Friday, February 11, 2011

Flow Theory

It was the 1970's when world renowned psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi began his research on positive psychology concept of "Flow." I own Mihály's book on flow and have taken the time to read it a few times, It takes a few times to comprehend his writing, and others I have met who have read it agree that it's a tough and pretty boring read. But it's this research that is spread through the psychology of so many fields.

I like to look at flow theory from the perspective of an athlete. When people hear that I run for hours and hours on end, they often say, "What do you think about? I'd get bored." I've thought about this greatly and I've come to the conclusion that many of these people would get bored because they do not have an understanding of the Flow Theory.

In brief lay terms.. Flow is a time during activity engagement, where the individual transcends oneself into an almost other-worldly state, where they are completely immersed in the activity. This is not just relegated to athletic activities, Mihály has proven through his research how anyone can achieve this level of consciousness through even the simplest activities. It truly comes down to the amount of joy one derives from the engagement of an activity. (Another way to consider Flow is to say, "In The Zone.")

So when I hear that someone would be "bored" from running for hours on end I'm taken a-back. Because I don't get bored. When I run 50 to 100 miles or more I fall into this transcendent state of flow numerous times. It's during these times on the run where the miles just tick by, time seems to stand still and I am at my best. There is no other experience on this earth that matches this phenomena and/or the natural chemicals one receives from this state (adrenaline, dopamine, etc). I think people have this perception of boredom because they themselves are incapable of experiencing flow or knowing when to recognize when they are experiencing it. It certainly is acquired knowledge and an acquired taste.

My goal here is not to give you a lesson on flow. I'm going to let Mihály do some of that on his own within the video below. My goal here is to merely introduce or remind you of this concept. To inspire you to investigate your own understanding of Flow and how it is woven into your life. If not in sport then in what? Reading? Writing? How do you achieve flow? When we talk about Human Potential we talk about that fire within us all that fuels our engine and allows us to engage in the activities that make us realize this potential. When we think about flow in this context... we think of it as.. the fire is burning at it's brightest, we're all systems go, we're in the zone.. and our potential is truly being realized and reinvented. Enjoy it.. embrace it..