Mihály Csíkszentmihályi on “Flow”

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

In basketball, there were stretches in games (especially during playoff games) when Michael Jordan seems to make every shot he took. In tournament golf, there were stretches during a round (especially during a major tournament) when Tiger Woods seems to hit every shot perfectly, sinking every putt. They offer excellent examples of what is generally characterized as “being in the zone.”

You have no doubt heard of another term, “flow.” In positive psychology, flow, it is 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. Named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (pronounced “Mee-high cheek-sent-mee-high”) the concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields (and has an especially high level of recognition in occupational therapy), though the concept has existed for thousands of years under other guises, notably in some Eastern religions.

According to Csíkszentmihályi, the flow experience has the following building blocks:

o There are clear goals every step of the way.
o There is immediate feedback to one’s actions.
o There is balance between challenges and skills.
o Action and awareness are merged.
o Distractions are excluded from consciousness.
o There is no concern about failure.
o Self-consciousnes disappears.
o The sense of time becomes distorted.
o The activity becomes autotelic.

I highly recommend Csíkszentmihályi’s masterpiece, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, published in a paperbound edition by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (2008).

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To learn more about Csíkszentmihályi and his brilliant work, please click here.

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