I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi the past week. Mihaly is a Hungarian-American psychologist known for his work in positive psychology, happiness, creativity, and flow theory.
I’ve been reading about being in Flow for a while, which is defined as a state of mind in which a person becomes fully immersed in an activity.
Mihaly describes it as a feeling when:
“The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost,”
For example, when artists paint, musicians perform at a concert, a chef cooking in a busy kitchen, elite athletes, while skiing, dancing, running, or even programming. People are hyper-focused on what they are doing.
The author says these meaningful moments make life worth living, also called moments of “optimal experience,” or the “Flow” state.
I was listening to this while working out and started thinking about ‘flow states’ in my day. I was surprised to observe that the number of flow moments in my life is now comparatively less than before.
I spoke to a few friends and while most of them enjoy their work, there was no flow. We’re constantly barraged with notifications, social media, emails, meetings which makes flow hard to reach.
Getting in flow is like getting high. And as Jason Silva puts it, in current times, getting high is very easy, but staying high is not. Same is the case with flow.
On average, we work 80,000 hours in our lifetime. Shouldn’t those 80,000 hours be enjoyable. Sadly, for most people, they’re not.
But what makes for an enjoyable activity? Mihaly covers that at the starting of the book.
Here are the 8 characteristics that people have reported when they’re having fun doing something:
- Have Clarity on what to do i.e. clear goals
- Immediate feedback, knowing how they are doing. (ex: every time you score a point, receive applause, solve a problem, etc.)
- The Challenge of the activity is matched by the skill. What you need to do is balanced by what you can do. The task feels effortless.
- Feeling of focus and concentration on what you’re doing.
- Everyday frustrations are removed from your mind space. (ex: bills, work, relationship issues, etc.)
- Feeling of control. Insecurities disappear.
- Egoless state. Don’t care about what other think of you. Felt in team activities/sports.
- Sense of time changes. 8 hours feel like 2 hours.
Have you had such an experience lately while doing something?
The good thing is that Flow is not limited to work. It can be applied in sports, hobbies, and even relationships.
I remember my days in high school. I used to practice basketball twice a day, attend school, study and was completely engrossed in those activities. I was in flow on the basketball court focusing on the game and in flow at home solving math problems.
Now, it’s hard to concentrate even for 1 hour when doing an online course.
I’m thinking about how to bring more flow in my own life to enhance my levels of personal + professional fulfillment and this book has been a gamechanger.
I highly recommend listening to this book and get in touch with your flow state.
Who knows what becomes possible when you do.
Also, highly recommend watching this video: