Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi asked the question: What makes life worth living? Decades of research on optimal experiences produced his answer: flow.
The technical definition
Flow is the mental state in which a person is engaged in an activity where they are fully immersed with a feeling of energized focus, involvement, and success in the process of the activity.
Huh, what does that mean?
You have undoubtedly been in a flow state before. Athletes call it “being in the zone,” mystics call it “ecstacy,” and artists call it “rapture.” It’s when you stop thinking and just do. A champion chess player gets into a flow state when he/she is playing a game of chess against a grand master. A concert pianist gets into a flow state during a performance. Warren Buffet gets into a flow state when he is deciding whether or not to purchase a stock.
Flow is when you are completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” ~Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Conditions for flow
Flow cannot be forced, but you can set up some ideal conditions for flow to occur. Flow occurs when you engage in an activity which exists between the boundary of boredom and anxiety. The task you take on cannot be too challenging that you feel anxious; nor can it be too easy, that you feel bored. If you find an activity with the perfect level of challenge, you may find your flow.
Indications that you are in flow
- Time becomes irrelevant and hours can pass like minutes.
- You aren’t thinking about yourself, only your activity.
- You aren’t interrupted by extraneous thoughts such as what to make for dinner.
- While you may be working toward an ultimate goal, you find the activity itself to your primary motivation.
- You have control over what you are doing.
- You work effortlessly.
- You would like to repeat the experience.
Why is flow awesome for you?
Research shows that flow experiences enhance well-being. Flow can also produce improved performance in various domains including teaching, learning, athletics and artistic creativity. Think about the last time that you lost track of time. What were you doing? Preparing dinner? Singing in the shower? Reading a book? Find your flow and help your youthlings find theirs as well.