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Posted on: Monday, November 27, 2017 Category: Uncategorized (70)

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi .
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a leading academic and psychologist that has significantly contributed to the growing area of positive psychology, the art of happiness, and the understanding of motivation and creativity. He devised the concept of flow. Known also as the zone, flow is a mental state of operation in which a person performing a task becomes fully immersed in the task, feeling energised, focused, fully involved and, importantly, enjoys it.
Think of the last time your performance at any task excelled; the last time you were in the zone. This is the state of flow and it occurs when your skill level and the challenge at hand were equal. It is the optimal point for output and productivity.  To reach it, there needs to be a balance between skill and difficulty.

Looking at the graph, you can potentially predict where you may enter the flow based on knowing your limits and difficulty of a task. The sweet spot (in yellow) is where you want to be. Outside of that, your emotional arousal will be dictated by unequal levels of skill and challenge. If you have a low skill level and are tackling a highly challenging task, you will experience anxiety. Conversely, you would reach a state of relaxation (or not be engaged) if you possessed adept skills but the task wasn’t challenging.
It is also possible to move into your flow, by altering the level of skill or difficulty. If you are aroused, you can improve your level of skill in order to reach a balance. If in a level of control, you can increase the difficulty of an activity or task. Here’s how :

  1. Find a challenge.
  2. Develop your skills in order to meet that challenge.
  3. Set clear goals: be clear on what you want to achieve and how you will know that you are succeeding.
  4. Focus on the activity: eliminate distractions and make sure your attention is focused on the task at hand.
  5. Give yourself time: ensure that you’ve set aside sufficient time in order to enter the flow.
  6. Monitor your emotional state: if you still have trouble entering the flow, work out how you’re feeling, and apply Csikszentmihalyi’s graph. Feeling anxious? Reduce the difficulty. Bored? Tweak your skill level and amp the difficulty.

Reaching flow is hard, but once in it, tasks become rewarding and elating. Commonly, you will experience:

  1. Complete concentration
  2. Clarity of goals and immediate feedback
  3. Transformation of time
  4. Intrinsic rewards
  5. Effortlessness
  6. A balance between challenge and skill
  7. Loss of self-conscious rumination
  8. Feeling of total control over a task

Reaching flow has a variety of benefits. The most immediate ones are reaching happiness and productivity in both work and life. But flow also teaches us to expand our abilities, attempt new challenges and develop more creative and critical thinking which can assist us in life’s progression.

Written by Rhys Blyth

Resources

Psychology Today

Positive Psychology Program

rethinked.org

 

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