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Finding Your Flow

4 min read
19/05/23 13:56

Have you ever been doing something you enjoyed so much that time seemed to fly by? Or perhaps you’ve felt “in the zone” while working, playing games, or competing in a sport.


 This sense of single-minded focus is what psychologists refer to as “flow." Since 1975, researchers have searched for ways to secure more of this profound, energising experience. In doing so, they’ve discovered the experience’s powerful benefits for our health and wellbeing, as well as its links to greater satisfaction across both our leisure and work lives.


What is Flow?

Without ever hearing the term, most people understand what being in a flow state is like. However, scientists formally define flow as a state of complete immersion in an activity.


When you’re experiencing flow, you’re so focused, absorbed, and engaged that your mind doesn’t wander. You may be unaware of thinking, and your sense of self falls away.

 Since different things are engaging for different people, everyone flows differently. But common flow-inducing activities include:

  • Exercising and playing sports
  • Reading
  • Solving puzzles or playing games
  • Creative and artistic activities
  • Playing an instrument
  • Cooking
  • Gardening


The “Goldilocks Zone”

For years, scientists have eagerly investigated what makes for the perfect flow experience. They’ve found that it most often arises when we strike the ideal balance between the difficulty of a task and our skill level, sometimes referred to as the “Goldilocks zone.”

When a task is too easy, we grow bored and lose interest. When it’s too hard, we feel anxious or frustrated. To illustrate, if you want to study medicine, you probably won’t make it far if you open your first textbook and it looks like another language. Conversely, if you’re already a physician, you might not find a nursing course very engaging. In other words, to achieve flow, you need a challenge that meets your skillset.

 When your current skill level is a good match to a task’s difficulty, into the flow zone you go. As pleasure abounds, you also hone your abilities and act with optimal effectiveness—a triple win, which is why this state has attracted so much intrigue among scientists.


Different Skill Levels and the Benefits of Flow

Experts, whether they be Olympic athletes, Michelin Star chefs, or world-champion chess players, spend years honing a craft. Eventually, many achieve a meditation-like level of focus, giving rise to flow. But you don’t need to be a world master at anything to achieve flow in your day-to-day life.

 Flow experiences arise when you balance a task’s difficulty and your personal skill level. Therefore, you just need a challenge that fits your ability and to remember to keep increasing the challenge as your skills improve.

 A growing number of researchers believe that flow, happiness, and life satisfaction are linked, with some researchers even using these terms synonymously. When you consider that life is simply the sum of its small moments, it only makes sense that accessing flow more often is one of the surest paths to fulfillment and wellbeing.

 The benefits of flow can also extend to your health. Studies across young and elderly populations have shown that those who experience greater flow in their activities report less physical pain, greater vitality, and fewer symptoms of mental illness.


Finding Your Flow

What if you could live your life without hesitation or resistance? What if you could find yourself so engrossed in your work that you no longer counted down the hours until Friday night? It all starts with finding your flow.


Since happiness and flow are natural partners, finding your flow begins by identifying when you most often feel positive throughout a typical week. Ask yourself:


  • Can you think of a time when you were completely absorbed in what you were doing? If so, what were you doing? Who was around?
  • What did you feel during this experience, and how long did it last?
  • Can you think of other times when you had a similar experience?
  • What did these experiences have in common? What kind of mental, physical, or creative skills were you using?

When you start drawing connections across activities, you’ll soon start recognizing when you most often slip into flow throughout your day.


Finding Flow in Leisure

Consider whether you can commit to practicing some of these activities more regularly. This means building some flow into the routine that makes up your leisure or personal time.

 Many people find it helpful to get up a little earlier in the morning before the day’s demands come rushing in or set aside some committed time on the weekend. For example:


  • Attend morning vinyasa yoga classes (also known as “flow yoga” due to the smooth transitions between poses).
  • Aerobic exercise that pairs well with our current fitness level can also induce flow. So try attending a workout class or going for a morning run.
  • Pen a fiction or poem, or do some free-flow journaling as you drink your morning coffee.
  • Carve out time for some DIY or artistic craft—build or create something to display in your home, and get into the flow while doing it.


Finding Flow at Work

Studies have demonstrated that flow is available to all of us throughout not only our leisure but also our workday, bringing the benefits of greater productivity, faster learning, and increased work enjoyment.


When thinking about flow during your work hours, see if you can find ways to prioritize satisfaction in your activities. A major career shift is rarely needed as most jobs, even those with little flexibility, offer workers at least a few ways to alter their responsibilities.

 The practice of tweaking the way you perform work tasks to increase your satisfaction is known as job crafting. You can do it in three simple steps:


  1. Think about the changes you might make. Are they social, technical, or mental? Start brainstorming ideas for each category.
  2. Evaluate how the changes you've come up with might impact you and your work environment. For example, say you prefer solitary work over answering phones. You might ask your boss if you can reorganize a database that needs updating. As a result, you get more flow-inducing work, and your boss gets a solution to a problem.
  3. Keep others in the loop if your changes affect their workflow, and continue adjusting your crafting efforts to find more flow!




Successful, fulfilled people seem to experience a sense of immersion more often in their daily lives. They maintain a good balance between challenge and skill, and they regularly increase both.

 If this sounds like you, then keep doing what you’re doing! More likely, though, you probably wish you had a bit more flow in your life. So try some of these tips to find more flow in your work and play, and watch as your wellbeing and satisfaction grow.

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