Achieving the Impossible Through Flow

Calin Drimbau

Oct 4, 2022

This post is part of our 'Entrepreneurial toolkit' series. In this series, we put together a curated list of resources on a topic that is top of mind for entrepreneurs.

We'll share some key insights from the selected clips, but we highly encourage you to listen to the clips on broadn so that you can hear the experts themselves sharing ideas, opinions, and advice.

Introduction: Flow

We've all been there. In a hyperfocus state where time blurs, hours pass like minutes, and you can't seem to get enough. You have entered precision territory. It's the happy medium between ‘too difficult’ and ‘too easy.’ Everything is in order, and you know exactly what you are doing and what you need to keep moving forward. Welcome to the state of flow. Otherwise known as runners high, peak performance, being in the zone, the forever box, you name it.

If you're reading this, there's a high chance you're wondering, ‘Why do I need to experience flow to be happy?’ Well, the answer is easy. According to research, people who experience flow have higher levels of life satisfaction. In other words, when we are in flow, our brain produces feel-good chemicals such as dopamine. The more motivated we are about the activity, the more immersed we are in it, and the more euphoria occurs.

Behind the scenes of flow

The flow state is fascinating for many reasons, one of which is the magnificent chemical cocktail working to accelerate the process. There's a lot more going on behind the scenes than you think. Several changes occur in our prefrontal cortex, like micro and macro flow and the neurochemicals, which work in tandem to prepare our bodies to enter the state of deep now.

Flow science has peeled back the layers of neuroscience to answer the whys and hows. Some of the changes improve brain function and cause brain waves to shift. For example, when we are anxious, beta waves (high-frequency brain waves observed when we relax) increase making us more alert. Although, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Autotelic experiences

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the autotelic experience as activities done for their own sake and not for external rewards. Autotelic comes from the Greek word ‘autotelos,’ which is derived from two words ‘auto’ (self) and ‘telos’ (end or a goal). Similarly, autotelic personalities seek goals within themselves. Challenges for them are turned into games. 

Work is usually an excellent place to experience flow. However, given the option, people would prefer to spend their time doing things other than work because it can be repetitive and boring. Finding the golden mean between ‘too easy’ and ‘too difficult’ is vital because it gives you a sense of accomplishment while also not being so easy that you feel overstimulated or overwhelmed by the activity, which could lead to burnout rather than enjoyment. 

You want to find activities that are challenging enough but not so complex that they seem impossible. The trick is to find a balance. Activities at either extreme can make work feel like a struggle (and thus less fun), but engaging in activities that fall somewhere between can help keep things interesting and exciting! That's the sweet spot—the balance point between boredom and frustration.

Ideal conditions to get into the flow

Anyone can reach this ecstatic state. According to Steven Kotler, these are aspects that can help you get into flow:

  1. Flow occurs when the task is optimally balanced with one's skill set.

  2. To achieve a successful outcome, one must devote undivided attention. 

  3. Having a clear vision and the ability to track progress is imperative. 

  4. It is also essential to receive immediate feedback and have a high level of autonomy on the task.

Flow inspires creativity

Flow is also helpful in increasing creativity, decision-making, and mindfulness. There are some techniques that you can use to enhance your creativity. To begin with, meditation can be helpful when you focus on observing the surroundings and growing your awareness. The other could be exposing yourself to novelty and things outside your usual way of thinking to broaden your thinking horizons.

Flow for founders and the role of risk

In addition to creativity, flow can be stimulated for entrepreneurs to boost productivity and overall efficiency. Introducing a certain level of risk keeps people on their toes and prevents them from drifting away in entropy and inertia. On the other hand, it instills fear and reminds us that there is something to lose if we abandon our focus.

The dark side of flow

Flow, for all of its virtues, has a dark side too. It stands to reason, given that you're dealing with highly addictive neurochemicals. It may push you to your limits by taking excessive risks, failing to achieve perfection, or other erratic obsessions. This should not be taken lightly, and you should proceed cautiously by understanding the social and emotional risks involved.


Flow is not a new concept - we've all felt it at some point. The self becomes more complex as it experiences flow. However, several studies claim it leads to increased productivity and life satisfaction.

Combining our natural abilities with a purpose or a goal helps us take advantage of self-control and find flow. A better understanding of flow is vital to keep ourselves in the right mind. The process also induces happiness and satisfaction, linked to increased motivation. So if you're feeling a little bored at work, try pairing your inherent skill set with specific goals to improve your overall productivity. And it can be as simple as using your existing skill set or exposing yourself to new experiences.

We hope these ideas inspire you to take action or approach goals differently. To listen to the clips and the full episodes, sign up to get access to broadn.