What does it mean to be in flow with your life? What does it feel like internally when you’re in a state of flow? And what are some of the essential characteristics that help you tap into this feeling? Buddhists, philosophers, psychologists, surfers and the like have all considered this idea of flow, connecting us to feelings of ease and harmony. Perhaps best known in this field, is psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who, after much research, found that the highest levels of flow happen when people are engaged with tasks that involve absolute focus and a sense of purpose. Athletes at their pique performance, artists who are so immersed in their craft that everything else falls into the background, and even with surgeons with such clear steps to follow in their work, all report high levels of flow.
What I’m curious about though, is what it means to feel flow, not just in these more isolated experiences of heightened creativity or focus, but throughout one’s entire day, like a thread woven through all life’s experiences.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is, how can we experience some sort of flow even as we navigate difficult situations or decisions?
It’s hard to talk about “flow” without using the analogy of a stream. A stream doesn’t stop in its tracks and bemoan the giant boulder dead center in the middle of its path. It simply winds around it, following that path of least resistance. And when there’s a storm and sticks collect, forming a damn of sorts, the stream doesn’t necessarily throw up it’s wet hands and say, “Oh well!” Often, it gathers force and momentum to push through that blockage, ultimately, creating more FLOW.
I find that finding flow in life involves a combination of acceptance and trust of what’s meant to be (maneuvering around that giant boulder), while also igniting passion & discipline (pushing through the dam).
Because, when we simply flow with and accept whatever comes our way, we eventually can feel powerless & frustrated. But if we are all about sheer determination and force to make things happen the way we want them to be, we ignore the current circumstances and get aggravated when things don’t work out as planned.
Here are the first four of what I've identified as eight essential characteristics for feeling flow in one’s life:
A deeper sense of purpose or passion in whatever you do---in your work, hobbies, or even the simple tasks like folding laundry---brings meaning to life. You can tap into this sense of flow, even with tasks that aren’t your favorites, when you are more connected to the why.
2) Trust that it all happens for a reason
This idea of trust is so important to flow because wishing things were different, regret, and resistance are some of the biggest impediments to feeling in flow.
If you look back at even the challenging life events, what might be some of the unexpected gains or important takeaways that are helpful for future experiences? It can take years, sometimes even decades before we become aware of these gains, but when we can trust the greater purpose sooner, the whole process flows more easily.
3) Creativity/flexibility of mind
When we use our creative mind to think, “What are other options or ways of thinking about this?” a wider range of possibilities becomes available to us. It’s so easy to make assumptions and jump to conclusions in the way we think about things, but in doing so, we see a limited view and we block flow.
4) A good dose of discipline & perseverance
By “a good dose”, I mean an amount that is right for you in your given situation. When we overextend ourselves for too long, often we exhaust our flow of energy. But if we simply opt for the easiest way (which is a natural human tendency) and give up when the going gets tough, things just “peter out”.
5) Good health
6) Connection to nature
7) Calming the inner critic/Freedom of thoughts
8) JOY, celebrate, and appreciate!
Stay tuned for the next post that will go more in depth with these last four…In the meantime, you can consider the following:
~Is there anywhere you’d like to feel more flow in your life?
~What helps you tap into a state of flow?
~What specifically gets in your way?
Please reach out via my "contact" page if you are interested in my “Find your Flow” coaching program which blends Coaching, Hypnosis and Nutritional Counseling. I'd love to support you in creating strategies so you can connect better with your unique flow, while learning techniques to help reduce stress and anxiety in your life.