Flow: Overview

Your Unconscious Inferential System

A part of your brain is conscious. You can know what is happening in the conscious part of the brain. Your conscious partially controls what the rest of your brain does, so consciousness is a very important part of your brain.

But consciousness is not a very powerful part of your brain. There is another part of your brain which I call the Inferential System. It is powerful. You use it, for example, in perception. You can become conscious of the results of the processing in this system, but you cannot become conscious of the internal processes in the Inferential System.

When you try to act -- play tennis, sing, vacation, decide what to do, whatever -- you usually use your conscious brain. But since your conscious brain isn't very powerful, your Inferential System usually fills in the gaps. So you are partially using your Inferential System.


The idea of flow is simply to get your conscious out of the way, so you are using your powerful unconscious as much as possible. The conscious experience during flow is very unusual. Your full conscious attention has to be on what you are doing -- you can't be daydreaming about something else. But you consciously aren't thinking anything.

I know that might sound crazy. It probably contradicts your mental model of how the brain works. Your mental model is wrong. As far as I know, everyone who has tried flowing reports that it is more effective.

When to Flow

For various reasons, sports, arts, and crafts are ideal for flow and are the traditional flow activities. The first essay is an introduction to flow in general and discusses the use of flow in these activities. The second essay explains how to flow and the third essay is about actually flowing.

With two exceptions, vacations are another activity well-suited to flow. If you don't do sports, arts, or crafts, vacationing is a good place to start flowing. The fourth and fifth sections discussing flowing on Vacations. The sixth section is explains why flow is enjoyable, and the seventh section addresses the problem of following instructions.

And since your Inferential System is more powerful than consciousness, and for several other reasons, you can lead a more effective life if you bring flow to your daily activities. This is the topic of the last three essays. The ninth and tenth essays address the pitfalls of flowing in daily life.

1. Flow
2. Explanation
3. Do It
4. Vacation
5. Vacation II
6. Enjoyment
7. Instructions
8. Daily Life
9. Being Responsible
10. Goals