Initial Thoughts on Flow

by phil on Thursday Dec 9, 2004 1:46 PM
flow, passion pursuit

Ah. To wake up without an alarm clock and look forward to the work that I'm about to do. To sit atop a Sunday evening and see a week of opportunity and enjoyment. To feel content with the subject of my life.

These are things I don't have, but yearn to have.

I've picked up this book by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced "chicks-sent-me-high") titled Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. By understanding flow, perhaps I can understand the ingredients of a rich work-narrative. One suggested ingredient is the structure of a game: rules, feedback, goals, rewards, and control.

Another suggested ingredient is personal growth. I found this chart helpful:

(Csikszentmihalyi 74)

Anxiety is evidence of an over-challenging task. Boredom is evidence of something that's too easy. If you glide the sweet spot of balance between challenges and skills, then you are more likely to flow.

I interpret this to mean that work-flow comes when you frequently feel personal improvement. In addition, my personal addendum is that you should care where the improvement goes. For example, sure I can improve my skills at playing chess, but at the end of the day who cares?

Three sources have led me to stumble upon this book:
1. I was in the dorms, bored, and asked a random student for a book, perhaps one on psychology—he handed me Flow.
2. Blog buddy Bob Ryskamp has referred to the book a couple of times. Check out his An Autotelic New Year and my own comments.
3. Marty Seligman in Authentic Happiness glows about Mihaly and his work.

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