Do you know the feeling of getting lost in doing something you love? This feeling is associated with being fully immersed in something, with energised focus and full involvement. It leads to joy, fulfilment and spectacular progress in the task you are performing.
In the 1950′s psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi became fascinated by artists who would get lost in their work. Often artists, especially painters, got so immersed in their work that they would disregard their need for food, water and even sleep. This led Mihaly and his fellow researchers to researching this state of mind, which became know as the state of Flow. For creative people it is crucial to know how to tap into the state of Flow because it is in this state that your creativity reaches its full potential.
What is Flow?
Flow is a mental state that leads to being fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of an activity. There are a few things that are needed to reach this mental state. One of them is a good balance between the activity itself and your skills. As Csíkszentmihályi put it: “Flow happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable. If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can return to the flow state by learning new skills.” In other words the task cannot be too easy and it should not be too difficult either. The ideal balance for achieving flow is when the task is just about manageable. Now why is this?
Another main element of the state of Flow is focus. When a task is too easy you quickly loose focus and the same thing happens when a task is too difficult. But there is more to this. Having a strong focus requires you to be fully presentwith what you are doing without being distracted by external or internal factors. The stronger the concentration you bring to a task, the more likely you are to drop into a state of flow. Your ability to focus and to stay focused is an inner strength that you can develop. An excellent way to do this is by practicing Mindfulness. Practicing Mindfulness retrains your brain to pay attention and focus on whatever it is you are doing in the present moment. Just like you can train and strengthen your muscles, you can train and strengthen your brain’s ability to focus.
Tapping into creative Flow
We know from research that it is not the external distractions that pose the biggest threat to achieving a state of Flow; it is your thoughts. Every stressful thought creates a barrier in achieving the state of Flow. Therefore if you want to train your brain to tap into the state of Flow it is important to recognize your stressful thoughts and to start changing them. By doing this you are bringing your brain from a stressed state into a relaxed, but focused state and from there creativity can begin to flow. To train you brain to enter into the state of Flow I recommend regular Mindfulness practice to increase your ability to focus and mind exercises that change your stressful thoughts into helpful thoughts to get ride of internal blockages. This combination will drastically increase your ability to enter into a state of creative flow. Let the creativity begin!