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Find Your Flow – Discover How Goals and Purpose Fuel Fulfilling Achievement

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The flow state is that magical feeling of being “in the zone”, being completely absorbed and energised by an activity. It’s a powerful state that can, and in most cases, does, boost your productivity, creativity, and enjoyment of life.

Imagine this: you’re “in the zone”, your mind is clear, with heightened awareness and senses, you are hyper-focused on, and completely absorbed in the task at hand, you are oblivious to distractions, time ceases to exist, and all of your skills and actions flow smoothly, intuitively and effortlessly, requiring minimal conscious effort. You and the tasks feel like one. 

Many people who experience “flow” describe it as being euphoric or in a near-euphoric state. At its mildest, flow is a state, an experience, where peak performance is accompanied by deep satisfaction. 

How do you access this magic zone? 

Flow and how to get into it, vary between people. Persist if it doesn’t happen instantly. Experiment with different activities and find what works best for you. With a little effort, you can unlock the power of flow and experience greater focus and joy in your life. This article gives you several tips on how to increase your chances of reaching the “flow state”.

Elite performers across all fields, understand the transformative power of setting goals and choosing a purpose. Goals and purpose provide a focus, provide direction, fuel motivation, and create a sense of meaning that gives our achievements a strong sense of fulfilment.

Let’s take a moment to distinguish between goals and purpose. A purpose is an ongoing intent. Here are some purposes: to write, to travel, and to entertain. Someone who has chosen the purpose of entertaining may set themselves the goal of mastering the guitar or the art of stand-up comedy. 

A person can set themselves a goal, in the absence of a wider, or more enduring purpose. Someone setting the goal to replace their car, may not have a passion or purpose related to cars other than to replace a necessary tool to enable transport. 

What steps can you take to get into the flow state? Each of us has to find our own way to flow. Although there is no universally guaranteed recipe, there are techniques that make it more likely. 

  • Challenge yourself. Choose an activity that is moderately challenging, not too easy or too difficult. Set a goal that stretches, but doesn’t overwhelm you. Stepping outside your comfort zone unlocks hidden potential and ignites growth. Rarely do people find flow in the absence of a goal or target. When a person is motivated and focused on a goal, flow becomes possible.
  • Immediate feedback. Choose an activity that provides immediate feedback on your progress. This helps you stay engaged and adjust your actions as needed.
  • Intrinsic motivation. Focus on the enjoyment of the activity itself, not external rewards. Find an activity you’re genuinely passionate about; one that is intrinsically rewarding.
  • Practise. Like any skill, getting into flow takes practice. Be patient and persistent, and celebrate your moments moving towards or “being in the zone.”
  • Connect to a larger purpose. Align your goals with a purpose that resonates with your values and passions. This creates a sense of meaning and enhances your intrinsic motivation. When purpose, goals and values align, reaching a flow state is much more likely.
  • Divide your long-term goals into actionable steps. When goals are divided into smaller sub-goals, or chunks, you can feel progress as each milestone is reached. Chunking helps build momentum and keeps you energised.
  • Visualise success. Paint a vivid picture in your mind of achieving your goals and sub-goals. See yourself crossing the big finish line, and each smaller one along the way. Feel the visualised achievements in your emotional imagination.
  • Go for growth.  One of the key characteristics of being in the flow is enjoyment of the process, learning and growth, not just the final outcome. Enjoy the learning curve and the challenges; savour the progress, and trust that the path leads to something meaningful. Enjoy the journey towards your desired destination.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. When you are helped by those who share your goals and values, their encouragement on your shared journey can provide invaluable support and keep you going when things get tough. Equally, if there are any negative people, raining on your parade, get them out of your life ASAP.
  • Be present in the moment.  Flow almost always takes place with the mind in the here and now. Focus on the task at hand. Minimise distractions. Find a distraction-free environment to work or perform.
  • Celebrate your achievements. However large or small, when you make progress, pat yourself on the back, savour your successes. Why? To keep your motivation high.
  • Learn from your setbacks. View setbacks as opportunities for growth. Analyse what went wrong, adjust your approach, and use the experience to fuel your next attempt. Advanced practitioners in many fields, are actively happy when they make a mistake; it shows them how they can improve.
  • Be at peace with your imperfections. Accept that, on the way to your goal, mistakes are inevitable; learn from them, to keep moving forward.
  • Stay organised. Create a system for managing your time, tasks, and resources. Orderliness reduces the risk of overwhelm and allows you to flow through your day with efficiency.
  • Take care of yourself. Take time to care for your physical and mental well-being. Maintaining a healthy diet, and lifestyle, getting plenty of sleep, and engaging in activities that bring you joy, are all essential if you are to achieve peak flow.
  • Pursue continuous learning. Ongoing learning and growing, finding ways to develop and build on your skills, knowledge, and experiences, gives your mind more material to draw on when you enter peak flow.
  • Develop an attitude of gratitude.  Look for aspects of your life to appreciate. Regularly express gratitude for the opportunities, resources, and people that support you on your journey. Gratitude, once developed to the point of habit, fosters an increasingly positive mindset.
  • Meaning. Contributing to something larger than yourself adds meaning and purpose to your achievements. When what we do has meaning, it gives us a sense of significance and focus. That makes entering the flow state much more likely. Choose a cause you care about and find ways to make a positive impact.
  • Track your progress. Keep a journal or use a progress tracker to visualise the steps on your journey. Seeing your growth over time keeps you motivated and helps you believe in your, as yet untapped, potential.
  • Reward yourself. Celebrate your milestones with small rewards that self-recognise your efforts. That maintains your high levels of enthusiasm towards reaching your goals.
  • Find your flow triggers. Identify the activities, environments, or routines that help you enter the flow state. Deliberately activate those triggers to better enable you to enter a performance-enhancing flow.
  • Trust yourself. Believing in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals helps develop persistence. When you persevere through challenges en route to your goal, you are much more likely to experience flow.

Finding your flow is about much more than achieving your goals; it’s about living a life filled with meaning, significance, purpose, continuous growth, and enjoyment. In short, flow feels great.

From the above, what steps will you take today, to enable you to harness the power of flow?

Professor Nigel MacLennan runs the performance coaching practice PsyPerform.


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