Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi IS the Flow guy. In short, the flow theory points to a state of mind a person can get into, either unintentionally or on purpose. Getting into that state of mind and being in the flow benefits your self-esteem.
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What Is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow Theory?
Have you been so involved and absorbed in what you are doing that time flies? Or as they say, “time flies when you are having fun.” I know I have. But is it that time flies or does it disappear completely? Including us? Does our sense of “I” float away?
Being in the zone or flow is essentially a state of mind where we are completely focused on what we are doing in the moment. So much so that time and even our sense of self ceases to exist.
It is obvious to see this state of being when watching a musician play their instrument or an athlete get into the zone state before a competition.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – by the way, do want to know how to say his name? Like this:
Me High Chick Set Me High
Just in case you want to talk about how fabulously interesting this blog post is.
The 9 Elements Of The Flow State
1. Awareness Of The Moment
Our mind often wanders to past and future events but in the flow it stays focused on the task in hand.
2. Task – Skill Balance
Being in the flow requires a balance between the activity and the skill level of the person. If it is too easy then boredom sets in. The opposite is true when the task is too difficult – we get discouraged and frustrated.
3. Clear Goals
Knowing what needs to be done and when is characteristic of being in the flow state.
4. Immediate Feedback
In the flow, we receive clear and immediate feedback and know what we are doing all the time.
5. Unbroken And Full Concentration
All distractions are ignored and we are completely absorbed in what we are doing.
6. Everything Is Possible
We take control and feel we can do anything we want to do.
7. Self-Consciousness Disappears
The ego, the sense of “I” is not present when we are in the flow – we don’t care what other people think of us.
8. Transformation Of Time
Time is distorted – it goes by fast, slow and sometimes doesn’t seem to exist at all.
9. Autotelic Experience
The task is done for its own sake and becomes rewarding in and of itself.
Mmmm, very interesting Mr Csikszentmihalyi. Seems kinda familiar to me.
When I run down the list of characteristics I just see ONE word – Now. Living in the now – the very thing that I write about consistently and emphasize the importance of in my blog.
So, he’s describing living in the present, in the now, right?
Now And Now And Now
Practicing mindfulness and being mindful is how I stay in my present-day or my now moment. That is to say, I keep my attention on what is happening now, and when my mind starts to saunter off to something that happened in the past I bring it back to the present. Same goes for when I start to worry or think about what could happen, I pull my awareness back to what I am doing.
This practice is something I have been doing for a while and has become more automatic, which is wonderful. It is wonderful because my experience of life is more enjoyable and peaceful and with the absence of stress and worry. I feel I can handle anything life puts in front of me and I can do what I set my mind to do.
Each of Csikszentmihalyi’s 9 parts of being in the flow state seem to mirror how I (and maybe you?) feel when being in the present moment:
1. Awareness Of The Moment – this one is obvious. Continually bringing the mind’s attention back to the present IS living in the present moment.
2. Task – Skill Balance – I will come back to this.
3. Clear Goals – being able to work through challenges quickly and effectively is a consequence of being mindful and living in the moment. Also, it gives you a clear mind, and knowing what to do or at least knowing how to move forward regardless is a direct result of a “now state of mind”.
4. Immediate Feedback – the same goes for immediate feedback, because when your attention is on the present, you become aware of the feedback as it is readily available, and you adjust your actions accordingly.
5. Unbroken and Full Concentration – again, obvious, if you have any experience of what it feels like to live in the present moment. Your attention is focused on what you are doing or what is happening at that moment.
6. Everything Is Possible – I personally feel more confident and stronger in all I do since being mindful and being in the now. There is a sense of yes, I can do this. Things that seemed impossible before now seem possible. My self-esteem has gone from mediocre levels to super-high levels. I am unshakeable.
7. Self-Consciousness Disappears – absolutely! This was HUGE for me. I can honestly say that since I started practicing mindfulness to assist me in staying in the now – I DO NOT care what other people think of me. Seriously.
8. Transformation Of Time – one of my favorite subjects. Yes, time does speed up and slow down when you are fully engrossed in the present moment. Mostly though, I perceive time as not existing. It sounds odd and it is hard to explain but it feels like it is just me and the moment. Furthermore, I have noticed that I only look at the time when I have to. (For example, getting to work on time and taking my scheduled lunch break).
9. Autotelic Experience – the joy of doing just for the sake of doing and not focused on the outcome. Priceless.
Going back to number 2 and the task/skill balance. I got a little stuck on how to explain number 2 and I couldn’t figure out why until I realized that it is because I don’t totally agree with it.
I agree that having the balance between both the challenge and skill level is conducive to getting into the groove of what you are doing. But then again, when I am in the present moment I have enjoyed and got completely into the flow when doing mundane or repetition tasks. Tasks that others may find boring.
That begs the question, can everyone experience the flow state?
Which brings up another question which until now I hadn’t yet considered. Can everyone experience living in the present?
Can Everyone Experience The Flow State?
I don’t know.
I would hazard a guess that like most things in this world, there are degrees of flow state. Most people have experienced a level of being in the flow at some point. Maybe it was for 5 minutes or just an hour and they didn’t even know that it was happening.
While others have experienced it often or most of the time.
Additionally, I’m sure there is a small percentage of people that haven’t.
People’s perception of what they experience with flow (or being present) will be different too.
Does that mean then that not everyone can bring their attention to the present moment?
I’m not sure
Anyone reading this post now – leave a comment about this. I’m curious to know.
How Do You Trigger A Flow State?
If being in the flow state is concentrating and focusing on the current moment and ignoring distractions then it is similar to living in the present.
Therefore, if your awareness is in another time or place – bring it back. Gently let go of the thought or story in your mind that is about something that has happened or you think could happen. Concentrate on what you are doing right now. Noticing your body’s feelings and sensations can help to bring you back.
Essentially, practice being mindful and this will trigger a flow state. How long you stay in that flow state depends on you and what you are doing. What you choose at that moment will be based on your experience of staying present and how you perceive the task.
Being In The Flow Benefits Your Self-Esteem
Flow is a state of mind – that moment when you are fully absorbed in what you are doing that time is nonexistent. You completely forget about yourself and lose track of time.
As you practice mindfulness and begin to stay present more and more you will see countless benefits. A positive feedback loop is created.
Your mind becomes clearer and you make better choices. You have better experiences and it gives you confidence. Your self-esteem increases and you try new things. In doing the new things you realize that you can do even more. You do more and other possibilities open up to you.
Making decisions becomes easier and you know what you want. Trusting yourself is effortless now and you do not rely on others for validation. You don’t care what others think as you know who you are. Life is a joy again and your self-worth through the roof.
And so it goes.
It's A State Of Mind
At the end of the day who cares whether you call it being in the flow, staying present or something else?
It is a state of mind, that’s for sure. A state of mind that is so powerful that it transforms an ordinary life into an extraordinary one.
Give it a try – go with the flow!
The name of The Game is Experience so let us experience Connecting and Sharing.
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