This topic is something close to my heart – flow, I have experienced it often while working on something that I love, I think most of us must have! It is that ecstatic feeling when you are completely immersed in what you’re doing and you lose track of time and place. You may feel it when you’re playing flute, or when you’re designing something, or while playing football or anything else that you truly love!
Flow in a single sentence can be defined as the experience while carrying out a “High challenge & high skill” task that you immerse yourself in completely. Many maestros have experienced feeling that oneness with their art during their performance. However, it is not an exclusive experience for those exceptionally talented people among us, ordinary people like you & I can experience it as well – in fact we all must have experienced it one or more time in our life already.
The concept of flow in positive psychology was proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. I can’t ever pronounce that last name correctly, but his work on creativity & happiness is inspiring! Flow, also know as zone is formally defined as –
The mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. It is almost as if what you do is your meditation. You’d often find young kids experiencing flow more often and easily, perhaps they have lesser preoccupation, more curiosity to learn and unadulterated experiences. It’s beautiful to watch someone in flow, no matter what they do! They are blessed in those moments!
Flow usually is associated with individual experiences, but as Mel Brooks explains in this article, it can also be a group phenomenon as well. Though, I have my own doubts about group experiencing flow often and for longer durations. Anyway!
In this post I have also included Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s TED talk on flow and also included Daniel Goleman’s video as well. In my opinion, he explains Focus, Flow, and Frazzle quite clearly.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi asks,
“What makes a life worth living?” Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of “flow.”
Here is how he describes it in this beautiful TED video shared below –
Now, when we do studies — we have, with other colleagues around the world, done over 8,000 interviews of people — from Dominican monks, to blind nuns, to Himalayan climbers, to Navajo shepherds — who enjoy their work. And regardless of the culture, regardless of education or whatever, there are these seven conditions that seem to be there when a person is in flow. There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other; you get immediate feedback. You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears, you forget yourself, you feel part of something larger. And once the conditions are present, what you are doing becomes worth doing for its own sake.
You can watch the actual TED video below, it is a bit long (~ 19 minutes), and you may wan to watch it with subtitles, but I urge you to watch completely and listen to what he is saying carefully.
And you can watch Daniel Goleman talking about Focus, Flow, and Frazzle in this video –
And if you’re really keen and interested in knowing more about Flow, you can consider reading this book: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.