The Value of Flow

Women practicing yoga in a class

Women practicing yoga in a class

A fascinating definition of the Value of “flow” in one’s life from Berkeley Wellness — Let’s all go with it!

Flow has received much attention since the term was coined in the early 1970s by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, now a professor of psychology and management at Clare­mont Graduate University. (Watch a TED talk by Dr. Csikszentmihalyi on flow, which he describes as “the secret to happiness”.) Csikszentmih­alyi came up with his concept while studying how artists create art and how deeply involved they are in their work. Since then, sports psychologists have studied flow in athletic endeavors. After flow is described to them, about 85 percent of people say they have experienced it, according to Csikszentmihalyi.

Components of flow

  • A balance between your skills and the endeavor. That is, the task must be chal­lenging (to prevent boredom), but not too challenging (to avoid excessive anxiety or frustration).
  • Being mindful and attentive, not zoned out on automatic pilot.
  • Feeling at one with your action. Row­ers, for instance, may say that the oar feels like an extension of their arm. Basketball players may feel that the arc of the ball toward the hoop is an extension of their mind.
  • A sense of control and confidence. You know you have the skills, but there still is a challenge.
  • Having clear goals and knowing what to do to meet them. You don’t simply throw yourself into the great unknown. You use skills you understand.
  • Having clear feedback–for instance, from your body (seen in a mirror perhaps), a clock, teammates, or a trainer.
  • Heightened but relaxed concentration on the task.
  • An altered sense of time. In flow, ath­letes (or painters, dancers, or gardeners) say that time seems to slow down or speed up greatly.
  • A sense of euphoria and joy.