Flowing water with the reflection of the blue sky taken with a slow shutter speed

Since I read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s bestselling book on the subject of flow, I have focused on learning as much as I can about this amazing state of being. The more I have l learned about flow, the more intentional I have become about practicing the conditions that help create it for myself and for my clients. Presently, hardly a day goes by that I do not get to experience flow frequently throughout much of the day. In fact, I have designed my vocation around doing what gives me the most energy, satisfaction, joy, and impact for good. Experiencing flow is a consistent part of effectively living out my vocation.

So what exactly is flow?  Csikszentmihalyi, the author who introduced the concept, describes the experience of flow as “a unique state of concentration when you feel positive, energized, focused, and totally absorbed in the present moment.” Everything around you is forgotten except the task at hand, while awareness and action become one. You lose all sense of time and self-consciousness. You are confident, fully engaged, and fully present in the moment. Time flies by, and when finished, you experience a deep sense of satisfaction. This state is exactly what I experience when working with my clients!

The metaphor of flow is one that many people have used to describe the sense of effortless action and power they feel in moments that stand out as the best in their lives. Athletes refer to it as “being in the zone,” religious mystics describe it as being in “ecstasy,” and artists and musicians might call it “aesthetic rapture.” Some refer to flow as a time of optimal performance. Those who experience flow often say it is an exhilarating experience, that they feel joyful and intensely alive.

We can experience flow in every domain of our lives, including work, family, leisure, spiritual and community. Unfortunately most people do not. Only around 20% of people surveyed experience flow frequently, 35% experience it sometimes, 25% seldom experience it, and 20% said they never experience flow in their lives. Interestingly, the majority of the 20% who do experience flow frequently, experience it mostly in their work. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I have come to deeply appreciate the L.P. Jacks quote, “A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” I believe Jacks had discovered how to experience flow in every domain of his life and for that reason, he could make such a statement.

How often do you experience flow in your life? Where do you experience it most often, and what are you doing when you experience flow? Thank you for leaving your responses in the comment section below.

In my next blog I will share the nine keys to be able to consistently experience flow.  These keys are not “rocket science” – anyone can consistently experience flow in all of the domains of their lives.