Flow: The Psychology of Happiness

Flow

Have you ever experienced this state?

In the book “Flow: The Psychology of Happiness” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes eight major components that his research has shown can lead to flow - which can also be called enjoyment or happiness.

These components are:

  • Doing a task that we have a chance to complete.
  • That we are able to concentrate on what we are doing.
  • The task we are undertaking has clear goals.
  • The task provides immediate feedback.
  • Acting with a deep and effortless involvement moving awareness away from worries and frustrations.
  • A sense of control while undertaking the task.
  • Concern for ourselves disappears.
  • The duration or rather our sense of time is altered.

I am curious whether these components can be put deliberately in place to experience happiness on a daily basis - and almost always - whether during work or time spent while not working.

What do you think?

Do you have any flow experiences to share?

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Hey, Mark. I guess this is a foundational text around here. But this book was actually a tipping point for me years ago for two reasons. First, it made me understand why I enjoyed doing the work I do.

Back then, that meant copywriting but across a wide variety of jobs, from brand foundation work and ‘tone of voice’, to print and radio ads, coffee table books, corporate videos, websites, brochures, sales centres, CEO speeches, and more.

The one thing all these types of job had in common was that I found I could be in flow in all of the three key stages: the diffuse ‘idea percolating’ stage; the actual ‘draft writing’; and the ‘editing’. Totally different brain states, actually, but all could lead to flow.

Second, the kicker was that I then realised that all the stuff I enjoyed devoting my free time to (piano, chess, taiji) often led to this psychological flow state. That’s what attracted me to them and what kept me engaged with getting better and making progress. (My interests tended to involve learning, too.)

That was also when the idea that ‘work’ and ‘interests’ must be separate things evaporated for me.

I’m interested to hear more stories from others here.

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Indeed! Csikszentmihalyi’s work is the foundation of the **Psychological Flow **. And we cultivate that not only at the individual level, but also at the team level, aiming for collective psychological flow states.

We have many elements that concur in making this happen. One of the most important is giving time to get into flow, which is afforded by the notion of protective and excess capacity on the non-constraint. Another one is the avoidance of multi-tasking, so that folks can truly focus on what they have to do. Another one yet is the calibration of the MOVE Buffers, so that the team is always kept in the “flow zone.” The sharing of Mental Models is important here too: they reduce the need to communicate, and thus every player “know” where the others are, with no need to additional communication/coordination overhead. And so on…

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@Angus: Thank you for this. I very much agree that happiness - the state of flow - can occur both at work and in private life - which is not so much a distinction for me. Fortunately I generally enjoy my work. More importantly I believe many things can be made enjoyable with consciously deliberate and mindful effort via practice - which is - I believe a message put forward by Csikszentmihalyi.

I for instance enjoy problem solving at work with colleagues that I often experience flow from this - forgetting about time and place.

I also enjoy practicing playing the guitar almost every day - which is relaxing and can also induce this feeling of happiness and just being in the moment.

Furthermore I have many times experienced the same state from physical exercise such as running (often referred to as “runners high”), cycling - and even brisk walks.