Definition & Examples

What is Flow?

Flow state, commonly referred to as being “in the zone,” is the mental state of operation in which a person is fully immersed in energized focus and enjoyment during the process of the activity.

Why Flow?

In learning to access flow, one can apply increased concentration to their daily activities/tasks.  This also provides insight as to which sources, internal and external, are breaking the flow.  This heightened awareness is instrumental to sustaining an optimal level of efficiency & productivity.

The benefits reach beyond getting things done.  Flow inducing activities will teach your team how to manage stress when they feel overwhelmed.  This leads to an increase in overall happiness and a reduction in burnout. Stress reduction, joy and confidence are a few of the many benefits aligned with flow.

Examples of Flow  

Bill Russell – Hall of Fame basketball player for the Boston Celtics:

“When it happened, I could feel my play rise to a new level. . . . It would surround not only me and the other Celtics, but also the players on the other team. . . . At that special level, all sorts of odd things happened. The game would be in the white heat of competition, and yet somehow I wouldn’t feel competitive. . . . I’d be putting out the maximum effort . . . and yet I never felt the pain.”

Edna O’Brien – Irish novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet and short story writer

“My hand does the work and I don’t have to think. In fact, were I to think, it would stop the flow. It’s like a dam in the brain that bursts.” 

Dr. Dre – Rapper, record producer and entrepreneur

“I’ve gone seventy-nine hours without sleep, creating. When that flow is going, it’s almost like a high. You don’t want it to stop. You don’t want to go to sleep for fear of missing something.” 

Aron Ralston – American outdoorsman, mechanical engineer and motivational speaker

“I’ve kind of entered a flow state. I’ve been there before while climbing. You are not thinking ahead. You are just thinking about what is in front of you each second.” 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – Hungarian-American psychologist, author of the Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

“Climbing is the same: recognizing that you are a flow. The purpose of the flow is to keep on flowing, not looking for a peak or utopia but staying in the flow. It is not a moving up but a continuous flowing; you move up to keep the flow going. There is no possible reason for climbing except the climbing itself; it is a self-communication.”

Runner’s World

Sometimes we get it, sometimes we don’t. But we always want it—and more of it. It’s the runner’s high, and when we are lucky enough to tap into it our runs feel easy, exhilarating, even euphoric. 

“A good discussion often brings a sense of flow. I am not aware of myself, the world around, or the passage of time. I get totally involved in the conversation. Everything goes smoothly. It is a challenging but not a rough ride. Yet, like with all truly fulfilling experiences, you know that you were in flow, not while you were there, but because of missing it after.”