A vital truth to understand about flow is that it is trainable. You can learn to achieve flow at will, which is encouraging and motivating.
Flow has triggers that catalyze getting in the zone. The idea is to design your life with as many of these triggers as possible until they are automatic.
The main idea with flow triggers is that they drive attention into the present moment. Some triggers even cause the release of dopamine and norepinephrine (which drive attention).
Below, and in the following blog, I will outline 12 different triggers for flow that you can immediately begin to employ to access flow states on demand.
Flow Trigger 1 – Curiosity, Passion, and Purpose
If flow follows focus, then interest and curiosity will naturally trigger flow.
When I was growing up and struggling with ADD, I could name well over 200 Major League Baseball players. I knew interesting facts about the teams, and could imitate the batting stances of most of the leagues stars.
But, I couldn’t remember or focus on anything else.
What I was interested in, I could get completely lost in; without interest, I struggled. My story illustrates how having an interest in a goal or hobby is critical to experiencing the transformational effects of flow.
Want to trigger flow? Find passion, purpose, and curiosity in what you are doing.
Flow Trigger 2 – Clear Goals
If you have a chosen path that interests you and you have a lot of passion for, it will be marginalized if you don’t direct it toward the achievement of your goals.
An airplane loaded with passengers leaves the terminal with a flight plan. If it didn’t, it would take off, fly, then run out of fuel and crash.
This analogy demonstrates the results you will experience when there’s passion and interest without a destination or plan. Eventually, you will run out of fuel and quit.
It is empirically proven through numerous studies that those with goals outperform those who do not have goals.
If you wish to achieve a high-flow lifestyle, clear goals must be in your arsenal.
A person lacking clarity in the moment, wondering what to do, will not achieve flow but rather, will slip back into mind-numbing distractions to relieve the stress.
Flow Trigger 3 – Challenge/Skill Ratio
The ratio of the challenge at hand to your skill level is a crucial concept you must understand in order to learn how to achieve flow.
If you have a growth mindset, you will accept challenges. As you struggle through challenge, you gain mastery. This is a virtuous cycle of learning new things, struggling to integrate that learning, practice, and growing a skill.
If you are at a point where the challenge is far greater than your skill, you will become anxious. If the challenge is too easy, boredom will set in.
When you’re in a game situation or starting a work task and the skill you bring is in close proximity to the level of challenge, this can catalyze a period of flow.
Skill and knowledge are prerequisites of flow.
As you can see so far, flow triggers build on each other. Curiosity and passion drive a person through the challenge/skill ratio until they have developed the expertise to achieve the ratio of balance that allows them to get in the zone.
Flow Trigger 4 – Complete Concentration
Focusing on the task at hand without interruptions or distractions is a major flow trigger. Focus cannot be achieved if you do not have the passion and curiosity, along with the expertise.
To attain complete concentration, your schedule and work environment must be designed for focus. You will need to restrict others’ access to you for a defined period of time to allow yourself to focus on one thing.
Remove anything from your work space that could distract you from the one thing you want to invest time in.
Don’t get discouraged if this isn’t easy at first. Focusing your attention on one thing for an extended period of time will take practice.
Think about any habits you could change to facilitate focus, then practice! The longer you focus, the more and the better you will be able to focus in the future.
Flow Trigger 5 – Autonomy
The ability to spend time on what you want to do, rather than a task handed to you by someone you report to or that’s forced upon you by circumstances, will trigger flow.
It stands to reason that if you have the autonomy to choose, you will choose that which is interesting and enjoyable for you.
You will have to complete tasks that you dislike doing such as expense reports or following up on emails, however, when you’re empowered with a choice, getting in the zone is likely. This is provided you have the habits and environment to capitalize on the opportunity.
Flow Trigger 6 – Immediate Feedback
Getting into flow is an enjoyable experience that provides incentives for developing skills and personal growth. Being in flow motivates you to pursue challenging activities, in order to maintain flow, you have to set a higher standard as your skills progress.
Flow enables you to live up to your individual potential.
When you actively search for challenging situations that stretch your skills, you will develop even more skills. Immediate feedback is a necessary aspect of this process.
To improve your skills, you need feedback on the level of your skills as often as possible in order to make adjustments until your skills improve.
Feedback comes in the form of a partner with clear goals; clear goals tell you what you’re doing and immediate feedback tells you how to do it better.
If you know how to improve performance in real time, the mind doesn’t wander off in search of clues for betterment.
Alright… that’s enough for this week! Start with any one of these six flow triggers to find ways to activate flow state in your daily routine.
Check in next week for flow triggers 7-12!