The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can not be created or destroyed; it can only be transferred. Despite what we think, it’s impossible to generate new energy within ourselves. However, we can replenish our energy and plug energy leaks so we can more efficiently manage and deploy our power.
We all have different battery sizes, and therefore we all have different abilities to use our energy. However, flow works in the same energy cycle for everybody. By walking through this cycle, you’ll understand what you need to create a more effective flow state routine, rock your flow state longer, and ultimately live a life of purpose, fulfillment, and happiness.
Understanding energy management and the flow state of mind is one piece of a larger puzzle to help you maintain and stay in flow more often. I’ve broken down all nine crucial components into a concise one-page tool in Flow State Canvas: The One Page Plan to Get Into The Flow. Download your free Canvas and fill it out as I break down the flow energy cycle components.
The 4 Components of the Flow State of Mind
Understanding the flow state cycle will help you trigger a longer and more productive flow state. The cycle is made of four components: recovery, struggle, release, and flow.
To maximize your flow state, you have to learn to respect the entire process, while strategically optimizing your recovery and incrementally intensifying your struggle.
The first part of the energy cycle is recovery. Though people generally understand the importance of a substantive recovery process, it’s easy to skip over.
Building recovery into your flow state routine is vital because it’s the time for your mind and body to adapt to the struggle and intensity of staying in the flow state. Just like you would allocate a rest day in your work out regimen to restore energy and repair damaged muscle tissue, you need a mental recovery to replenish the energy you expend during your flow.
Let me emphasize; don’t skip recovery.
Rest and recovery are essential aspects you need for optimal performance, which is why every flow state starts and ends with recovery.
A well-rounded recovery involves a balance of mental, physical, and social wellness. You need all of the following in your recovery routine:
- Nutrition and hydration
- Sleep: 7 hours minimum
- Social support: family, friends, and community
We all know how to get good sleep and what we need to do to eat a healthier diet. However, in a time of social distancing, social support lacks a clear definition. This is why I feel it’s crucial to provide specific things that you need for quality social support daily:
- Family: To provide honest feedback and unconditional acceptance. If you are blessed with a tight-knit family, you should rely on your family and connect with them every day.
- Friends: To strengthen your expressive side without judgment and risk. The creative outlet your friends provide lets you evolve by expressing yourself in a way you may not around family.
- Community: To surround yourself with people who have shared interests with you. A community can genuinely cheer you on for your achievements and support you in ways your family or friends can’t.
On a daily basis, you need nutrition, sleep, and social support; then you choose one of the following:
- Practice gratitude: 5 minutes a day
- Meditation and breathing exercises: 11 minutes a day
- Exercise: 20 to 40 minutes a day
Tony Robbins combines all three into a ritual he calls the “Hour of Power,” where he combines gratitude, breathing, and exercise all into one hour, but the point is you need to do one at the minimum effective dose each day.
To recap, recovery is indispensable. Better recovery means a better flow state. Make sure you’re prioritizing your mental, physical, and emotional wellness every day, and I guarantee you’ll notice a massive shift in the quality of your flow.
Struggle is often the most overlooked component of the flow state cycle theory. We must struggle or challenge ourselves if we ever want to tap into unparalleled focus and concentration.
Mihaly, the godfather of flow state research, noticed that when the task at hand slightly exceeds our skill set, we can create the necessary “struggle” to get into a space he defined as the flow channel.
He coined this phrase as the “Golden Rule:” If your task is perceived as too challenging for your current level of expertise, you’ll trigger anxiety of stress. When your work isn’t hard enough, it becomes repetitive. Both of which prevent you from operating in flow.
Thus, the struggle phase means you have to find the sweet spot between your skill level and the task at hand to ride in the flow channel, rather than working from a space of anxiety or boredom. An easy way to do this is to create a 4% plan; every day, do something that is 4% harder, and you’ll create the necessary struggle to trigger focus and deploy the energy you need to improve learning and retention.
After you’ve struggled with your work, you have to give yourself a release. A phase that many people intuitively know, like the feeling of having to get up, stretch, or walk to give your mind a break.
Taking your mind off the problem by stepping back a moment helps trigger relaxation mechanisms in the brain. Research shows that a proper release allows the brain to flush beta waves present during the struggle phase’s frustration, so it can return to a state of alpha waves. Alpha waves are responsible for stimulating the wakeful rest we need for increased creativity and concentration. That way, when you sit back down to work, you can trigger flow state without running the risk of burn-out.
Your release can have several different forms, such as:
- Low-grade exercising like walking
- Deep breathing
- Splashing cold water on your face
Many people skip this step, and as a result, they continuously overload themselves missing the flow state altogether. You need a quick practical tool to assist you in the release phase to alleviate the tension so you can come back to work with clarity. Utilize some of my suggested releases, or reach out so we can brainstorm some together.
Flow, the feeling of being completely immersed in the moment, is one of life’s best states of being.
Not only does it boost your productivity by 500%, but it’s crucial to our happiness and well-being. When you operate from a flow space, all anxiety, stress, and boredom fade away, leaving you completely content and at peace with what’s in front of you.
Flow lets you optimize your entire life, but it’s important to note that flow can’t be forced. You have to respect the cycle to experience the magnitude of benefits this state offers.
Effectively Managing Your Energy Means Maximizing Flow State of Mind
We all have a finite amount of energy.
Thus, if you don’t follow the flow energy cycle, you’re going to block yourself from entering a flow state of mind.
In addition to utilizing the cycle, you have to preserve your energy by stopping the energy leaks that are draining your productivity. Unresolved conflicts, people, and things are the most significant energy sucks out there, and if you want to have the power to fuel your ambition, then you must plug the leaks.
Resolution only exists within yourself, but without a strategy to systematically process emotions, people, and things, it can be a challenging endeavor.
I’ve shared my tried-and-true process to resolving the pain of the past and letting go of the things that don’t serve us in my #1 best-seller Bling and the following articles:
That way, you can feel energized, ambitious, and at peace 24/7.