The complete opposite of anxiety and boredom is having an optimal experience. This top-level enjoyment has come to be known as being in the flow. When you’re in this state, there is an inner peace, excitement, and focus. It is not defined by outside events, but rather, how an individual interprets them. In these cases, it makes the person want, or keep coming back for, more.
Picture a band playing for a crowd, a football player’s concentration during a championship game, or a young girl going to her prom. All these events produce this amazing feeling. It’s a natural ecstasy; a forever memorable joyous or gratifying moment. It carries us through time as if nothing else exists.
It’s been classified as an allusive phenomenon. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t capable of being achieved and maintained. Many have found ways to perpetuate their optimal experiences. Thorough studies have been done on the occurrence. There are no secrets in its manifestation. So what is the key to attaining and staying in the flow?
There isn’t just one way to keep this feeling going. And with anything worthwhile, it will take work to achieve it. Let’s go over some important principles so that it is easier to put into perspective how flow states are made and can be sustained.
Process of Total Involvement
We’ve all been there. We just might not have realized what it was. In these moments, time moves faster, and we don’t notice anything other than what we’re completely involved with. The American English lingo, “Time flies when you’re having fun,” sums up the idea of a flow state nicely.
The first key is having total involvement in whatever task is at hand. Here, there are no distractions. Worrying about tomorrow or regretting the past just don’t have a place in a flow state. It is completely about being in the now!
Attention is invested in realistic goals or the magic in the moment. In both scenarios, all that matters is what is presently going on.
In the pursuit of goals, order in awareness is necessary to focus on the present challenge towards the reward. Enjoying the process becomes a catalyst to a higher quality of life. The reward worked for or acquired is a bonus. This is necessary to understand in searching for flow states.
One of the many activities that we can pursue to have optimal experiences is within the creative realms. Writers, musicians, sketch artists, all lose track of time and achieve this state through practicing their crafts. Writing a poem, painting a portrait, or playing an instrument, are all examples of what produces flow.
Creativity is not just reserved for artists. One can be creative in any endeavor. When we utilize the first key of being in the moment, it transfers into all that we do. Adding creativity to our lives, including simple daily activities, can amplify flow states to even higher levels. Some examples include:
- Concentrating on keeping straight lines for beautiful symmetrical presentation when mowing the lawn,
- A young child building a fort out of pillows and sheets; and/or a parent joining and helping.
- In the kitchen when preparing meals by trying new ingredients, flavors, or cooking styles.
- Incorporating problem solving skills at work to make tasks more efficient or fun.
At home, in the office, in the field, or in the classroom, find ways to be creative. It will add to the production of optimal experiences in your life.
Pursue More Activities That Produce Flow
Adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers are known for achieving flow states. They use words like, “rad,” “dope,” and “chill” to describe how they feel about their lives. We may or may not use these terms, but in either case can learn something from these guys.
Many of these adventurous spirits go to extreme measures to achieve these optimal experiences. To them, it is a lifestyle with rewards only those who take such actions could understand. These activities include:
- Rock Climbing
- Cliff diving
These hobbies are pretty intense to most. The point is that thrill seekers know what they can do to achieve flow (and an adrenaline rush to boot). Not all activities have to be so hyper-active or claimed by the brave for optimal enjoyment. The lesson is to find hobbies and other activities that stimulate flow in your life!
Maybe rollerskating or riding a bicycle does it for you. Perhaps cooking, building toy models, solving jigsaw puzzles, dancing, playing sports or chess stirs up optimal experiences. There’s not a limit or a specificity to the activities. They’re going to vary from person to person.
Most of us are aware of the things that make us feel good just by the doing. Do those things more often or incorporate new activities that produce this desired result.
Often this will require learning new skills for unexplored or advancing interests. The finer tuned and more skills that we have, the greater the opportunities that will come our way. This will in turn give new, even better, experiences. Keeping life fresh and learning to grow with challenges and participation will perpetuate our optimal states.
The Hard Truth
In the pursuit of anything, there are always obstacles. If one understands that there will be uneasy moments to overcome, that person has so much more of a chance of staying in the flow. As it is in life, it always starts with our perceptions.
Joy, pain, interest, boredom, anger, are all information. When you learn to have control over the information, you can better decide what quality of life you will have. Knowing up front that flow states don’t always happen through pleasant experiences will help in dealing with inevitable negative encounters. You will need to be proactive, not reactive, to such adverse information.
Prepare for and learn to enjoy the struggle. Realize there are these forces that will stand in the way; from the environment and from within*. Overcoming adversity and finding resolution in the moment, enhances the ability to maintain flow in life. Even more importantly, it allows us to become greater versions of ourselves.
We still have a choice to enjoy life despite difficult times or situations. We then, can become more for others as well.
*It is important to note, that dissatisfaction/always wishing for more, are huge internal obstacles that need to be avoided. They will rob an individual of any flow and the power of the moment.
Improve your personal relationships
When you work on your relationships to be in better harmony, you not only get reciprocal flow, you are building a network to be more involved with people you care about. (Or at least have to deal with.) Finding and harnessing this harmony within interpersonal relationships will help you to stay in and even create group flow.
Be more engaging in your relationships. When we work on relations, we inadvertently improve ourselves and internal states. Learn to be more understanding and patient with others. It will go a long way for improving peace within and strengthening character. These all contribute to having more optimal experiences.
Each person has to learn to achieve flow on the basis of their own individual choices, efforts, and creative actions. You will have to work for it to stay in it. This won’t all be easy. Learning to control emotions, and other inner experiences, will determine the quality of life. Within one’s own consciousness is essentially the only place happiness can be discovered and made into constant flow states.
Spend time in preferred activities. It will help to derive moment to moment enjoyment from everything you do. So it may be necessary to change the way you think and perceive things. Find a way to join all of your life engagements into a purposeful pattern. This can be done by finding or creating meaning in all that you do.
Once again, It takes work to stay in the flow! Keep challenging yourself along with how well you treat or deal with others. The best moments can occur when a person’s body, mind, and relationships are pushed to greater limits. It’s this voluntary effort towards accomplishing something difficult and worthwhile that make us more capable of staying in the flow.
But also, it can be just as easy as stopping to smell the roses or walking through the park.