Perform at your best: get into flow

Athletes call it being in the zone. Artists call it being inspired. Jazz musicians call it being in the groove. In positive psychology, it’s called a flow state. When you’re in flow, you are fully absorbed and focused. Your attention is on the task at hand and everything else fades out of awareness. And it’s highly likely you’re performing at your peak.

In his book Flow, psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi describes the flow state as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” Anyone can access a flow state. There are eight factors that can help you do it.

1. Clarity of goals and immediate feedback

Your goals are created by YOU and no one else. The rules are clear. With every action, success or failure is instantly perceived.

2. Focus

A state of flow allows you to block out distractions and throw yourself fully into an activity.

3. Balance between skills and challenge

To achieve a flow state, balance must be struck between how challenging the activity is and your level of skill at doing it.

4. A feeling of being in control

In a flow state, you know what to do, how to do it, and why you are doing it.

5. Effortlessness

In flow, everything falls into place and works effortlessly together.

6. An altered perception of time

When you’re in flow, you lose sense of time. This is why the flow state is often referred to as ‘timeless.’

7. The melting together of action and consciousness

When you are completely absorbed in an activity, you lose your sense of self. You are at one with your actions.

8. The experience is autotelic

‘Autotelic’ means “having an end or purpose in itself.” You are completely self-directed. Achieving the end goal of an activity is fulfilling, but the activity in itself is just as fulfilling for you.

Think back to a time when you were in flow. How did you feel? What was the quality of your output? Would you say it’s some of the most inspired work you have done? That happens when you’re in flow!

About the author of this article

Eleanor Shakiba is passionate about bringing out the best in people at work. She has been a trusted coach and trainer to thousands of professionals in high-intellect fields. Eleanor is based in Sydney and has an international client base. Her expertise is in using social and emotional intelligence skills to build high-performing leaders and teams. Find out how Eleanor can help you and your team.