What is Flow ?
Flow is a state of heightened focus you get from being totally immersed into an activity.
During his many studies, Mihaly observed that Flow is a state everyone has experienced at one time or another and its characterised by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfilment, and skill. During these times, concerns such as time, food, pain & even illness can typically be forgotten.
‘’Happiness does not simply happen. It must be prepared for and cultivated by each person, by setting challenges that are neither too demanding nor too simple for one’s abilities’’ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
We stated earlier that Mindography was a formal practice which can calm your mind. The extension of this practice is a state of flow. This state can be entered during your practice and turns it into an informal method of mindfulness practice. In the flow state, you are totally immersed into what you are doing, so are automatically experiencing a mindful state.
While flow has been described as a meditative state by many people. Whether it is or isn’t, really is not relevant here. What does matter is the fact that a flow state is proven to have a lot of similar benefits to Meditation.
The links between flow, mindfulness and meditation, is very apparent. They are all ways for your mind to be fully absorbed into everything that you are doing. They all emphasise living in the present moment ”the now”, as opposed to being regretful about your past or fearful about your future.
Some of the many benefits include –
- It focuses your attention
- Allows you to see what’s important and positive
- It can lead to improved performance
- It can accelerate learning and skill development
- It can up to double your productivity
- With continued practice, it teaches you to rise to challenges
- It increases enjoyment and creativity in a task
- It is the ultimate eustress experience
Flow is a paradox –
Paradox – a situation or statement that seems impossible or is difficult to understand because it contains two opposite facts or characteristics in the one topic.
- Time feels like it’s going slow, but it’s actually flying past.
- It seems effortless, but you are being challenged.
- You feel completely relaxed but you are doing a task.
- You are more yourself than you have ever been before, but you completely lose sense of yourself and who you are.
Likened to when you hear of a sports star being in full flow or ‘’in the zone’’. This state can be experienced by an individual or even as a group or team. Mihaly says we have all witnessed and experienced this at one time or another in our lives.
‘’In game one of the 1992 NBA championships against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Chicago Bulls led by legendary basketball player Michael Jordan were down 8 points early, after a poor start to the game. After an inspiring time out. Michael came out motivated and looked like he couldn’t be stopped. He made six 3-point shots in the next 18 mins and finished the first half with a final’s half scoring record at that time, which was 35 points. He completely took control of the game. Michael even looked at the bench at one point during the game and shrugged his shoulders in disbelief. He later stated he felt like he just couldn’t miss and that he was simply in the zone. He also said that the 3-point shots just felt like free throws to him during that time’’
Artists, authors, engineers and composers all speak of similar states.
These days many of us now live in two extremes : –
- The first is worrying about work, responsibilities and obligations.
- The second is being bored by passive leisure activities such as watching TV or scrolling through social media.
‘’Flow experiences can provide us an ideal break from both of these extremes’’
Flow is not just for Mindography. It is something we should all be aiming for in our life. Challenge ourselves and our skills to a certain amount, to live a life of flow. Use the core features of Mindography which will be available in the next section to make you flow through life even smoother.
Explaining the Flow chart?
- The left-hand side of the chart shows the challenge level of the task.
- Along the bottom of the chart shows the skill level needed for the task.
- The coloured sections represent the different states you experience while performing tasks.
- Imagine a line drawn from the ‘’Challenge Level’’ on the left, horizontally towards the right. Then another line from the ‘’Skill Level’’ at the bottom, vertically towards the top. Where the lines intersect, is the state you will be experiencing at that time.
A high challenge task with a low skill level brings you to a state of Anxiety.
A low challenge task with a high skill levels bring you to a state of Relaxation.
Activities such as watching TV or scrolling through Social Media both lie in the low challenge and low skill section. These are said to be states of Apathy. Apathy is defined as a lack of motivation, interest, enthusiasm or concern.
You don’t have to love the experience which brings you into the flow state, but you should respect it, because the benefits you will get from these moments are what’s most important. The enjoyment of the activity comes straight away for some and can be built on over time for others.
Poets have made references to explain this state ….
‘’ It’s like opening a door that’s floating in the middle of nowhere and all you have to do is go and turn the handle and open it and let yourself sink into it. You can’t particularly force yourself through it. You just have to float. If there’s any gravitational pull, it’s from the outside world trying to keep you back from the door. ’’ – S.Perry 1996
One of the greatest benefits of achieving a flow state is that it provides us with something that is called a Gratification.
FightMediocrity have a great video about Flow and Flow States –
It is in a flow state that your creativity is in full flow. Start with a focus and flow will soon follow. Exploring with your camera is a creative state of mind.
Reflect for a moment and think if there are times where you may have entered a flow state? Have you done so with your camera? In your Life? Playing sports? Or just doing something Creative?