Flow is a concept developed by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi from the Claremont Graduate University. At a simple level it represents the moment for maximum intensity and creativity in which we forget about the time, the space or even our own person. He calls this state the optimal experience, a state of deep happiness.
This is the moment of creativity in which all our actions seem to be made without any effort. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published the result of many years of research in his book “Flow: The psychology of optimal experience”. The figure below shows how we can reach the state of flow based on the intensity of challenges and skills.
If what we do has a high level of challenge and we use our skills at the maximum level, then we would enter the state of flow.
If our challenges are high but we lack the skills we will be stressed. If the challenges are low and we don’t use our current skills, then we will get bored.
Source of image: http://www.aliciacaswell.com/ adapted after Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi — Flow: The psychology of optimal experience
Why should we seek to reach a state of flow? Because, this is not only the place where you can express your creativity and potential, but also the place where you can be accomplished.
How can you enter the flow?
Do you enter as often as possible in a state in which you are 100% focused on what you are doing? If yes, this means that both your challenges and skills are used at the maximum level. If these moments are rare, you should analyze the reasons and start from there.
Think about how much you use your skills, and if you use the ones that you really want. You can be very good at your job, without using the skills that you desire.
Analyze the challenges at your job. Are they useful for your self-development? Is this a dynamic environment in which you can learn and develop?
If you have current challenges at your job, but you lack the skills, you should be studying. You may need training, coaching or maybe a degree or certification in a domain.
These programs will give you the needed skill to move from anxiety to flow.
If changing your job is not an alternative, maybe you should seek for more challenges. You can create them by proposing new projects to your colleagues (inside or outside the office like team building) or you can start a project outside your job. This could be a personal project or volunteering.
Whatever your current state, any change to reach flow will have positive benefits for you and the others around you, because you will unleash your true creativity and true potential.