Being in the “Zone”

Creative Flow photo

Recently, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned psychologist, and author passed away. An inspiring profile of him was featured in How to Get a Life Volume 2. His most notable work involves the field of Positive Psychology. He termed the phrase “Flow State.” Csikszentmihalyi linked human creativity and “being in the zone,” meaning totally immersed. Not referring to just the arts, it applies to hobbies and business ventures. Even occupational therapists use Flow Psychology with athletes. When people reach the flow state of mind, they become locked into the activity and truly enjoy it. Nothing else seems to matter when in a flow state. People continue engaging in their work regardless of obligations.

His best-selling book, Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience, helps readers tap into their potential. Using Flow Theory, he provides insight on finding meaningful creativity within yourself. By achieving this state of mind and reaching peak performance, one can achieve true happiness. The more you practice and repeat activities you love, the happier you will become in life. To attain a sense of Flow, you cannot have any distractions. Turning off your cellphone and going into a space where you can create enhances your state of mind.

Flow Theory has Eight Characteristics:

  1. Complete Concentration on the Task at Hand: You become fully engaged and highly focused on the activity.
  2. Setting Clear Goals and Having a Reward in Mind: Working on the project, you feel some good will come from it, like immediate feedback.
  3. Passing the time: You will either work fast and speed up or slow down throughout the creative process.
  4. Intrinsically Rewarding: Losing yourself in the experience rewards you because you love what you are doing.
  5. Comes Effortlessly: When working, the task “flows out of you” and comes with such ease that it immerses you. You do not experience “writer’s block.” You do not have to stop and think or brainstorm.
  6. Balance Between Challenge and Skills: You partake in an experience that utilizes your skills while challenging you. This balance leads to a sense of achievement and self-fulfillment.
  7. Actions and Awareness Merge: When in a Flow state, you lose any repetitive thoughts in your mind. This type of thinking can be detrimental to one’s mental health. Action and awareness break up this negative mindset.
  8. Feeling of Control: When you engage in the task, you feel poised and in control to execute it to completion. 

Every single one of us can experience a Flow state. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation play a significant role. Intrinsic satisfies something within yourself, and extrinsic has outside forces driving your success. This type of motivation offers short-term Flow. Examples include a classroom where you will receive good grades or a compliment. Also, in a workplace, you complete tasks to earn money or stay on good terms with management.

Positive psychology considers personality traits, especially in neurotic and conscientious individuals. Neurotic personalities feel anxiety when a disruption in their Flow occurs. They also tend to criticize themselves internally when something breaks up the process. On the other hand, conscientious people master challenges and handle disruptions better. You may think Flow produces better results when working alone. However, one premise of positive psychology is “other people matter.” Studies show creative collaborations produce better results due to enhancing relationships. Introverts may disagree, but try to create with others and see if it changes your feelings.

This informative article from Positive Psychology goes into further depth about cultivating Flow.

Have you ever been in such a state where creativity “flows” out of you?

If you answered “no,” remember everyone is creative. Sometimes, people suppress creativity for various reasons and do not channel it. The book Playful Mind by James Downton Jr. offers different techniques to tap into your creative potential. Get 25% off this ebook and How to Get a Life Volume 2 until 1/31/21 using code FLOW25.