I created this mural based on the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who has studied happiness and creativity, but is best known for his work on the state of being in flow. Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as the optimal experience, and asserts that we are happiest when we are in a state of flow (in the zone, in a groove).
Overall, flow is characterized by complete absorption in the activity and environment at hand, such that nothing else seems to matter.
As you can see in the mural, flow can only be achieved by an appropriate balance of challenge and skill level. If the task is too easy or the skill level too high: apathy or boredom; and if the task is too difficult or the skill level is too low: worry and anxiety.
But if both the challenge level and the skill level are a match and both are high, we feel relaxed, in control, aroused …and let the flow begin!
Depicted in the right side of this mural are Csikszentmihaly’s 9 essential components of being in the flow state: intense, focused concentration in the present moment; merging of action and awareness; loss of self-consciousness; sense of personal control of the experience; altered sense of time; experience activity as intrinsically rewarding; receive immediate feedback; feel potential to succeed in achieving goals; and feeling so engrossed in the experience other needs are negligible.
Furthermore, he suggests that people who are regularly in the flow state are generally performing actions that are intrinsically rewarding to them, that they are driven by an inner satisfaction and joy in the process itself rather than simply by achieving the end goals (especially if these goals are external).
Have you ever been in flow, where you’re “being completely involved in an activity for it’s own sake. 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, ad you’re using your skills to the utmost.” (Csikszentmihalyi, Wired magazine)?
If so, tell us about it!