Flow – Part 4 (Example – Triggers)

Summary: “Learning about flow triggers (also called flow hacks) can help you induce the state of flow.” 

Flow is the term coined by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describing a favorable state of consciousness where people feel their best and perform their best. Flow triggers are circumstances that serve as entry points to induce the flow state. The common denominator with flow triggers is that they all drive your attention into the present moment…flow follows focus. There are 17 known flow triggers: Four psychological, three environmental, nine social (that facilitate group flow), and one creative trigger. I will discuss a few examples in this posting and here is a slide show covering all the 17 triggers.

Intensely focused attention – Focusing on a singular task with uninterrupted concentration can trigger the flow state. Even some people with relatively short attention spans can sit for a couple of hours and watch a good movie. You are usually in a comfortable seat, the picture is clear, the sound is great and distractions are minimized. Hopefully the same will work with an important task. Get comfortable; clarify what you wants to accomplish and minimize any potential distractions and you are more likely to induce the flow state.

Clear goals – Knowing what you are doing and why you are doing it can trigger flow. Especially knowing what to do next when working on a task or focusing on an activity.

Immediate feedback – Many action/adventure sports trigger flow, such as surfing, rock climbing and snowboarding because physics and gravity provide immediate feedback, especially if you lose your focus.

Challenge/skills ratio – When challenges significantly exceeds skills you may experience anxiety. In the opposite case when skills significantly exceed challenges, you will likely experience boredom. Flow often occurs when your challenges slightly exceeded your current skills (according to some admittedly back-of-the-napkin calculations, perhaps a 4% mismatch can induce flow).

Close listening – For example, being fully engaged in a conversation (not thinking about your response) can trigger flow. In one presentation, Csikszentmihalyi indicated that focused conversations are among the most common flow triggers.

If you want to learn more about flow, I recommend reading two books: Finding Flow by Csikszentmihalyi and The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler. Steven and his colleague Jamie Wheal wrote a newer book titled Stealing Fire; however, I recommend starting with Superman.

I believe flow is a possible solution to many workplace problems such as understaffing, time management issues, low morale and job burnout. Spending time in the flow state is also a good way to joyfully participate in your work and personal life.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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