Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Chapters 7 to 10) – Productivity Book Group

Productivity Book Group [ http://productivitybookgroup.org ] discussed the second half of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience [ http://amzn.to/1lE8nPz ] – by the renowned psychologist, Dr. Mihalyi Czikszentmihalyi. Enjoy the discussion!

Dr. Czikszentmihalyi is currently Claremont Graduate University’s Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management. He was formerly a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago for 31 years, also serving as the department head of psychology until 2000. As the father of positive psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman, has said, Dr. Czikszentmihalyi is the world’s leading positive psychology researcher.

In 1990, he published, Flow, and I thought it would be good to explain his definition of “flow” and then we can get into the discussion.

Over the course of 900 interviews, Dr. C.’s analysis of happy people from all walks of life and professions around the globe, he started to hear a word being used for this condition of ecstatic absorption in one’s activity–”flow.” Flow is this effortless state of doing and can be defined by its parts. We may also know this in athletics terms as being “in the zone.”

Through Dr. C.’s research he has identified seven major components:

  1. Goals and rules of the activity are clear, not confusing, and not conflicting, with immediate, moment by moment feedback.
  2. Challenges of the activity are matched with the skills of the person.
  3. Duality of attention disappears; merged action and awareness. Think of this as absolute focus.
  4. Intensity of the present moment…creating a new reality…what he calls “escape forward”…moving you into a focus, productive modality.
  5. A confidence in your control of a experience.
  6. Ego defenses dissipate and you lose a sense of self-consciousness. After the activity, self-esteem increases; one of the paradoxes of flow.
  7. Time warps. More time passes than experience, or time slows down relative to reality.

These are the conditions most-often necessary to achieve flow in your life. Czikszentmihalyi aims in the book, Flow, to engage the reader in knowing as much about these components so that he or she can increase flow in everyday life.


Here is my favorite quotation from Dr. Czikszentmihalyi’s Flow:

…instead of using our physical and mental resources to experience flow, most of us spend many hours each week watching celebrated athletes play in enormous stadiums. Instead of making music, we listen to platinum records cut by millionaire musicians. Instead of making art, we go to admire paintings that brought in the highest bid at the latest auction. We do not run risks acting on our beliefs, but occupy each day watching actors who pretend to have adventures, engaged in mock-meaningful action. This vicarious participation is able to mask, at least temporarily, the underlying emptiness of wasted time. But it is a very pale substitute for attention invested in real challenges. The flow experience that results from the use of skills leads to growth; passive entertainment leads nowhere. (p. 162)

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