Flow for life - how to experience flow every day

Flow for life - how to experience flow every day

Flow comes from within you not from outside of you, so to experience flow throughout your life it is simply a matter of identifying how you get into flow and practising how to trigger the flow state more often. This is good so far as it goes, but this is still just switching into flow for the moment - the question is whether there is anything more than this.

Just as in writing this text I could suffer from writer’s cramp, so others can suffer blockages that prevent them from being in flow. Interestingly, performers who suffer from stage fright describe symptoms such as tight stomach, dry mouth and sweaty palms - which just so happen to be the exact same symptoms described by performers who are getting ready to go on stage and perform at their peak! Getting these symptoms tells them that they have the nervous energy needed to perform at their best - that they are in the zone - in flow.

It is interesting that it is our interpretation of events that puts us either in a state of optimal performance or a gibbering wreck, shaking and feeling sick!

It is the ability to channel our stress and harness that energy towards our purpose that can put us into flow even under pressure. Staying in flow under times of stress is the path to consistent peak performance over a period of time. But how to achieve this nirvana?

Well, instead of relying on techniques to trigger the flow state, it is possible to alter things in your life in order to trigger the flow state automatically - in fact more exciting than this is to live in flow, to be in flow, to exist in flow. Not to just experience flow from time to time, but to live there.

Finding a purpose

One of the key things to do is to find a purpose to your life.

Most people who experience flow describe it as happening when they are completely immersed in doing the thing that they love best. This begs the question how to get completely immersed - well this will almost come almost automatically if you are working on something that you love. So therefore the question is how to find something that you love?

Unfortunately here the argument can become a bit circular - the things that we love are typically the things that put us into flow! In fact we might love them primarily because they put us into flow. We could go round and round in circles here!

The way through this I think is to notice when we engage in flow and identify the activities that trigger it and what it is about those different activities that might indicate the other sorts of things that we could do which we would probably therefore love. This will also indicate what we are uniquely able to do - what our purpose is.

This involves living a life of growth - of discovering more and more what we are good at, what energises us, what we uniquely enjoy doing and gain fulfilment from.

Being more yourself

Being more yourself and living a life of growth is one thing that is very likely to put you in a state of flow most of the time. Growth however means going to the edge of your comfort zone - not something that most of us think of as comfortable.

Research shows that putting yourself at the edge of your comfort zone is likely to put you into a state of flow. What this means is that your ability to do something is matched evenly with the challenge of the task, so there is enough to keep you engaged and challenged whilst at the same time there is still a confidence in your ability to do the task well. Or even more simply there is a belief that you can do it. A strong self-belief about your ability to do the task built on your previous experience.

However to get this experience one has to extend out of the comfort zone from time to time in order to learn something new. It is unlikely that you will be in the flow state then as you have no belief that you can do this something new. However this constant stretching out of your comfort zone to learn something new and then retreating back into your now expanded comfort zone allows you to operate effortlessly.

Just imagine combining the right level of challenge matched with your level of ability, to do something that you love which is also in line with your purpose! WOW you are really going to be motoring!

You will have the benefits of feeling that you are in a peak state, being highly effective, being highly efficient, doing something pleasurable and enjoyable for its own sake, doing something meaningful, achieving something significant and moving towards your life’s purpose - all at the same time. Now that is a life worth living!

Flow state on demand - 3 techniques to get in flow

Flow state on demand - 3 techniques to get in flow

The flow state is a mental state where you operate at peak performance, tapping into yourself fully and aligning all your resources to focus on the task in hand. Being in flow is an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

The flow state is essential for people who operate at the highest levels. Olympic athletes are in flow - or in the zone, as they call it - when they compete. They have to be in order to be able to get a medal or break the world record. They could not do it if they were not fully and completely focussed on the task in hand. Being in flow is not just for athletes however.

If you have ever experienced flow - which I expect you have - then you will know that it is a state that you want to recreate. However you may be frustrated that you cannot easily get into flow. Can you do it again?

Well the good news is that if you have done anything once then the chances are very high that you can do it again. Back to our Olympic athletes, they have to put themselves in the zone on demand - the race won’t wait for them until they happen to be in the right state - they have to create it.

If you don’t think that you have ever been in flow - or at least you cannot remember what it was like, then take heart from the fact that many people access the flow state in many areas of their lives every day. If they can do it, you can do it - we’re all basically the same.

Here are 3 slightly different techniques that have worked for others - try them out and see which help you to access the flow state.

Accessing your flow triggers

If you have already been in flow and can remember what it was like, then this technique is the easiest to try. You are simply going to recreate the situation, meaning the feelings and thoughts that put you in flow in the past. Now don’t panic, thinking that you cannot remember exactly how it came about. Your brain remembers - even if not consciously - just trust that it will remember and allow it to access those cues again.

So to get in flow, close your eyes and take yourself back to the time when you were last in flow. If you cannot think of a time then ask your unconscious mind to remember for you and trust that it will do so. Then hear what you heard, see what you saw and feel what you felt. Feel as if you were back there again and you were experiencing the state of flow. Now intensify all those experiences and feelings, make the sounds louder and the colours brighter. Enjoy the experience again. Now search your memory for another example and repeat the exercise. If you cannot remember one, then again ask your unconscious mind to remember and to put you back into that same state, experiencing what you saw and felt and heard more intensely. When you are experiencing the flow state in your mind, ask your unconscious mind to keep you in that state throughout the day. Then open your eyes and staying with those feelings begin to work on the task in hand.

Go with the flow

This second technique requires you to let go of your desire to control everything and to literally go with the flow!

Instead of getting cross, angry and uptight with everything that seems to happen to you - as if there was some external force deliberately trying to make your life a misery - simply accept that events will just unfold. Believe that you have the resources inside of you to respond appropriately in any circumstance. Trust yourself and stop trying to control the outside.

Focus on accepting life as it comes and accepting the feelings and thoughts that you have as a response. You can tell yourself that it’s OK to feel how you are feeling. The feelings will soon pass anyway whatever they are, just let them come. Stop struggling and start accepting.

You should feel yourself relax and feel more present.

Then focus on being grateful for this moment and focus on what is great about this moment, or this situation. If you cannot think of anything then be grateful that you are starting to learn about being in flow and how exciting it is that this state will serve you both now and in the future.

Think what a wonderful life you will have being in flow every day. Be joyful and thankful and then keep that feeling with you throughout the day by remembering to let go and flow!

Flow like a river

This third technique uses the word flow and builds on the water analogy.

If you have not been in flow before, then this could help you access it for the first time.

So close your eyes and imagine that you are standing in a river. The water is flowing around you - so try and feel that flow around you. Then the next part is to feel the flow going through you as well as round you. Then finally when you can feel that, allow yourself to be carried along by the river in its flow. Effortlessly. You will feel part of the river, moving freely and easily along in flow.

When you are experiencing that feeling of flow, open your eyes and in this new relaxed state start to work on the task in hand, trying to keep hold of that feeling of being in flow. If nothing else you will feel relaxed!