What is the State of Flow?

Understanding how to motivate blue collar workers is critical to your company’s success. One of the best ways to do that is to encourage the state of flow. In this blog series, we will go over what the state of flow is, the benefits of being in flow both as a leader and for your […]
Shane Hoefer

Written By Shane Hoefer

On April 5, 2022
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Understanding how to motivate blue collar workers is critical to your company’s success. One of the best ways to do that is to encourage the state of flow. In this blog series, we will go over what the state of flow is, the benefits of being in flow both as a leader and for your employees, as well as the four phases of flow, and how to create the conditions to encourage the state of flow within your company.

The idea of the state of flow was first introduced by Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csizkszentmihalyi. His work on mental focus and engagement started in the 1990s, and he came up with the “flow” term that we use today.

What is flow?

Flow is when a person is so focused on a task and their intention is so intense that they lose track of everything else. Attention is given to only that singular activity and there is no brain bandwidth left for other activities. It’s when a person almost feels at one with the task they are working on.

The state of flow, as it is often referred to, actually feels good. It produces neurochemicals and amplifies brain waves that are addictive because they feel so good. This creates a sense of motivation that is natural.

What happens during flow?

During flow we are so absorbed in the activity or task that we are tuned inward. Time becomes distorted. The energy that we normally use focusing on external things becomes energy-efficient, and we begin to process our subconscious thoughts at a faster rate. This creates increased attention to the task at hand.

Processing information happens quicker and pattern recognition is heightened. Neuroscience confirms that all of this relates to our natural biology. During these times of being in the state of flow, our intuition is also enhanced. Due to this enhancement, we can grasp information that would normally be beyond what we are consciously aware of.

The additional chemicals created during flow also allow us to store information more efficiently. Being able to store information more efficiently means that we can move what would normally be short-term memories to long-term memories. And creating long-term memories is one of the biggest keys to creativity and learning.

Being in the state of flow also creates a sense of selflessness. We stop hearing our inner voice and chatter. The anxiousness that we experience as humans is neutralized as the external world falls away. This helps create the sensation of effortlessness as we complete the task at hand.

What are the benefits of flow?

Besides enhancing our creativity and ability to learn, one of the best benefits to the state of flow is that it increases our performance. When a person is in the state of flow they are both being and doing as optimally as possible.

Being engaged in the work being done benefits both the individual in flow as well as the company he or she works for. Some of the other benefits include enhanced creativity, a stronger sense of intuition, increased motivation, and the desire to continue to engage in learning.

Can you imagine running a business where both you and your employees are in a constant state of flow? Where everyone is both being and doing all their tasks at their heightened best performance state?

That sounds like an incredible workplace, for both employees and leaders.

Next, we will look at the four phases that happen as we experience flow.

The Four Phases of Flow:

To start the process of getting into these four phases, we must go beyond our comfort zone and be willing to challenge ourselves and our sense of self.

  1. “Struggle Phase”: This phase does not feel good. During this phase we experience frustration and tension, sometimes even stress or anxiety.
  2. “Release Phase”: This phase occurs when we’ve decided we will accept the challenge of the task at hand. To accept the challenge, we need to step away from the problem and allow our body to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which allows us to relax.
  3. “Flow Phase”: This comes right after our brains release several chemicals that allow us to shift from conscious thought to subconscious processing. This is when we lose track of time and experience the feeling of being at one with the task at hand.
  4. “Recovery Phase”: This is the last stage, and it happens as our brain begins to rewire itself and store the experience of flow that we just had. It’s a critical piece as it allows our brain to rebuild and balance the experience so that we can retain the skills and/or knowledge we just learned.

How do we enter the state of flow?

Sadly, it is not possible to always be in the state of flow. It’s a state that we have to work to create for ourselves, especially in the world of constant distractions that we live in today.

So how, as a leader, can you work to help create this state of flow for both yourself and your employees?

In our next blog in this series, we will go over part two, which is how to create the conditions to enter into the state of flow. This process will benefit your workers and YOU as you are leading your blue collar workers.

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