I’m walking through a dry riverbed full of rocks in the Galilee. And I’m speeding. I must tackle this trail quickly. Night is falling and I have miles to go before the end.
As I travel faster and faster, I begin to hop from boulder to boulder: up, down, to the left and right. Lizards scurry off as I bounce from rock to moss covered rock. I think I hear a wild boar in the trees. Birds flit through the leaves with a flap of wings and a few chirps. But it all fades into background music, as my mind and body completely focus on the task at hand.
What I am doing right now – speeding through a dry riverbed – seems immensely pleasurable to me. Sweat is dripping from my brow. I may be hungry and thirsty, but I feel energized. As I increase and decrease speed, I make snap judgements – how far do I have to jump to reach the next rock? Can I make it? And I always do.
I feel like a child playing a video game: having just landed on a magic mushroom, I am now invincible. My legs fly along this path, each step and jump taking me exactly where I want to go.
I am in a state of flow.
You’ve heard of flow. It’s an almost magical state of mind. During flow a person becomes fully immersed in an activity leading to great creativity. Getting into flow can bring on a heightened sense of pleasure and accomplishment. A challenging task can seem simple. Concerns or difficulties fade away.
For athletes, flow is often experienced as sort of a high. During flow, difficult physical tasks feel effortless. For creatives like musicians and painters, the same sort of thing occurs. A writer can become lost in the words on the screen, his focus carrying him through hours of challenging work.
There are several factors at play in this magical thing called flow. To enter flow, you have to do something that’s enjoyable, but challenging at the same time. Without a challenge, your brain can operate on autopilot, decreasing focus and enjoyment of a particular activity. Focus is a necessary element of flow, so eliminating distractions is essential.
And what happens if you are able to unlock this flow state? You’ll probably look back on your accomplishments and marvel at your work. Flow unlocks creativity and decreases distractions (like passing time, hunger, and thirst). It allows you to work at maximum capacity and feel great doing it.
As you can probably tell, I remember my flow-state experiences fondly. This phenomenon allowed me to hop over rocks at Lower Nahal Amud with ease on the last day of a three-day hiking trip, the pain of blisters and weight of my pack fading into the background. It’s taken me through dozens of incredible hiking trails.
If you’ve ever experienced flow, you already know that it’s worth pursuing. Finding ways to focus on the activities you love and challenging yourself to improve will help you gain access to the magical world of flow.