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Get Into Your Creative Flow

Lesson 16 of 32

Overview of the Flow Cycle

Steven Kotler

Get Into Your Creative Flow

Steven Kotler

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Lesson Info

16. Overview of the Flow Cycle

Lesson Info

Overview of the Flow Cycle

We are now moving into the flow cycle itself the four stages of flow. We're gonna start with the first stage which is known as struggle. And kind of before we jump into the flow cycle, I wanna talk a little bit about the importance of the flow cycle. So I said earlier that creative careers are difficult they're hard. When I, so I dropped out of college for a while and ran around the country and ended up at the San Francisco Art Institute. I wanted to become a performance and video artist, which was not a very good idea. I think I decided that artists got laid more than writers and that was the switch. It was a long time ago, I was very young. That said, when I went to the San Francisco Art Institute, first day, first class was a neon sculptor named Cork Marcheski. Fantastic guy, fantastic teacher. And we walked in and there were probably 50 people in the class and he said, "Okay, I'm gonna just start out with the good news, "statistically, five years from now, ".01% of you will be work...

ing in a creative field, "not in your chosen creative field, "actually, in any creative field." So literally, there were 50 people in the class, half of us, half of one of us, was gonna actually get to be creative for a living, statistically. And he said, "You know, the one thing "that really distinguishes creatives is, "and the ones who are successful, "is when they wake up in the morning, "they don't know how to do anything else but be creative." And I remember sitting in the class thinking, shit, I know how to build a house, I've worked construction, I was a professional magician, did birthday parties and bar mitzvahs and weddings and all that. I was like crap, I know how to do too many things. That's not what he was talking about actually. What he was talking about is when you wake up in the morning, if you are not compelled to do something creative, you're not doing that, you're not breathing. That was what he meant. Now, that said, I do think that's a fundamental characteristic of a creative. That when you wake up, you have to do your thing. You're compelled to do that thing. I think the creatives that actually have careers, who actually end up being successful at it, are creatives who understand the flow cycle. Mastering this, in all of my years of teaching flow and all of my years of working on creativity, an understanding of the four stages of the flow cycle, where you are and where you need to go next and how to behave inside each of those stages, is the single most important thing I can teach you. So really quickly, 'cause we're gonna go deep into them, but I just wanna walk you through it. I also wanna say, the thing about the flow cycle, is there's different neurobiologies you can see underneath different stages. So about once a month, somebody comes up to me and they're like oh my God man, you gotta study me, I'm in flow all the time. And I used to not tell them the truth. I used to be like oh okay that's really interesting. Now I'm just kind of honest about it, I'm like you know that's interesting, 'cause we have a word for that. We actually call that schizophrenia. Nobody gets to live in flow. Does not happen. You cannot be in a flow state all the time. And the reason you cannot be in a flow state all the time is you have to move through all four stages of the cycle to get back into flow. And a number of these stages really unflowy. Not fun in the way that flow is fun.

Class Description

Do you want to learn more about flow? Take the Free Flow Profile to find out if you are a Deep Thinker, Crowd Pleaser, Hard Charger, or Flow Goer.

If creativity is already core to your life, then this program is perfect for you. This could mean you’re a copywriter at an ad agency, a scientist hunting a breakthrough, a coder designing software, an entrepreneur dreaming up your next start-up, a writer aching to finish that novel or a landscape painter trapped in the life of an accountant — all that matters is that generating novel ideas (and putting those ideas out in the world in some form or another) is core to your life and purpose.

Why Does “Flow for Creatives” even matter?

  • You keep losing the battle to be innovative in the rush to be productive.

  • You have writer’s block or coder’s block or painter’s block and the thing you used to love most in your life has become a source of pain and frustration.

  • You have trouble managing your emotions and fear keeps getting in the way of your good ideas.

  • You have trouble sustaining momentum on projects and tend to quit early rather than to finish what you started.

  • You have no idea how to gain access to groundbreaking insights and ideas when you need them most.

  • You don’t actually believe creativity is trainable.

  • You’re numbing yourself with substances and placating yourself with distractions as a way to ignore the fact that you’re not living up to your creative potential.

  • You get lost in the fixing to get ready phase, and never get down to business.

  • You keep bashing into creative walls but never breaking thru.

  • Your emotions keeping getting in the way of your desired outcomes. Fear of failure keeps you from committing to projects; perfectionism keeps you from making your work public.

Flow For Creatives can help.

It’s like an inspiration turbo-boost training program. It’s practical, experiential and experimental. You learn a new idea about Flow and Creativity, apply it to whatever problem you’re trying to solve, see what happens, then make it your own.

And, did you know…

  • When in Flow, your creative problem-solving abilities can spike by over 400 percent.

  • Research done at Harvard shows that the heightened creativity produced by Flow can outlast the state by a day, sometimes two—suggesting that Flow actually trains the brain to think more creatively over the long haul.

  • Creatives are more prone to depression than most people, but an understanding of the process can protect against this liability.

  • Creativity tops the list of 21st-century skills—meaning those skills that are essential for thriving in the modern world—yet 75 percent of people think they’re not living up to their creative potential.

  • The baseline brainwave state produced by Flow is also the ready condition for “Ah-ha” insight, meaning being in the zone makes you primed for breakthrough insight.

  • Fear blocks creativity, while Flow resets the nervous system, calming us down so we can avoid burnout and gain access to much-needed insight.

  • Unless you know how to train the brain properly, most people tap into their deepest creative potential at age 5.

  • Frustration is actually a built-in component of the creative process—it’s a sign that you’re moving in the right direction not a sign that you’re going about it all wrong.

Life is better than ever and we are feeling worse than evener. We are neurotic, stressed, unmotivated and it’s literally killing us. This class is for anyone that is serious about staying in their highest performing state.

*Warning: this instructor occasionally uses strong language. Viewer discretion advised*


Jeremy Richardson

I've watched and participated in many webinars and online classes, and this was by far one of the best. The depth and breadth of information that Steven covers in this class is not only really important, but he structures it in a way that is engaging and most importantly: PRACTICAL. I'm coming out of this with a clear list of ways to improve my ability to get into Flow while accomplishing all of my creative endeavors. I highly recommend this to anyone who would like to do the same!


This is amazing. Steven is hitting so many pain point for me about reframing my fear. He is also an amazing presenter. Thank you, Steven! I am excited, I am excited, I am excited!

Isaac Freed

Utterly mind blowing. Wow. A few hours listening to Steven Kotler felt more like a few days. He has done his research, and offers so much practical application advice that I will review this material several times. Well worth it, and highly recommended. Thank you, Creative Live!