The psychology of Flow

In an earlier post, I had written about ten traits of creative people.  The author of that list, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, had written a book on the psychology of Flow, that is, when one is faced with a task/project, he/she is able to draw from his/her highest level of skills to tackle this difficult challenge.  When people are in the state of flow, time almost disappears, this is when the mind is working and one becomes “in the zone.” Or as he is quoted as, “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. 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.

More from Dr Csikszentmihalyi, 

For instance, the fact that you were completely immersed in what you were doing, that the concentration was very high, that you knew what you had to do moment by moment, that you had very quick and precise feedback as to how well you were doing, and that you felt that your abilities were stretched but not overwhelmed by the opportunities for action. In other words, the challenges were in balance with the skills. And when those conditions were present, you began to forget all the things that bothered you in everyday life, forget the self as an entity separate from what was going on—you felt you were a part of something greater and you were just moving along with the logic of the activity.

Everyone said that it was like being carried by a current, spontaneous, effortless like a flow. You also forget time and are not afraid of being out of control.” 

This article discusses the feeling of being in the state of flow, as well as how to get into the state of “flow.”  Daily mundane activities as well as a fear of others’ opinions can stifle one’s ability to be in the state of flow.

When students experience procrastination, they experience the state of flow far less than those that did not. In a study conducted by Eunju Lee, a research from South Korea, found the following:

Lee summarized his findings like this, “The more students procrastinate in doing their academic work, the less likely they are to experience flow state in the learning processes . . . students who did not have clear goals, did not concentrate on the task at hand and had high self-consciousness showed high procrastination tendencies” (p. 12). Lee then laid out the potential implications of these results for educators in helping students define clear goals, concentrate and not be excessively self-conscious.

Finally, Lee focused on the subscale that he found related most highly to procrastination, namely self-consciousness. “High procrastinators were more likely to be concerned with what others may been thinking of them, how they were presenting themselves, and about their performance during the learning process” (p. 13).

Do you all get into the state of flow on occasion?

For me, I need to be exposed and be involved in novel experiences. There needs to be sufficient challenge, and the feedback needs to be positive, whether it involves learning or doing a physical activity.  In the case of learning, it could be learning a new concept, and it simply clicks in one’s mind, and all connections and tangential ideas all make sense, consequently, the concept of time disappears.


3 responses to “The psychology of Flow

  1. Nicely done. I see myself seeking Flow by applying skills to work challenges. Major weakness is procrastination, kept in check by focusing on Flow!

    • Yes, that you can keep procrastination in check by keeping your mind in a state of flow. One of the main tenets of Flow is the setting clear, achievable goals with measurable results as well as having timely feedback. Sometimes in procrastination, the mind is not focused on the present task but rather preoccupied by other events that are unrelated.

  2. Pingback: Successful People « Ideas make the world go round

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