The 10 characteristics of a Flow state and how to achieve it

When we are ‘in the zone’, everything runs smoothly. We are happier, more efficient and highly motivated. But what exactly is flow? How do we achieve this state and how can VAHA help with getting into that state of consciousness? Find out the answers to all these questions here!

What does it mean to be in Flow?

Can you recall a moment in your life when you were completely absorbed in what you were doing? Maybe it was while dancing with friends when you became completely one with the music. Or maybe it was before the deadline of an important project when you discovered unprecedented sources of concentration and creativity. In this state, perhaps ideas just poured out of you and before you knew it, you had worked through the night – even though it might have only seemed like 5 minutes. 

This experience has a name. It’s called Flow.

Flow describes a state of consciousness in which we perform at our highest level while feeling happy and fulfilled. It’s a moment in which focus becomes laser-sharp and in which we lose all sense of time, thus merging into our action, or – as the founder of Flow research, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi puts it:

Flow is when you are completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” [1] Mihaly Csikszentmihaly

The 10 characteristics of a Flow state

If our intro has you wondering whether you’ve already dipped into Flow in your everyday life, well, there’s an easy way to find out.

Csikszentmihalyi and the generation of Flow researchers who followed him defined 10 characteristics of a Flow state. These characteristics serve as a checklist for when you want to discover if you’ve been in a Flow state. 

  1. Actions and consciousness merge. We are completely absorbed in what we are doing. The action feels automatic and requires minimal additional resources.
  2. Selflessness. Our self-awareness and self-confidence disappear. Our inner critics falls silent.
  3. Timelessness. Our perception of time is altered. The sense of past and future disappears and we are completely in the here and now.
  4. Effortlessness. The action which we are performing comes easily. The experience is intrinsically rewarding, i.e. “autotelic”.
  5. Control. We feel that we are in complete control of the situation. 
  6. Self-motivation. The experience is naturally motivational. We perform the action not to get something in return, but because it feels incredibly good. 
  7. Complete concentration. We feel intensely concentrated on a limited field of information. We are totally focused on what we are doing in the here and now.
  8. Perfect balance between challenge and ability. The challenge of the task at hand exceeds our abilities just enough to require us to move just slightly outside our comfort zone – but never so much that we are overwhelmed.
  9. Clear goals. We have a clear goal for the current action before us. It’s not a big goal (like winning the Olympics), but a small, manageable milestone. This is so we know what we’re doing now and what we will do next. This keeps our attention focused on the present.
  10. Immediate feedback. The gap between cause and effect shrinks, so when we receive feedback we can immediately correct what we are doing. [2]

When all or most of these characteristics are present, we are in Flow – but how exactly do we induce this state? As it turns out, by specifically using 4 items from the checklist above to create the perfect conditions for Flow entry.

How to get into the Flow

Now, let’s take a closer look at the last 4 points on the list of Flow characteristics: Complete focus, balance between challenge and ability, clear goals and Immediate feedback. 

According to today’s Flow research, these four are most commonly cited as Flow triggers [3]. Therefore, they are not only part of Flow, but also the prerequisites for reaching this state.

If we want to get into Flow, it is crucial that we concentrate on the task at hand and that our abilities are up to the challenge. The delicate balance of wanting to be challenged as much as possible without feeling overwhelmed must always be met. We need to have a clear goal in mind and feedback on whether we are getting closer to that goal.

If these conditions are met, we can immediately benefit from the innovative properties of Flow and we’re highly motivated to pursue something because it truly fulfills us when we do so. And because we perform optimally in the Flow state, we make rapid progress and thus achieve our goals with ease and joy.

Vahā’a – Flowing with ease as we achieve our goals

If we haven’t made it clear by now, Flow is an incredibly precious state. That is why VAHA wants to help you achieve it more often in your everyday life. 

The name Vahā’a comes from Punjabi – one of 179 languages in India and Pakistan – and translates as Flow. And in order to make Flow accessible to everyone, we’ve integrated the 4 Flow triggers into your VAHA Journey.  This is so that you can realise your full potential when exercising and progress easily and effortlessly.

Although regular exercise is a cornerstone of wellbeing, many of us find it difficult to motivate ourselves on a daily basis to make exercise a regular habit. In Flow, however, your workout becomes something you enjoy and pursue on your own. That’s simply because the framework for immersing yourself in Flow is built into your VAHA Journey.

The 4 Flow triggers in your VAHA Journey

  1. Complete concentration. When you relinquish a bit of responsibility, you can concentrate completely on yourself. With VAHA, either your personal trainer accompanies you digitally during the workout and supports you live with the correct execution of the exercises or you are guided via the appropriate training videos. This allows you to focus on your workout without wondering what to do next.
  2. Balance between challenge and ability. Based on your current fitness level (determined by factors such as training experience, health, and life circumstances), your personal trainer will create a fully customised training plan from more than 600 workouts. This ensures you’re always challenged to your limits without being overwhelmed.
  3. Clear goals. Throughout your VAHA Journey, you define clear goals that you can track and adjust to your level of performance. You always know exactly what you’re working towards and what individual milestones you’re reaching along the way.
  4. Instant feedback. Feedback is provided by your personal trainer or, if you’re training alone, by VAHA’s movement analysis, which provides real-time digital feedback. This is to make sure you perform the exercises correctly during your workouts. This way you can always correct and optimise your actions immediately.

Flow & Happiness

When we’re in flow, no activity feels like work but rather like we’re part of one long,  flowing river. A mass of energy that gives us back what we put in in the form of motivation, willpower, performance and creativity.

Thanks to scientific findings, we can structure our lives in such a way that getting into the Flow becomes routine. This is an opportunity that should be seized, not only to increase our motivation and achieve our goals but also to test Csikszentmihalyi’s thesis that Flow transforms us into the one thing that is most important: Happy.



[1] John Geirland: Go with the Flow. Interview with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Wired Magazine, 09.01.1996. https://www.wired.com/1996/09/czik/

2] Steven Kotler: How the hell do you know if you’re in flow-or what’s a more technical definition of flow? In: Frequently asked questions on flow.https://www.stevenkotler.com/rabbit-hole/frequently-asked-questions-on-flow

3] Recent studies suggest that there are more than 4 triggers for flow, which have been observed in extreme athletes and artists. In this article, we focus on the 4 most researched triggers, which also play a central role in VAHA. You can find more information about the flow triggers here: https://www.stevenkotler.com/rabbit-hole/frequently-asked-questions-on-flow

Subscribe and get the latest news from VAHA