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ARTICLE: Finding “Flow”

Updated: May 1, 2020


Korn Ferry contributor Daniel Goleman describes the spontaneous joy, even rapture, of optimal mental performance, or "flow", as a state of neural harmony. The experience of losing yourself in a creative project, like developing an app or writing a story, or having competed at the top of your game, either athletically or mentally. Flow is a state that underlies our best performance on the task at hand as we channel positive feelings in an energized pursuit with an undistracted focus, an effortless quality, and a state of maximum cognitive efficiency that leads to increased productivity.

On a neurological level, our brains in flow release just enough of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline to keep us energized and engaged, as well as some dopamine and norepinephrine, which help keep us focused. Flow occurs in the zone between stress and performance.

Anyone can tap into flow by identifying their intrinsic motivation—their passion and vision to better align work with values and interests. A leader’s job includes helping people get into or near a state of flow, where they can operate at their best. This can be achieved by offering employees stretch goals—the right amount of challenge to fit their abilities. Easing stress of employees' assignments or workload, setting clear goals, and giving clear and immediate performance feedback are also helpful in reaching flow.

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