What is Flow?

Definition of Flow

Flow is a state of mind where you feel your best and you perform your best. It’s a state of high speed, near perfect decision making. You can be in Flow during physical, mental and creative activities. In Flow you are so immersed into the challenge at hand that your perception of time distorts, your action and awareness merge and you lose a sense of self and experience egolessness. At the same time it feels effortless and you know intuitively what to do next. Flow produces intrinsic motivation. The pure act of working in Flow is reward enough to continue working on that challenge and it is actually so rewarding that Flow is considered to be the most addictive state in the world. People who felt they had the most meaningful lives had the most Flow in their lives.



The term Flow was coined by the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced: Mee-high Chick-sent-me-high-ee) because his subjects described these states as flowy. In Flow every action, every decision, leads seamlessly, fluidly to the next.


Impact on Business

A study by McKinsey found out that senior executives in peak-performance states were five times more productive in that state. Forbes names “Flow State Percentage” as number 1 “New Management Metric” you need to know. According to FastCompany “many major companies, including Microsoft, Ericsson, Patagonia, and Toyota have realized that being able to control and harness this feeling is the holy grail for any manager”.


Research on Flow

Flow research started with the Swiss geologist Albert Heim in 1871 who surveyed people who survived near fatal falls. Followed by William James in 1901 and Walter Bradford Cannon, a student of James who discovered the Fight-or-flight response in 1915. In 1964 Abraham Maslow conducted one of the first and largest studies on success and found that all successful people depend on peak experiences.


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

In the 1970s Csikszentmihalyi conducted the largest study on optimal performance until that point. He interviewed tens of thousands of people about the time they performed their best and felt their best. His first publication Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play came out in 1975.


The Big Five

Csikszentmihalyi discovered “The Big Five” on Flow:

  1. Flow is Definable & Measurable
  2. Flow is Universal (Flow state is ubiquitous – it shows up everywhere on the world)
  3. Flow is a Spectrum Experience (From “Micro Flow” up to “Macro Flow”)
  4. Flow is Flowy (Every action flows seamlessly and effortlessly from the last)
  5. Flow is Foundational (Happiness (in the moment) and wellbeing (over time))


The guys that made it cool: Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal

Steven & Jamie are the founders of the Flow Genome Project which stated goal is to map the genome of Flow by 2020 and open source it to everyone. In 2017 they published the book “Stealing Fire” that compiles decades of Flow research and their own studies on peak performers like elite Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Navy SEALS and world-record Red Bull action sport athletes.

Checkout my YouTube Channel about Flow Hacking.