The Power of the Flow State

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It can be challenging to maintain focus on certain tasks. Some tasks can be too overwhelming that you get discouraged, others are so easy that it ends up boring you out of your mind. However, there is a sweet spot, when an activity is just difficult enough to be interesting and just easy enough that you can actually get it done.

That state is the main topic in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book (pronounced ‘Mi-high, Cheekz sent-mi-high), “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”.

How To Enter Flow

The author describes the Flow state as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

To achieve complete concentration as described above, your skill level must match the difficulty of any given task, but skill level and difficulty both need to be simultaneously high, otherwise the result will be apathy (lack of enthusiasm).

This explains why video games that gently introduce you to the game mechanics and slowly up the difficulty can be so rewarding, while games with a high skill cap from the get-go often drive players away.

A lot of practice is required to improve skills in any activity (sports, playing an instrument, etc.). However, the tediousness of practice leads to increased skill, and this will allow you to enter Flow states more frequently, an experience which is it’s own reward.

The Flow state grants clarity and satisfaction. It’s possible you’ve experienced it before, when you are so engaged in what your doing that you lose track of time and worry about nothing.

People who love their careers likely enter flow states on a regular basis which would explain why some with very difficult jobs seem to enjoy them so much. Being able to get through a huge amount of work while losing track of time is a worthwhile ability to learn and can make life less stressful.


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