Flow is defined as an optimal state of consciousness or optimal brain state, where decision making becomes automatic, intuition is heightened, performance increases, actions follow one another like a seamless pattern, time falls away, and breakthroughs in creative thought are made. Flow can be experienced by all people, and most will many times in their lifetime.
Hyperfocus is defined as a time of extreme focus on a particular task, in which time falls away, and the task at hand becomes the only point of attention. Hyperfocus is typically experienced by people with ADHD, predominantly due to a deficit in regulating focus and the depth of attention. However, people with ADHD will often speak about hyperfocus being helpful intermittently. What’s likely happening is that they are actually intermittently slipping into a flow state. Remember, all people can experience flow, so it is likely that those with ADHD are just mislabeling it as hyperfocus when it happens. Thus, they are left confused about why hyperfocus is helpful only some of the time. If people with ADHD are able to become more attuned and able to identify flow states vs hyperfocus states, then they may find the key to unlocking incredible performance.
Flow is a desired and highly valuable state that people try to trigger on purpose (it does also happen organically). People like Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal of the Flow Genome Project work to help others harness flow for optimal performance.
In Learn to Thrive with Adult ADHD, host Phil Boissiere works to help people develop the likelihood that they will enter into flow and reduce the likelihood that they will slip into hyperfocus. Hyperfocus is typically uncontrollable and leads to extended focus to the point that it can harm productivity, such as spending 4 hours researching the history of the internet. Hyperfocus, although helpful in some situations, does not lead to expansive and creative thought that leads to creative, physical, or academic breakthroughs. Flow on the other hand, leads to exponential changes in performance and problem solving.
Check out the trailer for The Rise of Superman, it speaks volumes!