Achieving a state of creative flow focuses your mind, sharpens your intellect and helps you realise peak performance.
Have you ever been so utterly engrossed in a task that you lose track of time? This is flow – a trance-like state that creates an optimal psychological environment for peak performance. When in flow, athletes achieve personal bests, scientists make startling discoveries, and students ace exams. It might sound otherworldly, but achieving flow is easier than you might imagine.
What is flow?
After years of research examining wellbeing and productivity, Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identified flow in the 1970s and outlined the concept in his seminal 1990 book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
He describes flow 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 … Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost”.
High-powered corporates might say it’s like being in the zone.
Importantly, though it fosters achievement, flow is calm not frenzied.
“There’s a myth that high performance requires a certain level of stress to be productive, and that there needs to be an outward expression of stress, but high performance has actually been shown to be a low stress state,” says Michael Hines, a psychologist from Smiling Mind.
“When people are in flow, they can perform at a really high level without high levels of emotional arousal.”