Sep 6, 2023 5 min read

3 Steps To Flow State With Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and James Clear

Flow state, or being in a relaxed yet focused state of mind while engaging in an activity, can help you find a sense of purpose and meaning in the things you do. To achieve that, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests three important factors: Read to explore.

3 Steps To Flow State With Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and James Clear
Flow State with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and James Clear

Think about a time when you were doing something that completely lit your soul on fire, something that was so encompassing that you didn’t even notice the passing of time.

This is called being in a “flow state,” and is described as a person performing a virtuous activity with a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process.

Take a minute to remember what activities have allowed you to fully immerse yourself in the process. It might be writing, drawing, teaching, speaking, surfing, snowboarding, yoga, working out, running….the list is endless.

Finding your "Flow state"

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi shares that "Only during a big challenge or high skill the flow can develop itself. In the center of the Flow model, all frames of mind come together and the challenges and skills are of an average level. Depending on a number of factors, growth towards flow can be affected according to..."

The three most important factors in finding flow with your goals

1. Formulating clear objectives "a what by when" in relation to the tasks and the activities.

2. A good balance between the challenges of the activities and the understanding of one’s own skills.

3. Good interim feedback (feedback loop)

Both before and after the tasks/activities have been carried out. Adding (timely) adjustments if necessary is essential to learn while doing. Having a community or mentor can help guide you into the unknown zone. Find a mentor who has already achieved what you are seeking, or has helped others achieve that end goal.

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1990.

Action negates negative emotion

Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.

David Goggin is a great and somewhat extreme inspiration for what is possible for anyone from any starting point. When you think you have hit your endpoint, he shares that you are only 40% of the way there. Your human potential is only limited by your mind. There are millions of people just like you who have broken through their comfort zone and found flow in the unknown.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable: “The more things you can do to get outside of that zone that makes you feel good, the stronger your mind is going to get. It starts getting used to doing things like this. It’s not fun, but now my mind is used to it.”

Don't run from the truth you seek: “The things that we decide to run from are the truth. When you make excuses, you’re running from the truth.”

Your only limitations are between your ears: “The mind is the most powerful thing in the world. The mind has capabilities that are so unknown, and being able to tap into that is on the other side of suffering.”

Pain and pleasure are both essential to growth: “The only reason why I became successful was that I went towards the truth. As painful and as brutal as it is, it changed me. It allowed me, in my own right, to become the person who I am today.“

Failure is necessary. Embrace and expect it. Get a rubber bum, learn the lesson, and bounce forward with a smile on your face: Michael Jordan shares that "I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Build by 1% each day

Many of us want to find the quick fix, the hack, the silver bullet solution. However, the truth is that change comes from consistency and persistence. Simply commit to being 1% better than you were the day before. The only person you want to compare yourself with is who you were yesterday.

“Getting 1 percent better every day counts for a lot in the long-run.” ― James Clear, Atomic Habits


Flow state, or being in a relaxed yet focused state of mind while engaging in an activity, can help you find a sense of purpose and meaning in the things you do. To achieve that, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests three important factors:

  • Formulating clear objectives with "a what by when" approach.
  • Maintaining a balance between the task and your skills, and adjusting and learning while doing.
  • Ensuring good feedback from mentors and other sources.

Moreover, getting comfortable with discomfort, facing the truth and feeling the urge to grow are all essential ingredients. As well, embracing failure and building day after day by 1% are paramount for unlocking the potential within ourselves. Finally, Mark Twain's idea of eating the frog first thing in the morning will help you go through the day in a better and more effective way.


This is directly referenced from the best-selling Amazon SelfCare Book "Lifestyle Medicine For the People" by Rory Callaghan.  If you would like to read more content like this. Grab the free online chapters of the book or a hard copy.

We have done our best to reference everyone’s expert opinions, peer-reviewed science, and original thoughts, all references available here and referenced in the text.

We also understand that most thoughts are not our own and there is a collective unconsciousness, unconsciousness, and universal mind stream of energy that is always at work.  How are references are sorted and filtered is here

Rory Callaghan
Rory Callaghan
Rory is the founder and CVO for the Selfcare Global Movement. He is a curious soul with multiple health degrees and an integrated toolbelt, Inspired to share all the insights from the SelfCare book
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