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August 12, 2019

The Importance of Flow at Work and How It Applies to Sales

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, describes the flow state.

According to Mihaly, flow occurs when you’re so absorbed in an activity that you lose sense of the passage of time. The limitations that held you back before disappear.

In this state, you’re ready to achieve anything.

If you’re lucky, you may have experienced this before in your sales career. For example, you may have gone on a run of sale after sale that almost felt like an out of body experience.

That’s flow in its truest form. It’s something that you should aspire to achieve every day to give your sales efforts a boost.

The Eight Characteristics of Flow

According to Mihaly, the flow state has eight characteristics:

  1. You have complete and undivided attention on the task at hand.

  2. The task feels easy to the point that it’s effortless.

  3. You lose sense of time.

  4. You have a complete feeling of control over the task.

  5. You’re no longer conscious of your self-doubt as your actions and awareness merge.

  6. There’s complete clarity around your goals.

  7. You achieve the perfect balance between your skills and the challenge in front of you.

  8. The resulting experience rewards you intrinsically.


The difficulty comes in achieving the state.

According to a 2009 study by Nakamura et al., it’s impossible to achieve flow when distractions loom over you.

All of those little things, such as phone notifications and talking colleagues, can pull you away from the state.

It’s also so important that you balance challenge with skill. The moment that you feel like the challenge exceeds your skill level, flow becomes impossible to achieve.

Self-doubt reigns in those situations.