“Flow” is something that is highly sought after.  Athletes pay sport psychologists big money to help them find and replicate flow in their mindset. We are told that if we “go with the flow” that things will work out naturally in our favour. So what is flow?

Flow is used to describe a state of mind where we are fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity.  Some call it “being in the zone”.

I am sure that when you think about it, you can remember a time when you were in a state of flow. Time stands still, our mind is focused, but it doesn’t feel stressed and is not becoming distracted.  We make good decisions, because we are feeling confident and not second guessing ourselves. We are performing at a high level and achieving a great deal, but it doesn’t feel too hard.

Its widely accepted that getting into this state will result in superior outcomes.  Conversely, when we feel the opposite of flow, tasks feel hard, we are distracted, not focused, we lose confidence and possibly make bad decisions when in a poor mindset.

Its pretty clear that you would want to access this superior state of flow when approaching the goals you have for yourself and your family.  Yet, you can’t just decide to be in a state of flow, it needs to evolve naturally.  Flow mindset doesn’t happen just by chance, it generally occurs when conditions align to ensure great momentum.

Well known psychologist and author on this topic, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi outlines the seven conditions that are generally needed when an overall state of flow is present:

  1. Knowing what to do – being clear about your objective and ensuring that it has meaning.
  2. Knowing how to do it – having a well considered plan to achieve your goal is vital.
  3. Knowing how well you are doing – there are generally many steps in the achievement of any major goal. To build momentum in your goal, you need to be able to measure these steps to determine completion or success at each step.
  4. Knowing where to go (navigation) – when there is a pause / stall in your plan, how to navigate around this issue.
  5. Perceiving significant challenges – because you have thought ahead about significant challenges, they are unlikely to break your momentum
  6. Perceiving significant skills – do you have all the skills necessary to achieve the goal, or do you need help or guidance from an external source.
  7. Being free from distractions – concentrating on a single task – this might be the most important condition of all and is certainly not easy in todays word. To be free of distractions we need to be in the right environment and to have control over what we are doing at every moment.

When we speak to clients about what they want to achieve for themselves and their family, we find that the most important element needed for success is a belief that the goal is in fact possible.  Without this belief and passion for the objective, flow cannot be achieved and any goal will fail quickly.

We also see many clients that lose momentum in their goals because they have not prescribed a measurement of success or failure.  Mostly we focus on what we are yet to achieve and give less kudos for what we have already completed .  My strong belief is that real momentum can only be built when we give ourselves kudos along the way, whilst remaining focused on the next step. A true state of flow involves this feeling of achievement along the way!

So if you are setting goals for 2020 and beyond, I encourage you to use the above framework as you map out your approach.  It will not only provide you with increased clarity about what is required, it will also heighten the chance of obtaining “flow” and hence you will be far better placed to achieve success.

We love helping our clients stay on track.

Make it Happen!


Tim Henry

Aspire Planning