Flow is defined as the mental state of operation in which a person is completely immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of full involvement, energized focus, and success in the process of the activity. This theory was originally proposed by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and he identifies nine criteria that often accompany a flow experience:

  1. Clear Goals (expectations and rules are discernible and goals are attainable and align appropriately with one’s skill set and abilities).
  2. Concentrating and Focusing, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
  3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
  4. Distorted sense of time, one’s subjective experience of time is altered.
  5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
  6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).
  7. A sense of productive control over the situation or activity.
  8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.
  9. People become absorbed in their activity, and focus of awareness is narrowed down to that activity itself, action awareness merging.

However according to Csíkszentmihályi not all of these are needed for flow to be experienced.

This concept of flow parallels the pure creative action that many artists strive to channel as they work. The idea of creating art while solely focused on the act itself is perhaps the thing that most artists attempt to achieve through their work. This “pure” art is made without concern of what professors, classmates, or critics will think but is created only because it needs to be. By removing analytical thought from art making, we can in turn make art which has no agenda other than the necessity of its existence.

One Response to “Flow”

  1. Aarghmac Says:

    Forty years ago, at a time when I was standing at the crossroads, artists and writers were free-living, creative… and broke. That I could lose myself in the arts weighed less than my anxiety and respect for Responsibility, a job, and a paycheck.

    Who knew about Flow?

    Since reading Csíkszentmihályi’s “psychology of optimal experience,” I have learned to find ‘flow’ in everyday events, and I give it significantly more weight in planning my time.

    True responsibility lies in finding personal flow, your optimal experience, and having the courage to follow it. Not surprisingly, that is where we find our passion and our inspiration.

    It is the other side of the capitalist coin.