Creativity is such a life force for people of all kinds. It’s arguably a beyond-human attribute that drives life, creation and growth. People that are working or are drawn to creative jobs and projects, understand the importance of cultivating creativity, so naturally the next question is: Can you develop or improve creativity?
What is a Flow State?
Trough methods of quantitative and qualitative research, scientists are coming to an understanding that creativity happens during a special state of being. That is when the appropriate chemicals in the body come together to determine the mode of our functioning. If you are interested more in the chemistry of flow states, we suggest learning more about neuro-chemicals and transmitters.
What Does it Feel Like?
Flow states are happening when people perform at their best and also if feels good, because some neuro-chemicals like Serotonin and Dopamine cause a feeling of joy, calmness, euphoria and relieves pain in the body. When people are in flow state, they experienced quicker reflexes, non-linear thinking, increased strength, much faster learning. In a way it’s a way to be a “superman” at least for a while. That doesn’t mean you will be able to fly, but it’s the secret of top pro athletes, free divers, extreme sportsman, the best art performers and innovative thinkers. How cool is that?
The Flow Cycle
Steven Kotler has done a lot of work on this subject and has been a speaker at top companies like Google, so make sure to do a search on what he has to say on this subject.
Kotler talks about a flow cycle that has 4 stages: Struggle, Release, Flow, and Recovery. The short and simple explanation is that it’s not always easy to get in a flow state and it requires some problem to invest your energy into, so it can be a struggle in the beginning. The struggle wires the brain and body, but the next step is determining whether you go into a stress burn-out or you “release” the tension, and give in to the state of flow.
It’s very important to have a good rest afterwards and to even expect below average performance because flow can be very resource demanding in some cases and it takes time for the body and mind to recover.
Hack Your Mind
People that are researching flow states are understandably interested in “flow triggers” or in other words, are there some external stimuli that induce flow state in people? And certainly there are some conditions that are more likely to lead to flow states, but there is no clear cut answer. Again Steven Kotler has much more in-depth explanation, I would just like to point out that environment, social group interactions, deep focus, risk taking, clear goals are some of factors that are considered influential.
During flow states the brain is actually less active, that may be counter intuitive but that is because the front part of the brain is less active, your inner critic is silenced at those moments, and more space is available for motoric and reflexive reactions to take place.
Cool, so … is all this knowledge of any help?
Certainly, you will develop more awareness of your states. With practice, you can develop focus and by employing some of the triggers, you will be able to tap in to your creative flow state more by your will and not just by accident. Flow isn’t something supernatural and mystical, most people spend at least some small percent of their professional working hours in a flow state. Use your best hours to work on the highest priority and the difficult tasks because you can be up to 4-5 times more productive during those times, depending on the nature of the task. Make time for rest and recovery, because if you are too exhausted all the time, it may be stopping you from entering flow.