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Flow Experience Design: A Toolkit of 20 Flow Triggers

Flow states have triggers or pre-conditions that lead to more flow.

Flow only happens when you focus all your attention on the present moment so these triggers amplify flow by focusing your attention on the now.

You can stack these triggers in your daily routine to create the conditions you need to sustain a single-minded focus on a challenging activity long enough to get into a flow state.

Flow state psychology is based on the work of pioneering psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who built upon the positive psychology work of Abraham Maslow.

In contrast to most psychology research that focuses on fixing neurotic behaviours, positive psychology focuses on the habits, routines and mindsets that the world’s best performers use to live extraordinary lives.

The 8 Characteristics of Flow

“It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were. When we choose a goal and invest ourselves in it to the limits of concentration, whatever we do will be enjoyable. And once we have tasted this joy, we will redouble our efforts to taste it again. This is the way the self grows.

― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

From his research, Csikszentmihalyi describes eight characteristics of flow:

  1. Complete concentration on the task;
  2. Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback;
  3. Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down);
  4. The experience is intrinsically rewarding;
  5. Effortlessness and ease;
  6. There is a balance between challenge and skills;
  7. Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination;
  8. There is a feeling of control over the task.

Many of the flow triggers below help create the structure, routine and environment necessary to increase focus and create the conditions necessary to consistently tap into the flow state.

Why Use Flow Triggers?

Using flow triggers can help you boost your focus, creativity and performance.

We all want to be focused and tap into flow states but it’s not easy in today’s hyperconnected world where are constantly being distracted.

The average person in our today’s society:

  • Gets distracted every 3-5 minutes
  • Is completely addicted to their smartphone
  • Spend their workday compulsively multitasking

That’s a whole lot of wasted time, energy, and attention.

The result is the average person today lives in a constantly distracted state which psychologists are now calling continuous partial attention.

Flow triggers help to unlock the laser-like clarity and focus you need to consistently achieve mindful peak performance in flow.

Flow Experience Design: A Toolkit For Hacking Flow States

Flow Experience Design (FXD)

You can use each of these 20 flow triggers in your life to enhance your ability to focus, significantly boost your creative output and start living a wildly passionate life.

By stacking these triggers together in your daily routines you can make them a habit and consistently unlock the state of mindful peak performance known as flow.

1. Mindset

Growth Mindset And Flow
Finding flow through the alignment of passion, autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Developing laser-like clarity and focus starts with a creative vision for your life that starts to emerge when you answer some of life’s most important questions.

1. Passion

What are the causes, topics, or activities that make you feel most alive? How can you combine your biggest interests to create something unique?

2. Autonomy

What does your perfect day and ideal work-lifestyle balance look like? How is your mindset, mental obstacles or lack of discipline keeping you from achieving this?

3. Mastery

What are the unique gifts and talents that make you different? How can you more actively focus on developing mastery of these key talents and grow your expertise?

4. Purpose

Who do you serve? Who are the ideal people you want to help and work with? How can you better communicate the value of what you offer to them?

5. Mission

What’s the change you want to build in the world? Why are you passionate about this problem? Where can you find like-minded people to support you in this mission?

“Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”

― Daniel Pink

2. Focus

Finding focus and flow
Finding flow at work involves creating the structure and environment to tune out distractions.

Pre-plan your week with clear goals and feedback loops by scheduling daily flow sessions where you can bring 100% focus and attention to doing your single most challenging activity with zero distractions.

5. Clear Goals

Set weekly goals and break them down into bite-sized tasks scheduled in your calendar. This way you have a clear process that you can easily visualize.

6. Feedback Loops

Create feedback loops so you can easily measure your progress with daily and weekly reviews. Set a clear reward when you reach each goal to trigger the flow of dopamine.

7. Challenge/Skill Ratio

Use your feedback loops to assess performance and avoid performance plateaus by creating a way to measure a constantly rising level of challenge and skills.

8. Deep Focus

With a clear goal, a feedback loop, and a challenge/skill balance it becomes a lot easier to focus on the hard things that most people reflexively procrastinate on.

“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”

― Elon Musk

3. Creativity

Finding flow through music and live performance
Finding flow through creativity and the risk and ritual of live performance.

Amplify your creativity by embracing bigger risks and experiencing the joyful presence of creative flow by learning to release from limiting thinking patterns into a state of complete immersion in your creative activities.

9. Pattern Recognition

Amplify pattern recognition by shifting out of analytical thinking into a relaxed alpha state or effortless theta state where there’s a spontaneous, free-flowing river of ideas.

10. Risk

Risk is the ultimate focusing mechanism. Identify physical, mental, emotional, social, and creative risks that will improve your life and create a plan to commit yourself.

11. Curiosity

Set aside flow sessions for self-directed learning each week to go down the rabbit hole around causes, topics, and ideas you care about. Then publish what you learn.

12. Ritual

Develop your own flow rituals with short repeatable routines that you can use to calm your thoughts and to shift all your focus and energy to a singular goal.

“The competitive advantages the marketplace demands is someone more human, connected, and mature. Someone with passion and energy, capable of seeing things as they are and negotiating multiple priorities as she makes useful decisions without angst. Flexible in the face of change, resilient in the face of confusion. All of these attributes are choices, not talents, and all of them are available to you.”

― Seth Godin

4. Environment

Find flowing in the Canadian Rockies at Mount Robson.
Find flowing through mindful hiking in the Canadian Rockies.

Break bad habits and establish good habits by changing your environment to remove your external distraction triggers and become more mindful of your internal emotional triggers that cause distraction and procrastination.

13. Rich Environment

Create a rich environment with lots of opportunities for novelty (new experiences), complexity (new learning opportunities), and unpredictability (new adventures).

14. Digital Mindfulness

Watch your productivity and fulfillment skyrocket by setting aside a web browser only for deep work and putting your smartphone in another room when you are working.

15. High Consequences

Overcome emotional resistance to change by completely removing distracting apps and websites so you have to sit mindfully and resolve your internal triggers.

16. Deep Embodiment

Embodied awareness and intuitive presence practices are a powerful antidote to the modern dis-ease of alienation from nature and feeling like a detached observer.

“You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success – or are they holding you back?”

― W. Clement Stone

5. Social

Group Flow Yoga Outside
Finding flow through group activities like outdoor yoga.

Upgrade your social environment by intentionally surrounding yourself with other high performers to create a deep sense of belonging and get the accountability necessary to consistently increase both challenge and skills.

17. Shared Goals

Share your goals to be held accountable. Craft a massive transformative purpose to clearly and concisely express your mission to attract customers and collaborators.

18. Peer Accountability

The world’s highest performers have mentors, coaches and mastermind groups because we don’t see our blind spots and we get stuck when we try to go it alone.

19. Active Listening

Learn embodied listening anchored in mindful presence and genuine curiosity to create powerful social dynamics where others can share openly and feel heard.

20. Sense of Belonging

It’s important to meet regularly with like-minded people to develop the familiarity and group ritual necessary for emotional support and a shared sense of mission.

“Your network is your destiny, a reality backed up by many studies in the newly emergent fields of social networking and social contagion theory. We are the people we interact with.”

― Keith Ferrazzi

Join The Flow State Community

Want to stack these flow state triggers in your daily routines and build them into consistent habits that transform your focus and performance?

Get support and accountability in our Flow State Community to:

  1. Plan out your most important goals each week in less than 20 minutes.
  2. Identify your external and internal triggers to overcome these obstacles.
  3. Create a daily ritual that stacks flow state triggers and intrinsic drivers to amplify focus.
  4. Follow an accountability system that is guaranteed to keep you accountable.

Find out more details about the Flow State Community.

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