In previous blogs, we have learned that flow is the state described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as “being so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
In other words, flow is the state of high performance where you become so involved in something that all else fades except for the task at hand, creating powerful feelings of enjoyment.
But, how does it feel to be in flow? In his book Good Business, Leadership, Flow and the Making of Meaning, Csikszentmihalyi lays out 8 (plus 1) conditions that are present when you are in flow. While you do not need all conditions to be present to be in flow, generally the more in flow you are, the more likely they will be present. These conditions are:
1) Goals are Clear – When in flow, whatever the task, the path and outcomes for success are super clear. Each subsequent goal opens up as a previous one is accomplished.
2) Feedback is Immediate – To be in flow, you need immediate feedback to provide clarity on how well you are doing.
3) A Balance between Opportunity and Capacity – To create flow, it is critical for the task to both be within your abilities yet pushing your capabilities. If the task is too difficult it will lead to anxiety. Likewise, if too easy, it will lead to boredom.
4) Concentration Deepens – As we get further in flow, our concentration and focus deepens until the task is the only thing of which we are aware. The distinctions between the task and self fade away.
5) The Present is What Matters – In flow, you become so involved in the task that all other issues and worries of life are no longer present in your being and thinking.
6) Control is No Problem – While in flow, you start to feel that you are in complete control of the situation and you can take its outcome wherever you desire.
7) The Sense of Time is Altered – In flow, you become so into a task that you lose track of time. A common phenomena when coming out of flow is a wonder of what happened to the time.
8) The Loss of Ego – The deeper you get into flow, the more likely you are to lose your ego and become the task, unaware of your being.Plus 1:
The final aspect of flow, the Plus 1, is what Csikszentmihalyi called the autotelic (Auto=self, telos=goal) aspect. In other words, in flow, you do the task for the sake of doing the task. As an example, a skier skis just for the sake of skiing, their joy comes simply from skiing.
When was the last time you were in flow? Look at the above list and find an activity where you experienced many of its conditions and you will know you were in flow. Now, when was the last time you were in flow as a leader?
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