Everyone has heard of Flow.
The literature on Flow comes primarily from a lifetime of global research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Me-high Chick-sent-me-high). He says:
Thirty years of research and 18 books later, I have proved that the most obvious component of happiness is intense concentration.
Intense concentration comes when a Challenge is matched by an Ability. When challenge and ability meet like this, it puts us into a Flow state.
Want to see Flow in action? Watch this 3 minute clip. It’s a trailer from an 8 hour, award winning, BBC documentary called the Human Planet that first aired in January, 2011. The full 8 hour Human Planet series shows the great challenges people regularly face in their daily lives. It also shows their amazing skill in meeting those challenges. Afterwards, these people reflect and say something like: “Being able to meet this challenge made me feel very happy.”
Challenge and skills can meet anywhere along a “flow channel”.
Other phrases to describe the positive Flow experience are:
- In the Zone
- Peak performance
- State of grace
When we are in this sweet spot, we say: “I was made for this – this is the real me”. We feel that our heart wants to burst!
You can see from the images below that Flow is impossible when:
- The task is too simple (boredom will be the result).
- The task is too challenging (anxiety will result).
The several ingredients that make Flow possible are:
- Clear goals every step of the way.
- Immediate feedback to your actions.
- A balance between the challenge and your skills.
- Action and awareness merging.
- Distractions are excluded from consciousness.
- There is no worry of failure.
- Self-consciousness seems to disappear.
- Losing track of time.
- The activity becomes an end in itself.
So – do you know the activities that make your heart want to burst and cause you to lose track of time? What activities make you the most happy – and effective?
See Do you Flow?