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Flow (psychology)
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Flow (psychology)

With flow the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi names the feeling of complete and energized focus in an activity, with a high level of enjoyment and fulfillment. This is where the phrase "go with the flow" comes from.

As Mihaly sees it, the components of a flow producing activity are:

Not all of these components need to be present together for flow to be experienced.

Csikszentmihalyi suggested several ways in which a group could work together so that each individual member could achieve flow. The characteristics of such a group include:

Related observations and disciplines

Csikszentmihalyi may have been the first to describe this concept in Western Psychology, but he was most certainly not the first to notice the psychological phenomenon or to develop techniques based upon it.

For over two and a half millennia, practitioners of Eastern spiritual traditions, such as Buddhism and Taoism have honed this very discipline as a very central part of their spiritual development. Japanese practitioners have practised such Zen Buddhist techniques in order to master their chosen artforms (Martial or otherwise), including everything from Kendo, to Ikebana.

The much over-used phrase of, being at one with things also refers to this concept (originally, and within Buddhist circles, at least).

In Education, there is the concept of Overlearning which seems to be an important factor in this technique -- at least when physical skills are being practiced. In addition, many modern Sportspeople commonly experience this phenomena, referring to it as being in the zone.

It is worth noting that, while the basic idea is the same in the East and West, shared among Scientists, Spiritual masters, and sportspeople, only Csikszentmihalyi seems to have drawn conclusions from this about improving modern western cultural elements such as playground design, while others focus on the potential for spiritual development, physical mastery, or other forms of self-improvement. Indeed, eastern spiritual practitioners have developed a very complete, holistic and tested set of theories around the subject.

See also: Spirituality, Creativity