How to reach the state of flow

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

The problem with traditional advice

I am pretty sure you tried hard to reach the stat of flow but faced serious problems while trying to do so. The reason you faced such problems is that the way the advice was given to you made it seem to you like the state of flow is a magical button that you can tap whenever you feel bad then end up feeling great.

In other words it's the approach you are trying to follow that is preventing you from reaching the state of flow. Let met explain this in more details.

The state of flow is a state of deep immersion where you truly enjoy what you are doing to the extent that you become fully focused on it. So many people assume that they can teach their minds to ignore the distractions and still enjoy their time in their presence but that's not possible.

Have you ever tried to work in a very noisy place?
If you tried to do so then most probably you realized that peace of mind is almost impossible to achieve with the presence of such noise.

Turn on the TV, play some music and turn on the radio then see if you can study for more than 5 minutes while actually understanding what you are studying.

The problem here is that intense distractions can never be ignored by the brain and so the state of flow can never be reached. Yes minor distractions can be easily filtered out by the brain but more serious one's can hardly be ignored.

So you might be thinking that i am asking you to go to a calm place but this is not the message i was trying to deliver.

The kind of noise i want you to learn how to stop is the noise coming from your own mind.

The noise coming from your brain

The real noise i am talking about in here is the internal noise coming directly from your mind. Here are some examples of such noise:

  • 1) Worries and fear of the future: if you are trying to focus on any task while having worries or fear of the future then you will hardly be able to immerse yourself in that task. See Why you can't live in the present
  • 2) Sad moods and depression: Remember the last time you tried to work while feeling bad or depressed? Were you actually able to fully immerse yourself and concentrate? probably this didn't happen
  • 3) Repetitive thoughts: Remember the last time you got very annoyed after a certain bad situation happened? I am pretty sure the bad thoughts kept coming over and over to your brain whenever you tried to put them away. See Why my mind keeps sending me the same unpleasant thoughts.

Do you know what's the common thing between all of those examples i mentioned?
In all of those cases your mind is desperately crying for a resolution while you are trying to distract yourself with the state of flow. See Where do emotions come from.

Yes the state of flow you are trying to reach in here is the distraction and not the opposite. Imagine that a friend of yours caught fire but instead of trying to put it off you kept advising him to practice mindfulness. See How mindfulness can ruin your life.

Will the fire stop?
Will your friend be fine?

Of course this will never happen and the same exact thing will happen to the fire of negative thoughts in your brain.

How to truly reach the state of flow

In order to truly reach the state of flow you need to handle the emergency alerts sent to you by your brain, in the form of negative emotions, first.

Once you handle those emotions and learn how to silence them by providing solutions to the problems that caused them you will reach inner peace. Only then you can meditate successfully, practice mindfulness or reach the sate of flow.

In my book The 5 Minute Happiness Formula i said that you don't have to solve your problems in order to calm your mind down but you just need to provide some kind of reassurance that those problems are going to be dealt with.

If you never did so then your mind will keep sending you the same signal over and over and you will hardly be able to immerse yourself in anything.

Let me summarize this article in one line. The state of flow isn't a state that shuts down negative emotions because the only way to reach the state of flow is to shut down those emotions first.

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