How to get in the flow 

Flow is a state of complete absorption and focus in an activity. When in a flow state, you are fully immersed in the present moment and concentrating on what you are doing. You lose track of time and become so engrossed in the activity that you forget everything else.

Flow is a delightful state where you feel in complete control and lose all self-consciousness. You experience flow when you lose yourself in sports, creative pursuits, or any task containing its elements. 

Elements of flow

Flow comes from fully immersing yourself in meaningful activities, but what makes activities meaningful? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who dedicated his life to understanding flow, discovered its eight elements and described them in his book Flow as follows

  1. A breakdown of your goal into steps.
  2. Visible and immediate feedback on your progress.

  3. The activity is mildly challenging.

  4. Complete focus on the task.

  5. Forgetting everything else.

  6. A feeling of control over the situation.

  7. Lack of self-conscious rumination.

  8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding.

That’s a long list, but Judson Brewer distilled it down further in Unwinding Anxiety as a recipe with three ingredients:

Knowledge + Experience + Interest = Flow

The other elements will materialize when you have the appropriate skill and interest in a task. You fall into a feedback loop of motivation as the activity becomes intrinsically rewarding. Does this sound like your leisure activities?

If not, you could get into the flow by cultivating more meaningful habits. To increase your flow experience, you must fill your leisure time with meaningful activities. Spending time relaxing is natural and healthy, but the joy of relaxation and indulgence is limited. You will be more joyful when you make your leisure time constructive. 

The paradox of leisure

The paradox of leisure is that more time does not automatically mean more joy. Part of that is because we usually have time or money but rarely both; the two seem mutually exclusive. Using your leisure time to do flow activities can help you accomplish anything you want. 

I was semi-retired during my last exploration stage, bouncing between working intensively and being unemployed for a few months. I had so much leisure time ‒ time without obligations ‒ that it was daunting. 

To not go broke or get depressed during this time, I needed to find a way to experience flow that wouldn’t cost much and would push forward my personal goals. I needed to take advantage of my free time.

Motivation is a myth; it’s hard to find on a good day, let alone when your time seems unlimited, so stop waiting to feel motivated and start doing activities that give you meaning. You will feel motivated to keep going after you start being constructive with your leisure time. 

There will be a roll-on effect, which will continuously increase your motivation – this is the feedback loop of motivation I mentioned earlier. It will help you accomplish whatever your goals. 

Throughout my periods of unemployment, I was always working on side projects. These projects were: learning languages, improving my cooking skills, getting to know different cultures, exercising, socializing, etc. Consider what activities give you meaning and how to use them to be more constructive in your leisure time.

Developing Constructive habits

Constructive habits are your gateway to flow and balance; they are activities where you create, learn, and/ or bond. These habits aim to improve your physical, mental and financial well-being. These three categories form a fulfillment triangle, and it is up to you to keep the triangle balanced.


Mental activities include meditating, reading, writing, socializing, learning a language or anything that requires thinking. Getting into mental flow by challenging yourself is crucial for mental health.

It’s easy to get into the flow when you express yourself creatively, reaching a flow state with more challenging activities, such as learning a language or reading. These can be frustrating at first as they require intrinsic motivation.

Meditation is one of the most challenging mental activities to get into flow with, but that also makes it one of the most rewarding when you succeed. The more strenuous the activity, the more rewarding it will be, as the benefits will compound. 

Learning a new language will open your social circles to anyone who speaks it, but it first requires dedicated attention. The key to finding flow in these activities is to make them only mildly challenging. Duolingo can be either rewarding or frustrating, depending on how you use it. 

Learn to be autotelic by breaking everything down into mildly challenging goals, and you will more often find yourself experiencing flow. Challenge yourself with social activities as well. A strong community is crucial when planning a long life; start building yours. 

Find people that enjoy challenging themselves to grow in some way. Clubs like Toastmasters are a prefabricated community of growth-minded people, but public speaking is only for some.

Luckily, the internet makes finding your community more accessible than ever with websites like Meetup. Meetups can either help you find a community or start building your own. It is an excellent resource for finding people that will take you out of your comfort zone and thus help you find your flow.


Finding flow regarding money boils down to planning how to enjoy making it. Most of us find more flow during our working hours as what we have chosen to do as a job usually represents our interests. If this differs from your situation, consider how you could change it.

You have two options for finding more flow during your working hours. You can either find a new job or find a way to enjoy the one you have. Finding a new job tends to be the more difficult option as many of us are sunk into our careers, lacking the financial flexibility to not work for a few months until we find something more fulfilling.

Therefore, the easier option and the one that will be available for most people will be to find more fulfilment from your current job. You can find fulfilment by changing your mindset about the job. Rather than dreading every moment of it and letting the company dictate your goals and ambitions, start setting your own. 

Use the equation of flow to find activities that satisfy the criteria and appreciate those activities when they come up. Using this technique to find more flow and fulfilment in your career can shift your overall joy and make you a happier person, eventually propelling you to a position where you have the financial flexibility to pursue your dream job. 


To get into flow with your body, you must be doing something. This corner of the fulfillment triangle covers all things physical. Doing these activities will help you stay fit. 

Flow-inducing activities include running, walking, eating, climbing, etc. Having that strong community can boost you as they will keep you accountable. The more people you have around you doing the habits you want to develop, the more likely you are to follow through with developing those habits.

The importance of community is especially true of activities such as fasting and ice baths, where the rewards are far from intrinsic. Having a group around you will get you into flow by distracting you from the discomfort and showing you that you are not alone. 

Jogging is a low-cost exercise where you can quickly get into the flow. You can bundle these exercises with activities you enjoy to make them more rewarding until they become intrinsic. 

Flow is so common with running that it has been aptly called “the runner high.” It gets even easier to get into the runner’s high when you are jogging as part of a community compounding the benefits of exercise and socializing to help you feel great

Filling the Fulfillment Triangle

Some activities can satisfy more than one corner of the fulfilment triangle. Working physically with people you like would meet all three criteria, while walking with someone fulfills the mental and body corners.

The type of activity you decide to do matters little; what’s important is that you find activities you enjoy in each category. The more enjoyment you get from healthy activities, the easier it will be for you to get into the flow and turn them into sustainable habits. 

Almost anything can cause flow, and it’s easy to take advantage of this phenomenon to live a more fulfilling life. Find some mildly challenging activities you enjoy and start getting into the flow today. 

For some help overcoming this challenge, sign up for my newsletter below. Doing so will entitle you to a free introductory coaching session where we will discuss how you can make your life more sustainable.

Find flow in the activities mentioned above and start moving towards the best version of yourself. Longevity is about progress, not perfection, so keep moving toward your optimal lifestyle one step at a time.

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