Flow – The formula for optimal success (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)
Flow is a concept developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his book “FLOW” he describes peoples experience of what makes an experience genuinely satisfying or what it is like to be in the state of flow.
Flow is a state of consciousness which can be achieved on an individual path, providing optimal performance.
In the book Csikszentmihalyi lists a number of fact which accompany an experience of flow:
1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernible and goals are attainable and align appropriately with one’s skill set and abilities).
2. Concentrating and focusing, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
4. Distorted sense of time, one’s subjective experience of time is altered.
5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behaviour can be adjusted as needed).
6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).
7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.
9. People become absorbed in their activity, and focus of awareness is narrowed down to the activity itself, action awareness merging.
Not all are needed for flow to be experienced.
In the past when looking at top performers, business has looked towards sport, and in particular individual based events like athletics. The concept of “being in the zone” during an athletic performance fits within Csikszentmihalyi’s description of the flow experience.
Flow can happen when you’re “really into” what you’re doing. It also has positive benefits. When you’re in a flow state, you’re not normally thinking “I’m happy doing this” or “I love this,” because you’re too focused on the activity. Afterward, though, you might think something like: “That was fun.”
- “People seem to get more flow from what they do on their jobs than from leisure activities in free time.” It turns out that watching TV is not at all a flowful activity. People generally report higher levels of stress, depression, and tension after watching TV. It seems that TV’s main virtue is that it occupies the mind undemandingly. Flow is hard to achieve without effort. Flow is not “wasting time”.
- Some activities lend themselves to flow. Immediate feedback, commensurate challenges and skills, and clear goals are all precursors to flow. Lack of these makes flow difficult to achieve.
- Some people are inclined to flow. They set goals even when apparently doing nothing, and are able to focus their attention easily. These sorts of people can experience flow even in difficult situations–prison camps and harsh jobs being two examples Csikszentmihalyi studied.
- Flow tends to result in personal growth. By engaging in flow, your skills develop, requiring greater challenges to maintain the balance needed for flow.
Biography – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced “ME-high CHICK-sent-me-high-ee”) is a professor in the Department of Psychology ( University of Chicago).
He has devoted his life’s work to the study of what makes people truly happy, satisfied and fulfilled. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Education and National Academy of Leisure Sciences. He has been a Senior Fulbright Fellow and currently sits on several boards, including the Board of Advisor’s for the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Mihaly’s work is sort and respected both inside and outside academia, demonstrated by significant and popular articles in Psychology Today, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and Newsweek, and his appearances on foreign television networks such as the BBC and RAI (Italian television), and in several hour long segments of “Nova.”
His current interests include the study of creativity, especially in art; socialization; the evolution of social and cultural systems; and the study of intrinsically rewarding behaviour in work and play settings, all being connected by a conceptual approach based on systems theory.
Watch Mihaly talk about the topic:
Books by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, include:
Flow: The Classic Work on How to Achieve Happiness
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning