Psychologist and author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has spent his career researching what have been called “optimal experiences” that are described as having feelings of deep concentration and enjoyment. Studying the activities of tens of thousands of individuals from all walks of life, from all over the world, Csikszentmihalyi has developed an understanding of this phenomenon he calls “Flow”. This Flow state explains why some folks get enjoyment out of life and work, while others experience drudgery.
We all experience Flow from time to time, but it is those that seem to have figured out how to constantly find Flow that led Csikszentmihalyi to believe that there was something more here. That there had to be something common in these Flow experiences.
Understanding Flow (How Your Finding Your Sweet Spot Generates Flow)
Very simply put, Flow has been described best by athletes as being “in the zone”. We have all witnessed the athlete who has been “unconscious” as they played, not missing a shot or always with their head in the game. But Flow isn’t just something that athlete’s are able to experience. Based on the research that Csikszentmihalyi and others did over decades, Flow is something that we all have the opportunity to experience. In fact, many every day activities have the potential to become flow experiences.
According to Csikszentmihalyi, Flow experiences have certain characteristics.
The Goals for The Activity Are Clear: There is no ambiguity about the task at hand. What we hope to accomplish is very clear in our minds.
Feedback is Immediate: As we are performing the activity the feedback on our performance (what we are doing and how well) is instantaneous. We don’t have to wait for feedback, allowing us to promptly make corrections as we go and to continue with the activity.
There is a Balance between Skill and Challenge: We are able to perform at our best when our skills are equally matched with the task at hand.
Concentration Deepens: We are able to focus exclusively on the activity in which we are involved to the point that we are able to block out everything else around us.
Being In The Present Matters Most: As our concentration deepens and we focus exclusively on the task at hand any cares or worries about the future or past fall away as we live in the moment.
Our Sense of Time Is Altered: The passage of time doesn’t seem to matter as we are so focused on the activity that hours can pass in what seems like minutes.
Failure is Not A Worry: When we are so deeply engrossed in an activity and everything seems “right with the world” we know, just know, that we are at our best and we can’t fail. This leads us to higher performance and growth because the fear of failure has diminished.
Ego is Put Aside: We are so deeply involved that we “lose ourselves” in the activity. The performance of the task becomes the most important thing, not how we are viewed by others.
As we have discussed in our earlier posts about the Finding Your Sweet Spot, this list of the characteristics of Flow are cultivated from the intersection of passion and your natural skill.
How sweet it is to find your Sweet Spot and get your Flow at the same time!