We are “In The Flow” when we are fully engaged in an activity. When this occurs we feel immersed in that activity to the exclusion of all else and time passes quickly. People regularly describe these experiences as some of the best of their lives.

“Being completely involved in an activity for its 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, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

“Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas on flow stemmed from the research he undertook to discover a path to happiness. He wanted to figure out “how to live life as a work of art, rather than as a chaotic response to external events.”

What’s going on with us when we’re ‘In the Flow’

* We are completely involved, focused, and concentrating – either due to innate curiosity or as the result of training.

* We have a sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality. The definition of ecstasy is a happy state of being outside the normal.

* We have great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done and how well it is going.

* We lose self-consciousness – we know that our skills are adequate, and we are neither anxious nor bored.

* We have a sense of serenity – no self-doubt, or worries about other people’s opinions – afterwards a feeling of transcending ego in ways not thought possible.

* We have a feeling of timeliness – thoroughly focused on present, don’t notice time passing.

* We are intrinsically motivated – whatever produces “flow” becomes its own reward.

Flow ChartThe more skilled we become at a task, the greater the opportunity to experience “flow”. Therefore the more skilled we become, the more able we are to take on greater challenges without becoming stressed. We can operate at a higher level.

From a Network Care perspective, as a person progresses through the levels of care they tend to become less tense and more energized. They then have the possibility of reaching higher flow states. Life becomes more a work of art rather than a chaotic response to external events.

Reference: Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. HarperCollins.