Being in the Flow or Zone is living at the highest level of Emotional Intelligence as defined by Daniel Goleman author of the book Emotional Intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence (EI)is understanding yours and others feelings and being able to work with them as soon as they appear. A second level of EI is being able to direct your emotions to work towards a goal as in motivating your self.
The highest level of being able to focus your mind body and spirit on a particular task includes excluding all distractions and focusing on only one activity. This has a few pre requisites. It assumes you are not consumed with the “monkey chatter” that consumes the anxious brain.
It assumes you are not in a state of anxiety as a result of having unresolved fears. Controlling anxiety and fear in our lives is a major plateau that has to be left behind to get to flow.
Flow assumes we have practiced a craft, a sport, or an art and that the activity is a challenge but not beyond our capabilities. We have no fear about our competence.
Flow assumes we have a passion for the activity. It is hard to get into the flow of filing paperwork unless that is a particular passion of ours.
Living in the flow means we have accomplished the above on a larger scale. We are not living in fear or anxiety. We have daily activities that are our priorities and our passions. We have competence in these activities. We can engage in them and experience flow easily and on a consistent basis.
The fun of flow or the zone is that the activity is self rewarding. While in the flow, we are not really thinking about being judged or goals to be achieved. We are only thinking of how much we are enjoying ourselves and have a satisfaction with our performance. We want to stay in the state for as long as possible and it is not uncommon to forget about time, food, and sleep.
To get more formal definitions by Wikipedia who quotes a Father of the term flow and includes what he feels are the definitions, I have included the following excerpts:
Flow by Wikipedia
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the positive psychology concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields.
According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task.
1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernible and goals are attainable and align appropriately with one’s skill set and abilities). Moreover, the challenge level and skill level should both be high.
2. Concentrating, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
4. Distorted sense of time, one’s subjective experience of time is altered.
5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).
7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.
9. A lack of awareness of bodily needs (to the extent that one can reach a point of great hunger or fatigue without realizing it)
10. People become absorbed in their activity, and focus of awareness is narrowed down to the activity itself, action awareness merging.
Not all are needed for flow to be experienced.