Fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, deeply enjoying every activity, at peace inside, your best stuff flowing through you seemingly without effort. We speak of this as being “in the zone” or what psychologists describe as a “flow state”. Recently I’ve had the pleasure of working with several clients reporting different kinds of flow states as they have accepted new challenges or sudden shifts to their day-to-day life. Almost spontaneously, they find themselves performing at their peak, achieving things that previously thought impossible and feeling a sense of clarity, empathy and calm at the center.
I’ve noticed four specific ways people experience this kind of flow state.
1. A Sense of Knowing
“Great wisdom and effectiveness is coming through me. I just seem to know what to do instinctively without thinking about it.”
For example, a client that was thrust into the CEO role after a family emergency took out his inner boss. After an “oh no” fear moment, he just knew instinctively what to do and how to take the reins. A deep sense of knowing took over.
2. Heightened Awareness
“I see things so clearly. I’m aware of how all the pieces work together. It’s like having x-ray eyes. Suddenly, I can read people and situations as if from the inside.”
For example, a client had been having a mental block for a few weeks. All of a sudden in a meeting a colleague mentioned something that triggered a new idea and, in a flash, his whole way of seeing the world changed.
3. Peak Performance
Athletes report phases of having supreme control over their body, or mind, delivering incredible precision, strength and timing. Executives report similar in-the-zone experiences of making decisions that play out perfectly, saying the exact most potent words at the precise moment they were needed, or lifting those around them to produce remarkable results.
4. Extreme Empathy
People speak of waves of openness: a highly empathic way of feeling where you can feel what’s going on in everybody and yourself without the usual sense of separation. It doesn’t bother you to feel intense emotion. You are in tune with what others are going through and can feel what they are going to say or do before they do it.
I often get asked, “What do you say to someone showing up in some kind of flow state and wanting that state to continue?”
The common characteristic that is true for each of these flow states is zero resistance to what is. The entire being is engaged in the moment, nothing withheld. So the first thing I offer–after appreciating the beauty of what is happening!–is to encourage the person to let go of trying to hold onto or get back to that flow state. The state will keep changing. Whatever is happening now, don’t try to go back to repeat that past experience. As soon as we think our present experience should be different than it is, we are out of the flow.
Practices that help us be in these flow states more often are about letting go of how you are resisting whatever is happening in and around you. Feel how you resist. Notice how you think things should be different in some way, and be with that resistance as it is.
The ultimate is being in flow all the time. Flowing from state to state. Last week I was in a state of heightened awareness–everything was going great. This week suddenly it shifted, and I’m feeling like a bit of an idiot and nothing seems to be going right. The flow keeps happening.
When you have a belief like “a flow state looks or feels like this”, you’ll have a resistance whenever it feels or goes different. Being in a flow state is about being with things exactly as they are. As we let go of resistance to our own resistance, we begin to live with the brakes off and–finally–get out of our own way.
As always, my best,