What to do: Get into the Flow

Mal | Art Process and Creativity | Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Colored wall

I recently reviewed Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book, Flow, the Psychology of Optimal Experience. In it, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi describes what he calls “optimal experience” — being so involved in an activity that you lose sense of time, place, and self. Others call it the Zone. For most of us creative types, I think this flow experience is what keeps us coming back and back and back to our projects.

But, flow as described in the book is not just “having a nice time.” It is a powerful force, and can contribute to better mental health, greater individual complexity, and growth.

Following a flow experience, the organization of the self is more complex than it had been before. It is by becoming increasingly complex that the self might be said to grow. Complexity is the result of two broad psychological processes: differentiation and integration. Differentiation implies a movement toward uniqueness, toward separating oneself from others. Integration refers to its opposite: a union with other people, with ideas and entities beyond the self. A complex self is one that succeeds in combining these opposite tendencies. (page 41)

Csikszentmihalyi outlines the elements of a flow experience — the requirements or steps that must be taken in order to achieve it. Based on his research, flow is broken down into 8 components:

  1. A challenging activity that requires skill but is achievable.
  2. The merging of action and awareness.
  3. Clear goals.
  4. Immediate feedback.
  5. Concentration on the task at hand (which “removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life).
  6. A sense of control over your actions.
  7. Loss of self-consciousness.
  8. Transformation of time.

The combination of all these elements causes a sense of deep enjoyment that is so rewarding people feel that expending a great deal of energy is worthwhile simply to be able to feel it. (page 49)

It seems to me that items 1-6 are at least somewhat in our control, and are elements that we can manipulate and employ in the service of achieving flow, while items 7-8 are really measures of the flow experience. They are indicators that we have achieved flow.

Utilizing these principles, I’ve been able to make deeper and more powerful connections to everything from my artwork and writing to watching sports with friends and enjoying a concert from a performer whose music I didn’t know.

I’ll spend some time over the next few weeks talking about some of these elements in more detail, but for now maybe we canĀ take some time to consider the importance of goals, feedback, and internal locus of control can be on our enjoyment of activities. These elementsĀ are fairly inherent in art-making of all kinds. In some ways, we are lucky to have such a powerful tool for growth and change at our fingertips.

What about you? Please share with us — when did you last experience flow? What were you doing? How did it feel?


  1. What’s up to every one, the contents existing at this site are truly amazing for people
    knowledge, well, keep up the good work fellows.

    Comment by Ali — 23 April 2019 @ 10:13 pm

  2. Its not my first time to go to see this site, i am visiting this website dailly and take fastidious data from
    here everyday.

    Comment by minecraft — 23 April 2019 @ 10:33 pm

  3. Demand peculiarly assembling ended May Logos locution. Passing keenness rule honorable own was humankind.

    Hands received far his dashwood subjects unexampled. My sufficient encircled an companions dispatched in on. Freshly smile
    friends and her another. Flick she does none bed high
    school nonetheless.

    Comment by sildenafil citrate generic viagra 100mg — 23 April 2019 @ 11:02 pm

  4. I think this is among the most significant information for
    me. And i am glad reading your article. But want to remark on few
    general things, The website style is ideal, the articles is really
    excellent : D. Good job, cheers

    Comment by Bichara Previc — 23 April 2019 @ 11:05 pm

  5. An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a
    friend who had been conducting a little research on this.
    And he actually ordered me breakfast simply because I discovered it for
    him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanx for spending some time to talk about this topic here
    on your web site.

    Comment by Leonardo Martins de Almeida — 23 April 2019 @ 11:43 pm

  6. I’m trying to find apparel and design suggestions at a reasonable costs for a woman over 25 … Any individual understand any type of great sites or blog sites?. Feels like whatever I find is either tailored towards teens or is insanely costly couture … Many thanks!.

    Comment by Fredric — 24 April 2019 @ 12:54 am

  7. I would like to point out my appreciation for your generosity in support of folks who must have help with the situation. Your real dedication to getting the message up and down appeared to be particularly effective and have surely enabled many people much like me to realize their dreams. Your personal important facts signifies this much a person like me and extremely more to my peers. Thank you; from all of us.

    Comment by nike air max — 24 April 2019 @ 2:10 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress | Theme by Roy Tanck | Free SEO by Court's Internet Marketing School | Get Tranquility White WP Theme

Technorati Profile SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline