Whether you call it “getting in the zone” or flow, we’ve all been there. And we should all try to be there as much as possible.
Being in a state of flow is when we do our best work and achieve peak performance. First discussed in scientific terms by psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi in his book of the same name, flow is what powers optimal human experience.
Csíkszentmihályi describes flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Alas, it would seem that our modern technological world is a committed enemy of flow. Rather than otherworldly focus, we live in a state of constant distraction punctuated with futile attempts at multi-tasking.
You want flow, you’re going to have to fight back. In fact, purposefully eliminating distraction may be the best thing you can do for yourself even without the benefits of the zone. But why not go all the way?
The first key to achieving flow is a challenging task that you’re already good at. Flow happens when the subconscious takes over from the conscious mind. You’re not going to get there learning a new task, because you’re consciously thinking about what you’re doing. Flow requires effortless action, or in the parlance of the Nike tagline, just doing it.
The next essential aspect is a complete lack of distraction, coupled with intense focus. Unplug completely by turning off your phone and go offline if possible to avoid interruption. To prime your focus, remember that various forms of meditation are all about creating and maintaining singular focus.
These two essential elements of achieving our zone seem simple, because they are. But they’re not easy for most of us, thanks to our self-imposed lives of distraction. So, before you start looking at flow-inducing tricks such as visualization, make sure you’ve created the necessary foundational conditions.
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