Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the progenitor of the concept of flow and author of a book by the same name, discovered that there are eight common components in every flow state.
The experience should allow a person to fully concentrate on the task. There should be clear goals to the effort, and the person should receive immediate feedback on the outcome of the experience. The task should be challenging but within the person’s ability to be successful while offering the individual a sense of control over one’s actions. Given all of this, the person should lose awareness of worries and frustrations; the person should also lose concern for self (though gain a stronger sense of self after the task is complete, and (given a true flow state) the resulting experience should alter the person’s sense of time (often by having time fly by—though slowing can also occur).
Csikszentmihalyi has seen flow occur in people’s lives in nearly every facet of their experience. In fact, he sees few realities of the human experience where flow can’t occur.
How might you utilize the components of flow in your life? How can you make the evening commute home a flow activity? How can you make getting your children ready for bed a flow activity?
Here’s your challenge for the next week:
~When you’re at work this week, find a way of pushing the limit of your skills in some aspect of your performance.
~Set a goal for your free time that will absorb your entire attention. I recently painted my bathroom. It took all of my attention and effort to paint as perfectly as I could. The outcome was, if I may say so, wonderful. The bathroom looks great, and I have a sense of accomplishment.
~Find immediate feedback by hosting a party at your house. Invite a group of your friends over for a holiday get-together this weekend. Think of all that needs to be done before the party begins: shopping, cleaning, cooking, etc. Once the party starts, you’ll receive immediate feedback on your efforts by how much fun your friends are having.
~Dust off an old hobby. What activity do you find absolutely engrossing? My son recently bought a puzzle. While I don’t like fifty-thousand puzzle pieces littering the floor, I do see him ardently working on the puzzle. He’s obviously enjoying his time.
Every day offers all of us perhaps the most valuable gift we will ever receive: time. Take the time and use it for all it’s worth (which, in the end, is exactly what living large is all about!). Don’t allow time to slip through your hands as you putter along in sleep mode.
Take the opportunity to do something distinctive, something engrossing. Imagine how much more enjoyable your life would be if you used your creativity and looked for ways to implement the eight components of flow in every activity.
1. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. Harper Perennial. New York.
Photo by: René Ehrhardt
2008 12 14