5 Ways to Turn Up Your Flow State

When have you felt fully absorbed in a task? It has always been that I am completely absorbed in the moment when I am coaching hockey.

My perspective on flow as something we “dial up” rather than an on-off switch, as I described in Managing The Mist (2013), aligns with much of the current understanding of flow states. 

Here’s a brief breakdown:

1. Flow as a Spectrum

I used to think of flow as a binary state: either I was in flow or not. However, when I reflect on my experiences, I see flow exists on a spectrum. 

This means that there are degrees of flow, from shallow to deep. It’s like I sometimes slightly, moderately, or deeply focused on a task, whether it’s writing, playing hockey, coaching a client or engaging in a conversation with my wife.


2. Triggers and Conditions for Flow

While certain conditions for me can make flow more likely, they haven’t guaranteed it. 

By setting up better conditions, like eliminating distractions, choosing challenging tasks, or creating clear goals, I am essentially “dialling up” the likelihood of entering a flow state. However, I have learned that the depth and quality of the flow state can vary.


3. Neurochemistry of Flow

I have been fortunate to partner with the Applied Centre for Neuroscience and understand the neurochemical basis of flow, including the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, anandamide, and endorphins, which suggests a spectrum of experience. 

Developing my awareness of these chemicals has helped me understand why I feel the way I feel in certain situations; these chemicals don’t just flood the system all at once in an all-or-nothing fashion. Depending on the task, its context, and my disposition, there can be varying levels of these neurochemicals, leading to varying depths or intensities of flow.


4. Different Types of Flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who popularised and is considered the godfather of flow, who I reference in Managing The Mist (2013), has described different types of flow experiences, from “microflow” (like when you’re casually involved in a hobby) to deep flow states (like when an artist is lost in their craft for hours). This makes sense to me and indicates different intensities or levels of flow that I experience.


5. Daily Life Observations

I often recount experiences where I felt “in the zone” but not necessarily at the deepest levels of flow. This can be thought of as being on the lower end of the flow dial.

As I described in Managing The Mist (2013), I don’t believe we get in the zone; we are always in the zone, and the challenge is not getting triggered.

While the concept of flow started as a more binary idea for me when I first started my journey into the topic 25 years ago, modern interpretations and anecdotal experiences like mine support the view of flow as a spectrum or something we can “dial up” to varying degrees. 

This perspective is valuable because it recognises that not every flow state has to be a profound, life-altering experience; even the milder flow states bring benefits and can be cultivated in everyday life.

What’s your experience of flow?


P.S. The Flow Mastery Workshop is open.

If you want to achieve more flow, peak performance and improve your leadership, get the roadmap and drastically transform how you experience the world around you. I only open this to a few people each year. LINK