The first time I came across the concept of FLOW by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was during my Psychology courses. It is a concept that explains what makes a life worth living and, to a certain degree, how to live a happier life. There are many theories and hypotheses out there about why we do what we do, but this one has the strongest scientific and psychological research behind it.
A state of FLOW occurs when we fully immerse ourselves into an activity… we don’t notice the time passing by, we don’t notice our emotions, we ignore all distractions and we do the activity for its own sake… basically, we feel great! It’s the state of mind of a violinist performing on stage, an artist while painting, a child mastering new tricks during soccer training, or you and I when we are solving an interesting challenge such as puzzles and word games. FLOW can occur anywhere and any time.
“The following six factors encompass an experience of flow:
- Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
- Merging of action and awareness
- A loss of reflective self-consciousness
- A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
- A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
- Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience
Those aspects can appear independently of each other, but only in combination do they constitute a so-called flow experience.” – Wikipedia’s article on Flow
In summary, FLOW occurs when we focus so much on a task that we lose track of time, of our emotions, and of our needs. I’m sure that you have all experienced doing something and, suddenly, “It’s already this late?”.
Csikszentmihalyi argues that the state of flow is achieved when the task is slightly more challenging that our current abilities. The task must be slightly difficult, so that we don’t get bored because it’s too easy or discouraged because it’s too hard. FLOW occurs when we have the possibility of improvement and mastering a new aspect of the task that we have not mastered before. The best part is that we don’t even notice that we are actually improving because it seems effortless 🙂
Personally, I am in a state of FLOW when I blog, when I cook a new recipe, when I play with my puppy, when I travel, or when I spend time with people I love. FLOW doesn’t only define which tasks you enjoy and which you don’t, but it also explains how to make a task more enjoyable. This concept is being used in schools to make learning more efficient and enjoyable, in the workplace to make the environment more stimulating and challenging and, above all, in competitive sports to facilitate learning.
You can check out Csikszentmihalyi’s TED Talk about “FLOW: The Secret to Happiness” where he explains his concept in a very user-friendly way.
Or you can read his book (I love this book!) called “Flow”. In the next posts, I will summarize some important parts of this book for you…. because like me you probably don’t have time to read every single bestseller out there! We’re in 2015 and people have busy lives (I get it!), so efficiency is key. And I really do want you to understand this concept well to be able to apply it to your own life. The first summary post can be found here.
Until then, enjoy life! ❤