Finding Flow

02/12/2013 19:43

Have you ever been so immersed in something that by the time you’re done, you’re shocked to realize that 5 hours has already gone by and you haven’t even bothered to get a drink or something to eat?  That thing you were doing was just so challenging, yet rewarding that you couldn’t stop.  Maybe you were trying to perfect a song on the guitar, finish a painting, complete writing a story or practice your slam dunks.  Whatever it may be, you were probably experiencing something known in the field of positive psychology as flow.   

This concept was put forth by one of the leading psychologists in Positive Psychology, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi. He says that for optimal flow to occur, the task you are engaging in must be challenging and you must have high skills in that area.  Some factors that occur during the flow experience include:

Ø  -clear challenging, yet attainable goals

Ø  -focused attention and altered sense of time

Ø  -loss of feelings of self-consciousness and lack of physical needs

Clearly, watching TV, Instagramming, tweeting or facebooking, do not produce flow (unless you find those challenging enough to match your skills).

In other words, flow is similar to the concept of “living in the moment” with respect to what you are doing.  Experiencing flow often comes with many benefits: less stress, more optimal performance, more confidence, higher self-esteem and overall a feeling of more happiness and meaning in life.

Unfortunately, not many people experience flow regularly. I consider myself lucky to know which activities give me a flow experience. For me, writing is mainly what puts me in the state of flow, which is part of the reason I created this blog.  

If you rarely experience flow, maybe it’s time to challenge yourself.

Go out of your comfort zone.

Be creative.

Set new goals. Then, when you’ve accomplished them, set some more. Your “to accomplish” list should never be complete, especially if you’re still young.

Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do.

If you already feel like you’ve experienced flow then that’s awesome! Which activities put you in a flow state?


Source: Snyder, C.R., Lopez, S. & Pedrotti, J. (2010). Positive Psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths. Sage Publications: USA.