Leading Positive Psychology researcher, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has been getting a lot of attention in pop psychology media for his concept, “Flow.” Why shouldn’t he? This idea revolutionizes the concept of human fulfillment. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi defines flow as being engaged in, and completely immersed in, an activity for its own sake. Motivation is a key component of flow. Nothing else is encouraging the individual to engage in the activity. The motivation is intrinsic, meaning that engaging in the activity is motivation enough!
The activity producing the phenomenon of flow must be completely engrossing. It is generally an activity that is challenging enough to require the highly skilled person’s complete attention. That, in essence, is what allows for Flow. The mind, solely focusing on this singular activity, forgets itself. The ego
is temporarily suspended. The subject is, for a moment, completely free of her or his place in t
he world and all its trappings. In his TED Talk, Csikszentmihalyi discusses how true ecstasy is being engaged fully in a positive activity that precludes any intrusion of negative thoughts.
Individuals who experience flow report that the activity involved becomes spontaneous. Writers “loses themselves” in their work as if the words just pour out of their minds and directly onto the page. The individual generally experiences “timelessness,” as hours pass by and feel like minutes.
The graphic below depicts the relationship between a subject’s skill level and the level of challenge
involved in an activity to draw conclusions about the subject’s engagement and the potential for flow. The pursuit of these activities will allow us to experience something so positive for the psyche, that evidence suggests it will enhance our creativity, resilience, mood, and productivity.
What activities do you excel in? Do these activities completely occupy your mind or do you still worry about paying bills, writing papers, or studying for an exam? What activities might produce a state of flow for you? What might you gain from achieving flow?