I am ever mindful of the concept of flow in my life. My yoga instructor teaches a series of classes based on themes related to the classical elements – earth, water, air and fire. Of these, the attributes of water – liquidity, flow and a lack of resistance to change – seem most helpful to me. When I am fighting something, reminding myself not to resist and to “flow through” helps me to focus my energy on what I can affect and let the rest go.
I recently read an article by life coach Martha Beck in the March issue of O Magazine that reminded me flow has another useful meaning in the field of psychology. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi first introduced the concept of flow as a mental state where an individual is so focused on a task that he or she becomes fully immersed and can lose track of time. In the O Magazine article, Occupational Hazard, Beck describes flow as, “the total absorption that comes from doing something that interests you at the upper edge of your ability level.” I like this description because it distinguishes flow, which depends on creativity, action and challenge, from entertaining distractions such as a great book or TV show.
In our work lives, Beck suggests identifying three memories of tasks in which we experienced flow and associating those memories with a mental state of working. Not sure if you’ve ever experienced flow at work?
Think about a time when you were laser-focused on solving a problem. This association between memories of flow and a mental state of work can help us to identify the aspects of our job that are in harmony with our strengths and interests. It can also help us to enter a state of flow more easily when we are working, boosting our energy, creativity and productivity as a result.
When was the last time you experienced flow? What were you doing and what did it feel like?