Being in a flow state is the epitome of being in a state of being in the moment. Flow state is what I believe we’re all looking for when we’re fully engaged in something on our own or co-created with others. It’s when everything seems to perfectly come together when you, others and everything around you is in perfect harmony.
The flow state
The flow state is something when we’re engaged with an activity we feel absolutely in harmony with the said activity. To attain a flow state the activity would have some level of challenge, engagement and complete enjoyment or fulfilment. This is the goal for example in gaming; that developers attempt to mimic or create for the gamer. A degree of challenge (too little and you get bored and too much and you feel frustrated), complete focus on one’s attention, enjoyment (as it’s a game after all) and a relaxed state of mind.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi , a flow state researcher notes the following on characteristics of flow state:
- Completely involved in what we are doing – focused, concentrated.
- A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality.
- Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.
- Knowing that the activity is doable – that our skills are adequate to the task.
- A sense of serenity – no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego.
- Timelessness – thoroughly focused on the present, hours seem to pass by in minutes.
- Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow between its own reward.
I am sure there is something we have all participated in where we may have touched upon this sense of flow: it could be writing, cooking, gardening, painting or drawing, dancing or coding (if you’re a programmer), or as a social entrepreneur contributing to your project and its success. It’s when you’re so fully engaged with the process and focused on the task at hand, yet completely relaxed and positively enjoying what you’re doing. You often walk away from these experiences feeling uplifted; you have gained something from the experience.
State of flow with others: teamwork
It is a masterful art to create a team that can not only jam together, but can create a state of flow together; harmony. In those moments all are equal, and all are completely respected for what they have to offer the whole. Awareness of purpose of all members is the uniting force, for all passionately pursue it in their own respects and as a whole unit. Their values are the guiding force that deems what is OK and not OK, in the circle of co-creation. In the state of flow in a team, there is nothing needed to be discussed in these respects as each individual instinctively and intrinsically hold it as given (purpose and values). In Tuckman’s stages of group development the ultimate state is performing. But I dare say there is even more. It is harmony. It is as if as a whole, each person knows exactly what and when to contribute their part instinctively, they’re tuned into each other. They know, as with dancers, what the next step is, without having previously rehearsed. It just… flows.
Flow state inspires creativity
Ever been stuck and looking for inspiration? That usually implies you’re not in the flow. Flow can happen in your daily life, when people and situations just naturally come together. You couldn’t in those circumstances have planned it better, even if you tried. And that’s the point, you didn’t plan, you flowed. You allowed it to unfold and were open to the experience. Creativity is unplanned, unexpected. It is stimulated when we step out of the ‘usual’. Letting our life and experiences talk to us, in serendipitous occurrences.
Flow state is mastery. And none of us, not that I know of, can say they’re in it all the time. But I have have observed that people who do what they love and love what they do, more often step into the flow than those who don’t. Flow is one of those gifts we receive, when we step into the unexpected and allow ourselves to be vulnerable: to be open to the unknown, to experience and just “go with the flow”. I have never met anyone in a state of flow who regretted it. It’s highly recommended, and something we (me included) can all learn to cultivate a bit more in our daily lives, alone or with others.
How to attain a flow state ( an experiment)
Flow state is best discovered in a group environment. And the easiest and most available I have found is through music: a good old jamming session. You would require a few members who are musically in tune and have the skills. They would provide the base or continual movement. Other’s more novel to the experience would join in at moments when they feel they want to add into the song: be it a different octave vocally, hands clapping on the table, cups or spoons. To feel the state, it requires a bit of letting go, and going with the flow.
 Jon Radoff in Game On: Eneregize Your Business with Social Media Games discusses a section on flow state.
 TED Talk: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness