How Flow State Can Help You Live a Happy and Productive Life
You’ve got a lot on your mind. Especially since the media bombards you with bad news. At work, your clients and coworkers flood your inbox with endless emails. At times, you wonder if you could find happiness again.
Our world constantly fills our minds with more worries and stress. So how can we truly be happy in a world that seems to suggest that we should live in fear? If you’re having these thoughts, you’re in luck today.
There’s a way for you to live a happier and more productive life. It’s by having your mind enter into a state called flow.
What is Flow?
Flow is what athletes call “being in the zone.” You’ve probably seen the fierce look of determination in athletes right before a game-winning play. Like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant right before they make a buzzer-beater.
The concept of flow was first coined and studied by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. Flow is achieved when we reach an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best” according to Csíkszentmihályi.
While most of us won’t be as great at basketball as MJ or Kobe, each one of us can learn to enter into a flow state. We have what it takes to live happier and more productive lives in whatever we do.
That’s the beauty of flow, you can achieve it regardless of what you’re doing. Whether you’re working in a cubicle or playing beach volleyball in the Bahamas, you can activate this mindset anytime, anywhere.
How Does Flow Make You Happy?
Flow helps people control how they experience life. It’s true that we can’t control what happens to us. And this thought scares most of us. But life is too short for us to waste our days worrying about what might happen to us.
When you enter into a flow, four things happen:
- You stop worrying about your problems
- You become laser-focused on the task at hand
- You perform at your best
- You feel accomplished and happy about your progress
Because entering into flow stops you from having second thoughts about anything, you can move on with your day without an ounce of worry. Just imagine having so much focus that you even forget how much time has gone by. Does this sound too good to be true? But that’s just what happens when you’re flowing.
You pull your mind away from all the external factors that try to drag you down. And all of your thoughts and energy go into doing what matters most to you.
How Do You Achieve Flow?
Achieving flow might be challenging for you, especially if you’re in a job that bores you to tears. But even if you’re in a job that you hate, you can still find parts about the job that you enjoy. And if you want to go the extra mile, you can try new activities in your free time to trigger flow.
And for those of you who have no clue which careers to choose, you find better career direction by figuring out what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at.
Find What You Enjoy and Good at Doing
So the first key to achieving flow is picking an activity that you enjoy and good at doing. This can be tricky since nobody is good at anything until they spend a considerate amount of time working on their craft.
I’ll use myself as an example. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I was far from good when I started.
In fact, I was told by my 5th-grade teacher that my writing needed a lot of work. But because I enjoyed it so much, I didn’t let my bad writing stop me from writing.
So I kept writing and working on my craft for many years. And fast forward to today, I’m writing this post. Finding something that you’re good at and enjoy doing may take a long time. I didn’t know that I could become a decent writer when I was young. But that didn’t stop me from trying again and again until I learned how to write well.
And before I knew it, I was attending university and acing my papers. So get out there and do things you enjoy. Track your progress. If you see improvements over time and you genuinely enjoy the learning process, you’ve found what you’re looking for.
If you want to dig deeper into figuring out your career path, check out my article here.
Get Clear on Your Goals
Starting an activity while not having clear goals will frustrate you. So before you start any activity, whether it’s writing a paper or even cooking a meal, setting a clear goal is a must.
Because flow is all about focusing all of your attention on one thing, constantly wondering what you should do next prevents you from achieving it. Instead of deciding what to do while you try to do something, resolve to make the decision before you even begin.
Pick a Time and Place With the Least Distractions
Because we live in a world full of distractions, entering a flow state can be challenging. But it’s very possible if you pick the right time and place. Pick a time when you’re most awake and energized. If you’re a morning person, I recommend picking a time after breakfast so that your hunger won’t distract you.
Or if you’re a night owl, pick a time when everyone else goes to sleep. Whatever your schedule may be, picking a time when you can be alone without interruptions will increase your chance of achieving flow.
Put away your phone and clear your desk. Bring only what you need to get your work done. When you eliminate the options to distract your mind, you’re much more likely to achieve high levels of concentration. Resulting in an enjoyable work experience. Not only will you enjoy what you do, but you’ll also produce higher-quality work.
Focus On the Journey Instead of the Destination
In a world obsessed with results, it seems unnatural to focus on the process itself. But here’s the ironic part of all this. The more you obsess over results, the worse you’ll perform. Why?
Because when you’re worried about how things will turn out, you focus more on the worry rather than on performing your best.
And what you focus on expands in your mind. So instead of actually focusing on your work, you’ll be spending time with your fears. So the next time you’re starting an activity, don’t focus on the results. Just focus on performing at your best. Try to outperform yourself each time and improve as you go.
If you give it enough time, you’ll achieve the results you want. But you can only get there if you let yourself perform at your best.
Resources to Help You Get Started
Integrating flow into your life can be tricky. So I’ve gathered a short list of resources to help you get started.
- Designing Your Life: How To Build A Well-Lived Joyful Life By Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
For those of you who feel completely lost in your careers, this book will help you get unstuck. In fact, this book actually helped me discover my career path into content marketing and digital copywriting. And I’m sure that this book will help you open new doors for you too.
Bill and Dave wrote this book based on the course they teach at Stanford with the same title. They realized that most universities didn’t even attempt to address the issue of helping students figure out their career directions after graduation. So they went onto teaching students how to use designing thinking principles to build careers that they love.
Check out Bill Burnett’s TedTalk speech here to learn more.
2. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
If you’d like to dig deeper into how the Flow state works, pick up Csikszentmihalyi’s book. I actually found myself entering the state of flow as I read his book. Thinking and learning about flow while in the state of flow.
It’s an amusing experience. What I call “flowception.” It’s a word I made up combining inception and flow. Having a strong understanding of the concept of flow helps you make the changes you need in your life to trigger these states of mind.
3. Double Your Productivity In Half the Time by Sonny Kang
One of the easiest ways to trigger the flow state and avoid procrastination is by using the Pomodoro Technique. What’s the Pomodoro technique? It’s basically a time management technique that allows you to work in intense sprints of 25 minute intervals with 5 minute breaks in-between.
All you need is a to-do list and a timer. If you’d like more details on how the Pomodoro technique works, check out my article here (it’s only a 12-minute read).
Live a Happy and Productive Life Through Flow
We all want life to go the way we want. And because of all the pleasures in the world that are so easily accessible to us, we’ve forgotten about what actually makes us feel happy. So we let social media and news pundits determine the way we feel about ourselves.
But today, you’ve learned what it takes to be genuinely happy. It’s not about owning more things or even doing more. It’s all about focusing on the present moment. Work on one goal at a time. Now that you understand the concept of flow, what do you look forward to doing?
If you already have something that you’re good at and enjoy doing, then set aside more time during the day to pursue this activity. But even if you’re still trying to figure out what to pursue, the journey itself will feel rewarding and meaningful.
No matter what your circumstances are, you can live happily and productively at any stage in your life. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and do something that makes you feel alive.