The ‘flow’ phenomenon

When someone is in the ‘flow’, this is related to a challenging task or striving towards a particular goal. It is a mental state that can happen when the weight of a task and the relevant capacities of the person that has to perform it are completely balanced.

People who are in the flow are able to rise above themselves, learn things faster and gain entirely new insights. Examples of this are the athlete, who plays a game in which the opponent demands the utmost of him, or the surgeon who performs a surgery with the utmost concentration, but is completely relaxed at the same time.

The ‘flow’ phenomenon has been studied and described by the American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He believes this feeling has at least some of the following characteristics:

  • Clearly formulated goal
  • Concentration and sense of purpose
  • Self-awareness is lost; the person gets completely absorbed in the activity and forgets himself
  • There is no more sense of time; it flies by
  • There is instant feedback; because success and failure with respect to the activity are visible immediately, action can be adjusted on the spot
  • The aforementioned balance; the activity is very challenging but still ‘doable’
  • The person feels in control of the situation of activity
  • The activity itself is already rewarding, for example, because it is experienced as pleasurable

More about ‘flow’ on Wikipedia