Use State Of Flow To Harness Your Potential

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The following is a Forward Steps guest post written by Sahan Kodagi. The original title of his article was, “Harness your full potential with the power of flow”.

A few years ago, I was at a low point in my life.

I felt lost and was unable to focus.

I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and ended up procrastinating a lot.

Playing chess was one of the ways I procrastinated.

While I played chess, I felt focused, calm, and in control. Even though it required a lot of concentration and had plenty of pressure, I never felt an aversion to it.

Forward Steps Personal Development Collection ImageI didn’t shy away from it.

I looked forward to the hours of intense concentration.

When I realized this, I decided I wanted to figure out a way to replicate this feeling throughout my life.

That’s when by a lucky twist of fate, I discovered the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

What is a flow state?

Flow is the ultimate zone of productivity and creativity. It’s a state where you feel entirely focused and in control.

You forget yourself, your worries and the world around you.

When in a state of flow, challenges that were a struggle to overcome become effortless.

Flow is most commonly experienced while playing a competitive sport, engrossed in writing an essay or solving a complex problem.

It’s that moment when everything clicks.

When in a state of flow, challenges that were a struggle to overcome become effortless. Share on X

Flow provides a sense of discovery, pushes a person to higher states of performance and leads them to higher consciousness states.

When in a state of flow, challenges that were a struggle to overcome become effortless.

Curiosity and play

State Of Flow - Forward Steps image 1500px_1When trying to achieve a flow state, it’s crucial to have a beginner’s mind. Or, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it, an autotelic personality.

An autotelic personality has traits such as curiosity, persistence, low self-centeredness and high performing activities.

Autotelic means having a self-contained activity, which is done not with the expectation of some future benefit but to experience it as the primary goal.

A sense of detached fascination with an idea mixed with exploring that idea with no expectations is the secret to getting into a flow state.

These traits have been found to increase neuroplasticity and learning outcomes.

One researcher (Abuhamdeh, 2000) found that people with an autotelic personality have a greater preference for “high-action-opportunity, high-skills situations that stimulate them and encourage growth”.

It is in such high-challenge, high-skills situations that people are most likely to enter the flow state.

When trying to achieve a flow state, it's crucial to have a beginner's mind. Share on X

How stress can help with neuroplasticity

Always push yourself and understand that the feelings of anxiety are just a feedback mechanism.

State Of Flow - Forward Steps image 1500px_2Contrary to popular belief, some stress is needed when trying to master a new activity.

The best way to learn a new skill is to combine short periods of high pressure with deep relaxation right after. Push past your discomfort.

The stress period helps produce the hormone Noradrenaline, which enables neuroplasticity and allows for more in-depth learning.

When you feel discomfort, it is vital not to give up. Feeling like an idiot is part of the learning. The first step to take when you are learning a new skill is approaching it without an ego.

Getting frustrated is part of learning any new skill.

You will go through many cycles of accelerated growth and then hit a wall. One meta-skill that you should learn is the ability to break through this.

The first step to take when you are learning a new skill is approaching it without an ego. Share on X

How to achieve a flow state

To achieve flow, Csikszentmihályi lays out the following three conditions:

– Goals are clear
– Feedback is immediate
– A balance exists between opportunity and capacity

The task should be challenging enough to require your full concentration but easy enough to lose yourself while doing it.

You have to find a balance between boredom and frustration.

“Control over consciousness is not simply a cognitive skill. At least as much as intelligence, it requires the commitment of emotions and will. It is not enough to know how to do it; one must do it, consistently, in the same way as athletes or musicians who must keep practicing what they know in theory.” -Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

It may take some trial and error to find tasks of the appropriate level of difficulty, but when you manage to hit it, the rewards are immeasurable.

Contributed by guest author

Use State Of Flow To Harness Your Potential - Sahan Kodagi 180px Sahan Kodagi is the founder of Sage School.

A platform that helps you develop mental models, skill stacks and systems that will allow you to maximize your productivity, improve your communication and become the best version of yourself.

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Hi, I'm Thea Westra at Forward Steps (

Hi, I'm Thea Westra at Forward Steps (

Since March 2003, I've been sharing practical, positive, thought provoking and inspiring self improvement content online. My aim is simple - to offer tips and resources that help us enhance our daily experience of life and to keep stepping forward. Perth, Western Australia is the place I call home and I'm the author of "Time For My Life: 365 Stepping Stones". You might also know me from the Forward Steps personal development blog and the daily series of "365 Forward Steps Notes", all designed to add wings to our unique life journeys.

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