The Four F's of Flow

Self-doubt, uncertainties, distractions, pointless comparisons with more successful people than ourselves, or simply fear cost us a lot of time and energy and prevent us from realizing our potential and from being successful.


But there is this moment that we sometimes reach when we have the feeling that everything is right, that everything is easy, that we don't have to think at all and everything is going like clockwork. We all know these moments. Most of us experience them while doing sports or any other activity that we know well and that we enjoy. We call these moments "Flow".


What is it all about?

Contrary to popular opinion, flow is not a pure product of chance. Many moments can flow and in many moments we can flow. As with everything in our lives, it just takes a little exercise and practice, and we come to experience flow more often and use it purposefully to become more fulfilled, successful and ultimately happy.


In the following article I will explain which factors are crucial for us to experience flow and how you can create and practice these factors. If you manage to bring flow into your life, everything else will follow.


Where does Flow come from?

The term flow was originally coined by an American-Hungarian psychologist whose name is difficult to pronounce for untrained tongues. Growing up in World War 2, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly became interested early on in the question of what makes a life worth living. He read philosophy books, studied art and religion and somehow happened to come to psychology. As a young psychologist he interviewed many people, among them many artists and scientists. He wanted to know how it happened that many of them considered themselves quite happy and could sometimes go about their work for hours without being distracted or feeling exhausted or stressed. Csikszentmihaly found that there are four main factors which are crucial to experience Flow. He describes these four factors extensively in his first book "Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play". Don't worry, you don't have to read the entire book to learn these four factors. We will introduce them to you here:



In other words: high concentration. Spotlight on the task at hand. All that matters is the one thing you are doing at the moment. Right here, right now. Do not allow your mind to wander. Be involved, be one with what you do. Try to eliminate distractions, don't let anything or anyone disturb or bother you. Sharpen your focus. Direct your imagination and your focus to only one thing. There is nothing else, only the task you have set yourself here and now.



You must feel free. You want to be free to express yourself. You want to do your job without fear of making a mistake. Feel free. If you are constantly afraid of making a mistake or saying something wrong, you will never experience Flow. It's an egoless thing. Let go and have confidence. Work without judgment.



Flow requires a constant stream of information that allows you to evaluate whether your actions are bringing you closer to the goal you have set yourself. You need to know if you are successful with it. Know what success is for you and check it again and again. A clear goal leads to clear feedback. It's like in tennis, where every move you make gives you direct feedback from your opponent. With each of your actions, calculate for yourself whether you have come closer to your desired goal.



If you want to evoke flow in you, the challenge should be 4% greater than your skills or than the level you feel comfortable in. If you play tennis, you will make the best progress and learn the most and fastest when your opponent is rated 4% better than you. You can only grow if you rise to a challenge. But make sure that the challenge is not too big for you.


With these 4 F's you can start to create an environment and scope of action in which flow could become possible and sometimes even predictable. In that way you can control and approach the goal or success you want to achieve. Inner growth becomes a constant and improving your skills becomes a law of nature.


In a later blog we will tell you how to practice the 4 F's and how to reach them more easily. Often it is our thinking habits that keep us from changing, growing, becoming better and more successful human beings. Every small step towards improvement is a step in the right and positive direction.


Stay tuned and keep on flowing!

Your FlowBank Team


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