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The 5 Ultimate Laws of Flow

Flow is the state of mind in which you can perform at an almost super-human level. Here are 5 pointers on harnessing its power!
by Tom Anderson | Nov 25 2016

Getting your flow on the road

Faces calm, bodies relaxed, they dunk and dive and sprint with easy grace. Great athletes make their sports look effortless, but underneath it all, they’re at max exertion. The reason they’re able to remain calm, cool, and successful is because they’ve ascended to an almost magical state of being called flow. Flow is what happens when you are so immersed in what you’re doing that it becomes automatic. It’s also when you perform at your very best, so it’s in everybody’s best interest to learn how to harness it.

The good news? Flow isn’t a luxury limited to pro athletes. Whatever you want to achieve, learn how to get in the flow so that you’re doing it better than ever. These tips from the best books on flow will help you get into the zone.

1. Flow can only be achieved if you enjoy your work.

It is nigh impossible to get into flow if you find the task that you are doing boring or unfulfilling. After all, if you dread doing something, it’s hardly likely that you’ll lose yourself in it. But how can you discover what it is that you enjoy doing the most? One simple step is to read Roman Krznaric’s How to Find Fulfilling Work. Krznaric explains how anyone, from those about to start their careers, to those trapped in dull jobs, can identify the work that will fill them with passion and drive.

2. Flow demands complete concentration on what you are doing.

Let’s face it: most of us are expert procrastinators. When it’s time to work hard on an important task, we’re lured by answering emails or scrolling through our social media feeds. This constant disruption means we can’t focus enough to achieve flow, but luckily, there are many titles out there to help you concentrate, from Cal Newport’s Deep Work, to Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique. Another great dealing with laser concentration is Daniel Goleman’s Focus, which explains how we to use techniques from psychology and mindfulness to sharpen your attention.

3. Flow can only happen if you have the right mindset.

To get into the zone, you need a task that that challenges you. In The Rise of Superman, Steven Kotler suggests that you should be doing work roughly 4% greater than your skill level, but coming out of your comfort zone can be hard—particularly if you approach a task with fear of failure rather than trust in your ability to learn. In her book, Mindset
, Carol Dweck explains how a fixed mindset traps us into believing that we can’t acquire new skills or tackle new challenges, thinking that will keep us from the work that will bring us into flow. In Mindset, you’ll can learn how to adopt a growth mindset and welcome in the kinds of challenges that get your flow on the road.

4. A community of like-minded people will help you achieve flow.

In order to enter a state of flow again and again, you need to keep on feeling recognized for your hard work. Joining a community with others with similar passions is a great way of getting these rewards. For example, when a climber climbs the trickiest rock formation during flow, her community can give her a reward through their vocal admiration of her achievement. Click, by Rom and Ori Brafman, is a great read for those who wish to learn more about meeting their flowmates and forming strong, sustenance-giving communities.

5. When it comes to flow, practice makes perfect.

The better you are at what you do, the easier you will find it to enter a state of flow. And how do you become better at what you do? Through practice: the more you practice something, the more able you’ll be to do the easy things automatically, leaving you with the chance to focus on the stuff that’s 4% more challenging. You can find out more on this in Bounce, in which Matthew Syed explains how, through practice, top sportsmen and women get into flow during competition. When the basics happen unconsciously, he explains, the brain is left to focus on the strategies and tactics that will help you win.

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