The Flow Experience

It goes by many names, but most people have experienced flow at some point in their lives. Some know it as being “in the zone”, some call it optimal human experience. Whatever you choose to call it, there are several key indicators that you are experiencing flow, and some of them may surprise you.

  1. Focus: The most commonly recognized flow indicator is that you are hyper-focused on what you are doing. Surfers experience this when riding a wave–skiers when they drop into a challenging run. The main point is that the thing you are doing is challenging enough that all you have the capacity to do is focus on what is right in front of you. A complete level of concentration is critical on the path to the flow experience.
  2. Discomfort: Although many might be tempted to equate comfort with optimal human experience, this is actually not true for those aspiring to experience flow. High-performing athletes, skaters, surfers, and other adventurers will tell you that they feel most in the zone when they are giving it their all–when they are pushing themselves to the limit of their abilities. In other words, when they are at their peak level of discomfort.
  3. Mastery and Control: To really get in the zone takes work. Really hard work. But the work comes ahead of time. You have to train long enough and hard enough that in the moment you have a sense of mastery and control over what you are doing. The great part of this is that if you put in the training time, anyone can reach this level. On the flip-side, if you don’t train sufficiently, you may feel out of control, and it is extremely difficult to simultaneously feel out of control and also “in the zone.”