Flow: What is flow and how does it impact our lives?

When I think of flow, I immediate think of the process that I go through during the final stages of publishing a book. From putting the co-author’s information into a spreadsheet, to compiling their entries together, posting marketing graphics, proofreading, and all of the other steps involved with releasing a book….I am flowing my way from one step to the next with clear goals in mind. I have literally worked on a book for 24 hours straight before just because I was in such an amazing state of flow that I just couldn’t stop.

All 9 Elements of Flow are present during this process and to me it is not a job, but it is play because I enjoy it and I get such a sense of accomplishment when a book is complete!

• There are clear goals every step of the way. With each phase of the publishing process, I have clearly defined goals and deadlines that I need to meet. That helps me to stay focused and continue to make the progress that I need to to meet the book’s projected release date.

There is immediate feedback to one’s actions. I get immediate feedback from a number of sources during the publishing process including the distribution company, editor, co-authors, and even potential readers. It doesn’t matter what phase of the process I am in, I am constantly receiving some kind of immediate feedback. If the book is not formatted correctly, the distribution or print company rejects the book. The editor lets me know of any mistakes or mispellings, formatting errors, etc. The co-authors let me know their opinions of the book and they are usually the most brutally honest with me. The potential readers let me know whether or not the book looks interesting.

• There is a balance between challenges and skills. The challenges that I face along the way are within my level of knowledge and skills. Challenges may seems frustrating sometimes, but they keep me going. I am always coming up with a new ways to overcome the challenges and try to prevent them in the future.

• Action and awareness are merged. 

The following description of this element of flow comes from Parkourpedia Action-aware­ness merging requires total immersion in your chosen discipline. When action and awareness merge it is almost as if whatever happens in a sport situation is a natural extension of your mind and will. Soccer players feel literally merged with their team members so that their actions are perfectly coordinated and there is no wasted effort. A tennis player taking a service may feel the racquet as an extension of his/her arm adding to the pinpoint accuracy of the delivery.

That being said, when I am in a flow, it is like I am just naturally doing what needs to be done. I am so used to it now, so I am able to do a lot of of the steps without even thinking or putting a lot of concentration into it. I am still conscious about what I am doing, but I am performing coordinated without a lot of thinking.

• Distractions are excluded from awareness. When I am in a state of flow, I honestly cannot even tell you what is going on around me. That is one of the main reasons, that I like to wait to get into a flow until my kids are sleep or I have help with them. I can get more done in an hour of flow than I can in a whole day where I work sporadically.

• There is no worry of failure. I am too focused on the task at hand to even worry about failure. I am too determined and caught up in whatever task I am working on to think about what could go wrong.

• Self-consciousness disappears. I have to LOL on this one. My kids laugh at me sometimes. “Mom, you look so silly. You have been sitting in that same spot for an hour. You are going to get stuck like that!” is something I have heard from my kids more than once before. It no longer matters to me how I look when I am in a state of flow. I oftentimes work at the local coffee shop and I have sit there for hours so engaged in what I am doing that I forget I am even around people until something catches my attention (someone sneezes or the barista turns on the blender). I’m sure people have given me some funny looks when I have experiences flow in public, but I was to focused to even care.

The sense of time becomes distorted. I have already discussed this one above, but time just seems to go by without me even realizing it when I am experiencing flow. When I worked on a book for 24 hours, it was like I just couldn’t quit until I was done. I was in a zone. My mom thought I was crazy and asked me, “Are you even going to eat?”

The activity becomes an end in itself. 

Here is a more in-depth definition of this element of flow:

Autotelic Experience (CLICK FOR MORE INFO)

An autotelic experience is one that is self – or intrinsically rewarding and not simply a means to an end. Therefore, the key is to enjoy the process of your activity. The term autotelic stems from a Greek word that literally means “an end in itself”, Flow is an experience that fully immerses and engages you. In its purest form, an autoteiic experience is one that is simply great fun. The perception of performing effortlessly typifies such an experience and gives a buzz that can sometimes last for days on end. An autotelic experience is the end result of the other eight dimensions of flow; it is the factor that embodies flow.


Do you believe that you can do things to cultivate flow or that flow can only happen automatically? Just as William stated in his previous post, there are some things you can do to experience flow and become your true autotelic self.

• Set goals that have clear and immediate feedback.

• Become immersed in the particular activity.

• Pay attention to what is happening in the moment.

• Learn to enjoy the experience.

• Increase your skills at the activity.

Personally, I believe I really get in a flow when I have the opportunity to get totally focused on on activity that interests me. Sometimes, I don’t even realize that I am in a state of flow until I become distracted but something that is going on around me (i.e. phone rings, kids talk to me, etc.)

Image Credits:

Publishing – www.teleread.com

Flow – http://www.discoverflow.co

Flow Chart – http://www.jenovechen.com

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