The Keys to Leading a High Flow Lifestyle
Why would I want a High Flow Lifestyle?
The importance of having flow in your life is that it’s really a secret to happiness. When you are in flow you naturally want to be in that state again. Yes, like a drug, but there are no shortcuts to the experience. Only conditions and personalities that allow us to bring more flow on in our lives on a regular basis.
When we are in flow everything is heightened: our creativity, our productivity, the rate at which we learn things...in essence we are performing at our peak level, or our optimal human performance. Now to do this on a regular basis and make it part of your lifestyle, to achieve more, faster, you can live life to its fullest and live a healthier and happier life.
What type of person can lead a high flow lifestyle?
Don’t worry, in theory, anyone can lead a high flow lifestyle. However, some types of personalities may be better suited for accessing flow on a regular basis. Even if you don’t naturally embrace the following personality traits, I do believe you can develop them with intentional training.
There are also certain conditions that have to be met in order to enter the flow state, especially if you are going to bring this into your everyday lifestyle. I will talk about the various non-negotiable conditions necessary to enter flow, but first let’s dive into the characteristics and personal traits that are necessary for you to lead a high flow lifestyle.
In a quote from Psychology Today:
How can we find flow in everyday life?
By being thoughtful about the high points of your life. Ask yourself: Why did I feel that? Was it because of the person I was with? Because of the thoughts I was having? Because of what I was doing? Once you discover what it is that makes you feel like that, try to make more space in your life to recreate those feelings.
This leads into the type of personality you need to develop and the the types of questions you should be asking yourself.
The godfather of flow, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, believes that having an autotelic personality is important to developing a deeper flow more often than the average person. This is about being more concerned with the present, and doing things for their own sake, not some perceived goal later on.
Some key attributes to an autotelic personality are:
CuriosityBeing curious about a wide variety of things.
PersistenceContinuing with an activity even if it is challenging and there is no end in sight.
Low Self-centerednessTaking yourself out of the equation and and realizing the interconnectedness of everything.
Intrinsic MotivationsA high rate of performing activities for the pure reason of doing the activity itself. The motivation for doing it comes from within.
Some research has shown that people with an autotelic personality have a preference for "high-action-opportunity, high-skills situations that stimulate them and encourage growth" (Snyder, C.R. & Lopez, S.J. (2007), Positive psychology: The scientific and practical explorations of human strengths, London, UK: Sage Publications).
The high-challenge/high-skills balance is necessary for entering the flow state. Actually, research says that the challenge should be 4% higher than your skills in order to enter flow. Too great a challenge and you give up or frustration incurs, too low of a challenge and you lack the focus and motivation needed to enter flow.
Internal Locus of Control
It is also said that a people with a stronger Internal Locus of Control are the type of people that are able to balance the necessary skills/challenge demands to elicit flow experiences. (Keller, J., & Blomann, F. (2008). Locus of control and the flow experience. An experimental analyses. European Journal of Personality, 22, 589-607)
The 2 different types of Locus of Control are Internal and external. Internal is a belief that you can control your own life and there are no outside forces influencing you. External is a belief that life is controlled by outside factors which you can’t influence, or that fate or chance control your life.
Simply put, do you control your own destiny or not?
An autotelic person needs few material possessions and little entertainment, comfort, power, or fame because so much of what he or she does is already rewarding. They are less dependent on the external rewards that keep others motivated to go on with a life composed of routines. They are more autonomous and independent because they cannot be as easily manipulated with threats or rewards from the outside.
Enjoying the journey is more important than the end result. If you can begin to develop some of these autotelic traits then you will find a freedom in being able to quickly make decisions regarding how your time is spent, or stolen. Protecting your time for your flow activity is extremely important if you are going to lead a high flow lifestyle that goes beyond that one flowy experience.
The 5 Conditions for Developing a High Flow Lifestyle
You can intensify flow and begin to experience it almost every day, but you need to create the right environment to allow that to happen. There are many distracting flow blockers out there so here is a good place to start with the 5 conditions for developing a high flow lifestyle.
Flow follows focus. You need to be so focused and lost in something that you stop all of the judgement and analyzing of the situation. Being able to defer judgement encourages the body to continue the activity.
This is learning from doing. We engage deeper when we are in action or learning through motion. This is ingrained in many martial arts and spiritual practices as well. Through the full body moving you are bringing in a variety of different senses.
High consequences are important and not only the physical ones, like a fall and die kind of extreme sport, but also social, emotional, mental etc. Just look at the number one thing people around the world are afraid of: public speaking. The possibility of making a mistake in front of a large number of people is a huge fear that people have, more so than getting chased by a bear.
When we can tap into that risk and use it, rather than be debilitated by it and frozen, then you will be able to begin to access flow.
Ikigai (Life Purpose)
Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning your reason for getting out of bed in the morning and continuing through the day, or your life purpose. It is often explained with a Venn diagram and where the circles overlap is your ikigai. In each circle you add: What you love (your passion), What the world needs (your mission), What you are good at (your vocation), What you can get paid for (your profession). It’s actually in the West that we added the parts about your profession and getting paid, or at least that’s the part we tend to focus on.
Taking the time to explore what you enjoy doing and that makes you happy is a road toward finding your ikigai and thus being able to live in flow.
There needs to be some dedicated time set aside for recovering from flow. You can actually avoid burnout even if you have a high flow lifestyle because part of the lifestyle is employing active recovery. However, vegging out in front of the TV and having a drink before bed isn’t the type of recovery that is active and helpful. You need real de-stressors like taking a bath or sitting in a sauna for 20 minutes.
Although this is not a full list of Flow Triggers, concentrating on these things daily will bring more flow into your life on a daily basis. Go through the list of some of the autotelic personality traits and see what relates to you. How much are you in line with those traits? I’m not saying that you can’t reach flow without them, but with this type of personality you will find it much easier to embrace a high flow lifestyle.
I invite you sign up for my weekly High Flow Lifestyle Boosts, which are flow hacks for optimal human performance and happiness. Regularly get new strategies on how to access flow, be more creative and productive, reach your peak performance, and most of all live a happier and healthier life.