Scientists refer to the freedom of total absorption in an activity as “flow,” an almost euphoric state of concentration and involvement. Flow happens when an artist loses himself entirely in his work, or when a soccer player enters a mental zone where it seems every kick she makes will result in a score.
One expert on the theory of flow is University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In his bestselling book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, he cites eight key principles that, when applied, can create flow experiences in any realm of life:
1. Consider what is expected. Do you have a specific sense of what you are trying to accomplish? Are the outcomes and goals clear?
2. Perceive personal progress. How well do you self-manage? Do you have feedback or a process whereby you can gauge your results against your goals?
3. Discern the right fit. Is your enterprise or job a good match between the challenge required and the skills, knowledge, and abilities you have? Can the challenge keep you stimulated and interested as time goes on? Can you add your own sense of ingenuity to create new opportunities?
4. Learn how to focus. Can you keep distractions to a minimum? Can you maintain your focus over time when the novelty of the project wears off?
5. Exercise faith. Everyday issues and challenges can be overcome. Keep looking towards what is possible, when dealing with obstacles.
6. Activate choice. Be accountable for your actions and exercise conscious choice.
7. Release the opinion of others. There is no reason to be self-conscious or defensive because you are so committed and involved in your mission that the views of others don’t hinder you.
8. Experience time transformed. You may have heard the expression of “work being play” for people with a passion. This is true for people in the flow.
Ultimately, being in the flow produces a desire to take your gifts and talents to a higher level.