses, yet “it” (that is the Flow state) is experienced as a fleeting moment in time.
“Flow” is a state of mind – achieved when athletes feel completely engaged in their performance, lose their perception of time, concentrate on the moment (without distraction or dilution), and, perform at extremely high levels.
Essentially, these are the moments in sport that we as athletes, coaches, and consultants are all striving to accomplish. Not only has the Flow state of mind been linked with outrageously positive accomplishments in sport, it is also the state of mind that has been shown to offer us meaning in our lives.
Imagine that moment before running a race where not even deep breaths can keep your nervousness and anxiety at bay, and every second seems to be an eternity. Yet, as soon as the starting gun sounds and your feet hit the track, every thought slides from your mind.
You are focused and sure, challenging yourself to achieve something you know is right within your reach and before you know it, time has flown past, the race is over, and you barely even notice that you are exhausted.
With many things in life ostensibly out of our control, it is easy to consider our fate as being determined by external factors.
However, consider times when instead of being driven by extraneous forces, you have felt in complete control of your actions – the master of your destiny!
The positive emotions that accompany such experiences can create such a sense of escapism, exhilaration, and enjoyment that it becomes a marker for how life can be.
If you have ever felt completely absorbed in something, you might have been experiencing a mental state that psychologists refer to as flow. Achieving this state can help people feel greater enjoyment, energy, and involvement.
Imagine for a moment that you are running a race. Your attention is focused on the movements of your body, the power of your muscles, the force of your lungs, and the feel of the street beneath your feet. You are living in the moment, utterly absorbed in the present activity. Time seems to fall away. You are tired, but you barely notice. This is an example of state of flow.
Have you ever spent half an hour searching the internet which, as you find out afterwards, lasted three hours? Or opened a book shortly after breakfast and a little while later noticed that the room was getting darker?
Think of a moment in your life when you were so involved in what you were doing that the rest of the world seemed to have disappeared. Your mind wasn’t wandering; you were totally focused and concentrated on that activity, to such an extent that you were not even aware of yourself.
You may have experienced a flow state at some point — that sense of fluidity between your body and mind, where you are totally absorbed by and deeply focused on something, beyond the point of distraction. Time feels like it has slowed down. Your senses are heightened. You are at one with the task at hand, as action and awareness sync to create an effortless momentum. Some people describe this feeling as being “in the zone.” This is the flow state and it’s accessible to everyone, whether you’re engaged in physical activity, a creative pursuit, or even a simple day-to-day task.
Have you ever experienced a time when you felt like you were “in the zone”? Where you were so involved in what you were doing that everything else around you melted away, and time stood still?
Psychologists call this experience “flow”, and it’s essential to doing meaningful deep work. It’s such a powerful concept that all the productivity blogs and business websites have taken the concept and run away with it, offering tips to achieving flow in order to be more productive.
Many of us know what it’s like to be in a state of creative flow. Do you have to wait for inspiration to strike, or can you hack ‘the zone’?
The chirp of a bird outside your window breaks you from your trance. You look up from your desk and think: “Where was I?”
You’ve been working for hours, but it felt like minutes. Your conscious mind was totally embraced in the task at hand, in a liminal space where nothing else mattered.
What you’ve created wasn’t easy, but it’s pretty darn good. You’ve made a satisfying amount of progress on a tricky task. And it was enjoyable, too.
That experience? It’s called the flow state.
What do Michael Jordan, Shaun White, Tony Hawk, and Alex Honnold have in common? Yes, they're all elite athletes in different sports, but how can their incredible athleticism be explained? Author Steve Kotler explores this topic in his book The Rise of Superman. He studied adventure athletes -- surfers, skateboarders, white water kayakers, snowboarders, mountain bikers, etc. -- to find out how they perform as well as they do. What he discovers is that their incredible abilities can be linked to the flow state.
What Is The Flow State?
We often hear about people being “in the zone” when they have excelled, be it at sport, playing music, video gaming, or going for a run.
For decades, researchers have tried to find out what the zone is and how to enter it. And the assumption has been that there is one zone that we can experience.
Our research with athletes, however, suggests there may be two types of zone.
One is a “flow state”, where athletes describe effortlessly “letting it happen”. The other is a “clutch state”, where athletes report “making it happen” by purposefully and powerfully stepping up in a key moment.
Here’s how to decide which zone you need to be in — and how to get there.