Meet the the man who first identified “flow”

| November 26, 2008 | 2 Replies

I’ve often heard about “flow,” but never from the man who was personally responsible for developing the theory:  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced “cheeks sent me high”).

For the first part of his lecture, you’ll hear that beyond the poverty level, money and material things don’t increase happiness.

From there, Csikszentmihalyi describes a state that brings great happiness.  He noticed this state in many people who do things intensely and for long stretches, but not for fame or fortune.   He presents a few case studies of such people before getting down to the theory itself (he discusses the seven characteristics of flow starting at about 14:00).

Flow envelopes one in what seems to be an alternative reality where one seems to lose awareness of one’s own existence, yet experiences awe and wonder, and where one’s high level of skill dovetails well with the challenges presented in what seems to be a timeless state.  Not everyone can get to this level.  It requires a high degree of skill that doesn’t come without at least ten years of honing one’s craft, whether it be music, engineering or anything else requiring a high level of training.

What is the opposite of flow?  Apathy.  What’s a good way to trigger apathy?  Engage in an activity that requires little or no skill and no challenge.   What’s the best way to become apathetic according to Csikszentmihaly?  Watching television (he comments that only 7% of television shows are capable of triggering flow).

What is the challenge of life, according to Csikszentmihaly?  To figure out “how to put more of life into the flow channel”

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Category: Psychology Cognition, Web Site

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. According to the chart he showed a guy with mid-level skills and low challenge would face boredom, while a guy with high-level skills and low challenge would face relaxation. I don't think this makes sense.

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