How to find the “flow”

Three years ago, I bought a van, a VW Crafter. The plan was to convert it into a campervan. I started the project in April and finished it in two and a half months.

I had absolutely no precondition for building anything. I used youtube and learned everything I needed there. Let me put it this way: the level of my knowledge was that I searched on youtube about how to put together two pieces of wood. As you can see, the learning curve was very high. During the two months I lost almost ten kilos, I slept little and worked most of the time with the car.

And I loved it. I was in the flow zone.

When you are in the flow, you are completely engrossed in what you are doing. Time ceases to exist, because you are completely present and experience only a continuous flow from one moment to the next.

Table of content

You would continue work without getting paid

When you experience flow, you are so concerned with the goal – to complete the task – that you use what you have of creativity, logical thinking, and concentration to solve this task.

The task must be demanding in the way that it often challenges your knowledge, but no more than what you think you can do, because then you will be worried, anxious and discouraged. If the task is too simple or a little stimulating, you will get bored, and the flow will disappear.

Being in the flow zone provides a great opportunity for learning. But keep in mind that as you become better at coping with what you are doing, you will need to increase the complexity and the lining to continue to experience flow. Otherwise, what first gave you flow will be boring and the flow disappear.

When you are in this state, you feel motivated and engaged. You use a lot of energi, but you don’t experience the work as heavy or difficult precisely because you are internally motivated.

Remember that when I built my own motorhome, I forgot the time and place and did not even remember to eat.

– It is so rewarding in itself to do the activity, that you would continue without getting paid. In flow, you become very focused and productive. That’s what’s so amazing about this condition.

What really happens in the brain during flow?

In the brain, many different neurotransmitters are released, including adrenaline, which provides increased concentration and activation of the brain’s reward systems. We also see that the activity in the prefrontal cortex subsides. It is the area of ​​the brain that is active when you worry about what you look like or wonder what you will become when you grow up.

In flow mode, we work more with the limbic system, ie the animal reptile brain. The good thing about this is that all the everyday worries and overthinking that we humans are so good at disappear.

When did it all start?

The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi developed the theory of “flow” as early as 1965. He was fascinated by the trance-like state the artists seemed to be in, when they were totally devoted to the work.

Later he also studied the phenomenon with other groups, such as mountain climbers, chess players and musicians. He discovered that people around the world, across age and profession, described similar experiences of being in what he eventually called the flow zone. Flow is man’s most important source of happiness, according to the professor.

"Work flow" in the workplace

 

In adults, it seems that the feeling of flow occurs more often at work than in leisure time.

It is common to experience glimpses or periods of flow when you are at work. However, studies indicate that only 20 percent experience being in flow at least once a day, while around 15 percent report that they do not experience flow at all at work.

It can be easier to get in touch with creative work, than if you work in a fast food chain making burgers. It can be too monotonous and boring.

Considering that as many as 70% of us dislike the job we have on a daily basis, not many people experience flow. If your attitude is that the job takes advantage of you and you really should have been somewhere else. Then you ponder so much that it is impossible to get in flow.

Csikszentmihalyi ment that the origin of the so called “flow” datet back to one of the Chinese dynasties, where an emperor described a butcher: How he cut the meat, threw it around, flipped out the bones. For him, it was a sport to save a few tenths of a second here and there. He worked quickly and efficiently with fluid movements. It looked like a dance, how this butcher parted this animal.

You can experience flow in any activity, but one point is that you experience the activity as fundamentally rewarding, said Csikszentmihalyi.

You need concentration and clear goals

In order for you to get into the flow zone, certain things must be in place. A challenge, concentration, and absence of disturbances. In today’s society we are bombarded with emails, push notifications, tik tok, instagram, likes and dislikes and news that changes headlines every three minutes to keep the reader trapped, and thus prevents the reader, ie you, from entering the article and really read something more than a headline, the possibility of achieving flow disappears because one of the most important criteria for this is: full attention.

Furthermore, you need a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, and an experience that you get to this.

If you are downhill skiing, it’s easy. You know you will succeed if you manage to get down on the ground without hitting the gates or falling. You get continuous and direct feedback that you master what you do.

In the workplace, it is not always as easy. Many are small bricks in large processes and are unable to see the whole. And thus it does not seem as if they make a difference or not. Their bit of work means nothing – even if it does on a higher level. They just do not see it. Unclear goals in the workplace create energy leakage and prevent people from experiencing flow.

Flow is linked to happiness and well-being

In the flow zone, we simply become happy. It’s like an intoxication, but a healthy intoxication. We forget ourselves, all negative thoughts disappear, pondering ceases and time disappears or becomes infinite. The concept of time is what is repeated by most people who are in the flow zone. It disappears completely. An hour feels like a minute.

The flow zone can be experienced as worry-free and almost ecstatic, Csikszentmihalyi said.

In research, the feeling of flow is strongly associated with happiness and life satisfaction. Even if the person experiencing the flow does not at the moment want to put those words on the experiences. You will probably be told not to disturb if you ask the person who is in a flow process about his degree of happiness. Afterwards, however, he or she will describe the flow zone as an endless, fantastic experience.

 How to get in the flow zone?

Here are some good tips on how to quickly achieve flow zone.

Planning

– Those who experience the most flow, score high on the personality trait planning. I think this is about discipline. Scheduled people clear away disturbances and give themselves time and space to float. More impulsive personalities will more easily be distracted by social media and the like.

Dont be neurotic

Being neurotic seems to be a disadvantage in this context. Then you are usually someone who ponders and worries a lot, which is an obstacle to flow.

Have focus.

Everyone can get the feeling of flow, even if we have different prerequisites. It is also possible to practice keeping focus, for example through meditation. It will also be easier to fall into the flow zone if it is something you have done often before.

In short: find peace and quiet, have clear goals, find an appropriate challenge and get continuous feedback on how things are going.

Sources

Some of the text in this blogpost is from an article in psykologisk.no, by Jenny Marie Baksaas. 

And the Crafter … became super nice.

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