“The greater the anxiety we feel, the more impaired is the brain’s cognitive efficiency. In this zone of mental misery, distracting thoughts hijack our attention and squeeze our cognitive resources. Because high anxiety shrinks the space available to our attention, it undermines our very capacity to take in new information, let alone generate fresh ideas. Near-panic is the enemy of learning and creativity.”
―Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence
What is Flow?
Definition: In psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
According to Csikszentmihályi’s 2004 TED talk, that number is about “110 bits of information per second”. That may seem like a lot of information, but simple daily tasks take quite a lot of information. Just decoding speech takes about 60 bits of information per second. That is why when having a conversation one cannot focus as much attention on other things.
The flow state has been described by Csikszentmihályi as the “optimal experience” in that one gets to a level of high gratification from the experience. One’s capacity and desire to overcome challenges in order to achieve their ultimate goals not only leads to the optimal experience, but also to a sense of life satisfaction overall.
Croatian Psychologist Dr. Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi identified the following six factors as encompassing an extreme experience of flow.
- Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
- Merging of action and awareness
- A loss of reflective self-consciousness – Ego Disintegration.
- A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
- A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
- Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding also referred to as autotelic experience
These aspects can appear independently of each other, but only in combination do they constitute a so-called flow experience. Additionally, psychology writer Kendra Cherry has mentioned three other components that Csíkszentmihályi lists as being a part of the flow experience.
- “Immediate feedback”
- Feeling that you have the potential to succeed
- Feeling so engrossed in the experience, that other needs become negligible
Just as with the conditions listed above, these conditions can be independent of one another. Next week, we will talk more about Flow barriers and how to get into the Flow state.
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