Have you ever been so engaged in a task or activity that time seemed to stand still? That's what it's like when you access the flow state. The flow state, also known as being “in the zone”, is a mental state in which an individual transcends their conscious awareness and enters a deeply focused state of concentration. It has been described as a feeling of effortless control and heightened awareness. When in this state, one can feel almost superhuman, with increased performance and productivity. So how do we access it? Let’s look at some of the key elements of entering this peak performance state.
Accessing the Flow State
The flow state is not something we can force ourselves into; rather, it is something that just happens if certain conditions are present. It takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes of focused attention to reach a flow state. Once in flow, it may last from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. When accessing the flow state, we may experience some physiological changes such as faster heart rate and respiration rate and an increase in cortisol levels due to heightened focus and concentration. This physical response helps us perform better because it increases our energy level while simultaneously calming our mind. Below are some things you can do to increase your chances of achieving flow.
Set Clear Goals
Flow is likely to occur when an individual is presented with a task & has clear goals that require specific responses. Sporting events & chess matches are great examples of when the flow might occur. During these activities the individuals involved are presented with a task & need to carry out a plan of action to a reach a goal & achieve a desired outcome.
You aren’t likely to be able to “zone in” & achieve flow if you have external & internal distractions competing for your attention. Do your best to reduce & limit distractions so that you can fully focus on the task at hand. You can wear noise cancelling headphones, turn off your phone, turn off the tv, etc.
Elements Of Challenge
You’re more inclined to tap into the flow state when there are elements of challenge involved. Flow occurs when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge. If the challenges are too low, one can get back into the flow by increasing the challenges. Furthermore, if the challenges are too great, one will learn new skills to access the flow.
Practice Mindfulness & Meditation
Mindfulness & Meditation techniques can help you get “in the zone” & achieve flow faster. Mindfulness involves becoming attuned to the present moment. The more present you are in the moment the more focused & aware you are of your environment & actions. The more focused & aware you are of your environment & actions, the more control & predictability you have. One study found that practicing mindfulness regularly helped athletes experience a flow state and improved their performance (1)
How Does It Affect Our Performance?
The Flow State has been shown to improve concentration levels and increase motivation by providing a sense of purpose and satisfaction from achieving one’s goals. Studies have also found that when people enter their flow states they become more creative problem solvers due to their heightened awareness on the task at hand. Lastly, accessing one’s flow state has also been linked with improved physical performance as well as improved decision-making skills due to better utilization of available resources.
The Flow State & or being in the zone allows us to tap into our highest potential while engaging in activities we are passionate about or deeply interested in. By understanding what it takes to access this mental state—challenging goals combined with meaningful feedback—we can optimize our performance physically, mentally, and emotionally while pushing ourselves towards higher levels of mastery. Unlocking our flow state gives us the best chance at achieving peak personal performance, so learn how to get in the zone!