Positive Psychology

The theory of Flow

Flow is the state of concentration and engagement that can be achieved when completing a task that challenges one’s skills. The theory was formulated when Csikszentmihalyi interviewed dozens of experts, from composers and artists to tradesmen and chefs.

In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

Professor Csíkszentmihályi, who developed the theory of flow to define these activities, talks about specific conditions that allow for the onset of flow and named the factors related to flow experiences into the following dimensions:

  • presence of clear goals;
  • immediate feedback;
  • high challenges need to be matched with adequate personal skills; most often achieved in complex activities requiring specific capabilities; flow proved to be associated with the above-average challenge/above-average skill condition;
  • the task has to be challenging enough to require the mobilization of personal skills, promoting concentration and engagement to enable merging of action and awareness; repetitive and low-information activities are very rarely associated with flow;
  • focus on the task at hand, and focused attention is a must;
  • perceived control of the situation; and
  • loss of self-consciousness (Csíkszentmihályi, 1990).
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