What is flow?

One of the things we're asked most often is how to attain flow state easier and more often.

Flow states are pleasurable. For entrepreneurs, flow states can be crucial for productivity or teamwork. But because flow is subjective, there isn't any hard science in this area.

The research seems to suggest that flow states occur when our aptitude and the challenge are evenly matched. Just challenging enough to keep you engaged, but not so much so that you're frustrated.

Think of flow as an emergent property

Like temperature is to a source of heat, the flow state is emergent. It has no absolute properties. And it's not "out there" waiting for you as if it were a location in spacetime.

Until we learn more, we can say that besides being emergent, flow also seems to share features in common with the liminal states and also dynamic balance. Liminal states are the in-between zones, like between waking and sleeping. Dynamic balance is what happens when you ride a bike or snowboard.

In a Clubhouse room on this topic recently, Marques Anderson spoke to the utility of flow states as a tool we can leverage for optimal performance in any zone: physical, psychological, social, or creative. Flow fosters self-mastery.

Flow may also be related to the alignment of two points in spacetime. By definition, flow entails some matter or media that moves from one area to another. How those two points are aligned affects the speed and direction of the flow.

For the flow state to emerge, we need some kind of imbalance or agitation. Barometric pressure creates fluctuations in air flow. Or, the weak force of gravity can act upon a material like water and cause it to flow downstream.

The flow of water is a great metaphor for how we can capitalize on flow and welcome it into our lives.

Tips for Inducing Flow

1. Focus. "Where focus goes, energy flows." If you want to enter a flow state, start with focus. It is possible that you haven’t been aligning yourself with purpose if you have trouble getting into flow.

2. Align. Flow arises via a balance between having a guiding purpose, an attractive challenge, and matching aptitude.

3. Let go and remove other blockages to flow. I used to play bass in a rock band. During jam sessions, I found the flow state potent with energy. At times it can be scary! We pursue mastery, flow is an emergent gift.

4. Go all in. Flow state is full immersion.

5. Pay attention. Through observation and awareness of what flow feels like, you can return there more often and make flow states last longer.

Questions to ponder

1. Surfing is the epitome of flow, and surfing requires humility. Mathematically speaking, is humility embedded in the flow equation?

2. Is crazy wisdom a long-term flow state?

3. Based on the metaphor of water flowing with the gravitational force, what force(s) might cause mental flow to emerge?

4. Do flow states vary in frequency and amplitude? Assuming there is variation, is there an equation we can discover to lead us to mathematical models?

5. Is flow state correlated with how tightly wound a person is?

6. And if flow is emergent, what does it emerge from

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