What is a flow state and how can it help you perform at your best?

5 August 2022

Popularised by the renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow state describes a Flow is the optimum state where an individual is healthy, focused, confident and able to perform at their best in the present moment.  

At Ground + Air, we help individuals and teams understand and shift their attitudes, feelings and actions, ultimately enabling them to experience flow state more often and perform at their peak. This blog will explore the concept from an individual’s perspective, which will develop your understanding of how our one-to-one coaching work can help you experience a flow state.  

What does it feel like to be in a flow state?  

You will have experienced flow at some stage in your life — that sense of fluidity between your body and mind, where you are completely immersed and deeply focused on the task at hand. Time feels like it has slowed down. You are at one with the activity, as action and awareness merge to create a powerful momentum. Some people describe this feeling as being “in the zone.” This is a flow state that everyone can achieve, whether you’re engaged in a simple day-to-day task, creative activity, or weekend hobby.

The meaning of flow 

“There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity – you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other; you get immediate feedback,” Csikszentmihalyi said in a 2004 keynote speech. Csikszentmihalyi came to this conclusion by interviewing a variety of high-performing people: including mountain climbers, surgeons, and ballet dancers among others.  

In the context of the workplace, when you’re giving your full attention to a task that you are singularly focused on, and totally absorbed in, you may find yourself cultivating the conditions required to experience a flow state. The mind’s ‘noise’ begins to quieten, placing you in a non-distracted zone of functioning. For example, you may be delivering a presentation at an important meeting with the executive leadership team. The activity is challenging and engaging – both of these conditions are necessary to induce a flow state. You’re immersed in the task at hand and the self-doubt fades away – you are ‘in the zone’ and your nerves work for you rather than against you.  You are experiencing a flow state that enables you to perform at your best. 

How inducing a flow state can help you perform at your best 

The individuals interviewed in Csikszentmihalyi’s research on flow excel in a range of different performance domains – from surgery to mountain climbing, and elite sport. What did they all have in common? They’re all high-performers who took on career paths that challenged and rewarded them.  

Here are some of the ways that experiencing a flow state as often as possible can help you perform at your best:  

  • Intense concentration – not multi-tasking but rather being present and completely absorbed by one activity.  
  • Lack of mind clutter – the thoughts and feelings that often cloud your mind such as stress and self-doubt fade away when you induce a flow state.  
  • Sense of effortlessness and clarity – your body and mind know what to do without having to consciously think about it.  

How Ground + Air can help you experience flow and perform optimally  

Our proprietary Flow framework is designed to support shifts in attitudes, feelings, and actions – so people are ready, open, and able to perform at their best. We’re interested in what supports and drives a person’s performance and wellbeing, which informs our approach to working with you. 

Get in touch here to learn how our coaching services can help you achieve a flow state more often, enhancing your performance and wellbeing.  

About the author:  

Joe Davis, CPsychol is a BPS Chartered Performance Psychologist and Senior Consultant at Ground + Air. He is a peer-reviewed author and enjoys sharing human performance insights to help people enhance the quality of their life. Joe is passionate about helping people thrive – both personally and professionally – and has worked extensively with high performing individuals, teams, and organisations from business and sport.