Flow Triggers

Understanding flow triggers

If you break it down, it all comes down to focus and putting yourself into what scientists now call ‘the deep now‘. These triggers are ways to focus and get in the moment. You can not be in flow when your mind is wandering off or when you’re dreaming away. As abstract the state might seem, it is actually very concrete in the sense that you are hyper aware of what is actually going on.

Types of flow triggers
There are four types (or groups) of flow triggers and the awareness of them can help you get into flow. The first type on the list are Environmental Triggers, the second Psychological, the third Social, and the fourth and last, Creative.

Environmental Flow Triggers
These are external Triggers that surround you in your environment.

  1. . High Consequences/Risk – A major Trigger that’s been used by a lot of Flow Hackers is Risk. This can be physical, but it can also be emotional risk. Since the brain doesn’t know the difference between what you think is risky and what is actually risky. Social and emotional risk can work very well. By the way, any truly successful person is good at risk taking.

  2. . Rich Environment – To be in an environment with a lot of novelty, complexity and unpredictability. An environment with a lot to see can cause a feeling of Awe; which flow scientists believe is at the forefront of flow. Complexity goes hand in hand with another Creative Flow Trigger, called pattern recognition, which is extremely heightened in flow. This pattern recognition stimulates creative thinking and problem solving, and this creativity again stimulates flow.

  3. . Immediate Feedback – This trigger goes hand in hand with the Psychological Trigger ‘Clear Goals’ and guides your decision making. Knowing what the next decision or move will be is crucial and much easier with immediate feedback. A performer relies on direct feedback of the audience for example. This feedback drives you deeper into flow and can work together with another Psychological Trigger called ‘pattern recognition’.

Psychological Triggers
These are internal elements that deepen your flow and feed the necessary focus.

  1. . Clear Goals – This might be the most important trigger, because without direction and good aim, flow is impossible. Set clear goals and if necessary, break them down into smaller steps. A writer might set the goal to write a book. Since this is a big task, it will be smarter to break it down into smaller steps, or micro goals like ´writing the introduction´ or ´making a list of the terminology used in the book´. It doesn´t matter what your goal is, as long as you provide yourself with a clear sense of direction. Focus on the process and don´t think about the end result. The goal you chose is mainly to give clarity and certainty in the moment you are working towards it.

  2. . Challenge/Skill Ratio – You want to do something that is hard, but not too hard. You can use the skills you already have to go to the next level. When it´s too easy, there is no risk involved and there is no need to focus intensely. Flow depends on healthy challenges that are hard enough, so the brain releases norepinephrine, which enhances your attention and focus, but not too hard, because the same chemical will then cause tension and stress, which blocks flow. Even without flow, finding the right Challenge/Skill Ratio helps you to learn things much faster. You can conceptualize it like a rubber band; you want to stretch, but you don’t want to snap.

  3. . Eliminate DistractionsIn order to focus, you need to know where you are headed. Get rid of everything that doesn’t help you to get the task done. Ignore what’s not important. This is easier said than done. Practice, practice and more practice!

Social Triggers
The triggers presented here are to produce Group Flow. Group Flow simply means a group of people in flow, together. You’ve probably experienced this while having deep conversations or playing sports.

  1. . Shared, Clear Goals – Like individual flow, clear goals are equally important in Group Flow. State the goals as clearly as possible and make sure everyone understands it before getting into action.

  2. . Good Communication – For every action to move seamlessly to the next, communication plays an important role. As described in Shared, Clear Goals it is important to state the goals clearly. Make sure there is a constant flow of communication. Close listening forms the base of good communication. Not just to the others, but also to yourself.

  3. . Familiarity – Everyone must be on the same page about the thing you do as a group. The better you know each other, the better you can help each other to keep going forward. Learn to develop familiarity with each other and the environment to induce and stimulate flow.

  4. . Equal Participation and Skill Level – When the gap between the individuals, in terms of skills, is too big, it can lead to disharmony. A bit of a gap doesn’t have to be a problem. Make sure the Skill Level of all individuals is more or less the same. Having a leader can have huge benefits. They can guide individuals and help to create coherence.

Creative Triggers
Creativity triggers flow, and flow in return boosts creativity.

  1. . Pattern Recognition – To recognize patterns in the environment and in the way you perceive that environment is necessary to make the next best decision. This process is a highly creative process and involves putting information together to form new ideas. All fears are based on the unknown. Everything new lies in the unknown, so making new connections in the way you think can be scary. This brings us to another Creative Trigger:

  2. . Risk Taking – Put shortly, true creativity always involves some form of risk. You can also turn it around, by putting yourself in a risky situation to force yourself to recognize patterns and to be creative.

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