Yesterday’s post summarized the basic definition of the Flow Experience as found in Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihali.
Over the next few days I will be posting on this and a great follow-up book called Good Business: Leadership, Flow and the Making of Meaning, also by Csikszentmihali.
Flow – Major components
Mihaly Csikszentmihali and his staff studied thousands of Flow Experiences and found that they shared common characteristics. Here are the top eight general principals of what makes something a flow experience.
Eight major characteristics of the flow experience:
1. CLEAR GOALS: We know what we have to do, the rules and our goals are clear (not confusing, not conflicting). We know what we want to accomplish each moment. The whole activity is very clearly focused.
2. REAL TIME FEEDBACK: We know if we are getting closer to our goal or moving away from it. Feedback is immediate, we know how things are going in real time. Clear feedback enables us to improve, monitor progress, and to concentrate.
3. SKILLS MATCH THE CHALLENGE: What we can do and what there is to do are in balance. We are neither overwhelmed nor bored. The job is appropriately demanding and this makes the work more interesting and enjoyable – even addictive. When our skills and activities are in balance, we get slowly sucked into it and feel compelled to continue.
4. FOCUS: In everyday life, we often try to do many things at once and pay attention to more than one task. When experiencing flow, our attention focuses on a single activity. We focus and concentrate on what we are doing. When focused, we can accomplish more and experience a feeling of inner harmony.
5. NO WORRIES: When having a flow experience, we cannot be distracted by other problems. We do not think about everyday frustrations. Our concentration and focus ensures we do not worry about these things. We can´t afford to let our mind wander. It is a great feeling of relief to be living in the present. A flow experience can be a form of forward escape. Instead of dealing with the usual reality, it creates a new and more interesting reality. Relief from the past and constraints moves us into a whole new experience.
6. CONTROL: We feel that we can be in control of our life, and are in control of our experience. Being in flow is about being on the edge of control and no control. Control is possible, but only when we are doing our best work. We know that if we prepare ourselves, we can match anything that comes our way.
7. NO EGO: When they are having a Flow Experience we are not self-conscious – we lose our ego! We do not worry about what other people think about us. When in flow, we don´t have the luxury of worrying about ourself, we are busy concentrating and very involved in what we are doing. In the depth of flow, we feel as though we are transcending our individuality to become part of the larger experience. No longer isolated, and part of the energy flowing about. Ironically, this sense of transcendence builds self-esteem after the flow experience is over. We forget ourself for the moment, but after, we feel stronger.
8. SENSE OF TIME TRANSFORMS: When experiencing flow, our sense of time is transformed. In flow, hours get condensed into minutes or visa versa, seconds become minutes (because so much is packed into the moment). Time adapts itself to the experience rather than the other way around.
Think back to the last time an experience had these eight characteristics. What did you do to create this Flow Experience? Do that again (or whatever it takes to flow).
Flow Experiences make life great and enjoyable!
Tomorrow, I will dig into Good Business.