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Finding the FLOW

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8 Ways To Create Flow According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Mike Oppland
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Flow-state is the magical level of performance where a person gets absorbed in what is doing at that moment. According to Oppland (2021), an inventor of Flow-state, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has described that flow is a state in which a person is so involved in the task that nothing else seems to matter. That activity is enjoyable and causes pleasure without struggling. With different words, the flow is a mood, when you enjoy your work or activity so much that you forget the surrounding world. In the flow-state, you perform at a great level and feel that the task offers just the right amount of challenge for you. 

According to Csikszentmihalyi (Oppland, 2021), the flow-state is the key to happiness. The best moments in our lives are those moments where a person needs to stretch to its limits, and it can be physical or mental. Another important thing is, that the task feels meaningful at the same time it is challenging at the suitable level. (Oppland, 2021.) Therefore, the best and happiest moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times rather than those when we do something valuable, significant and challenging.

Flow has been quite an influential state and thing lately, and it is easy to see why. If you can achieve to get in that state, you can be both very productive and happy. Who would not want that in work, hobbies or in any activity you need to do? Also, if you are an employer, business owner or leader who would like to get the best from your employees and the team, you would also benefit from flow-state by helping your team members to get there. 


How to achieve the FLOW?

Oppland (2021) presents eight characteristics of flow, which Csikszentmihalyi has been described:


  1. Complete concentration on the task;
  2. Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback;
  3. Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down);
  4. The experience is intrinsically rewarding;
  5. Effortlessness and ease;
  6. There is a balance between challenge and skills;
  7. Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination;
  8. There is a feeling of control over the task. (Oppland, 2021.)

When looking at that eight characteristics it feels that flow is not easy to access. Because we are talking about subjective experience, evaluating the flow is not easy, even though it is united to an increased level of dopamine production in brains. If you can not go to measure your brain function, your flow-state achievement is based on your own experience. 

Even though the romantic vision of Csikszentmihalyi is that we should find a flow-state in everything we do, I assume that those moments in true flow-state are really rare. I think that we use flow-term too often, too casually. Of course, it could be that someone can achieve it easily and they find it in everything they do, but how often it is “a regular focus” and “normal pleasure”? Full control, a perfect focus, just the right amount of challenge and absolute pleasure. 

Have you experienced flow-state? 

I challenge you to think, have you experienced a flow state? When? What did you do? Where were you? How did it feel? If you can remember many of those moments, what things are united in those moments? If you can make your description very detailed and you can feel that moment, you might find something which helps you to access the flow in some other task you need to do. Or, you can utilise that experience and description to help your team members or employees to achieve their flow-state in their job. 

If you haven’t experienced flow, don’t worry. You might be too demanding for yourself or you might have been experienced that many times that it is normal for you to be in the flow! If you feel that you haven’t, think about your inner motivation to do the things you are doing. Think about why you want to finalise your task and what kind of meaning it causes for you. Talk with other people who have experienced flow and who are incredibly motivated by what they are doing. How do they keep going?

Have I experienced the FLOW?

I remember clearly one special moment when I feel that I accessed the flow. I was keeping my group fitness class. It was physically intense and challenging but I did not even think about that. It felt that I knew what I am going to say or do perfectly. It was like I am two steps ahead of the moment and it was like nothing can disturb me. I kind of watched myself outside and knew perfectly what I was doing, and I knew what my customers are going to do. And I feel it was not just me but also my customers in my class. The atmosphere was something magical that is hard to explain.

Remember this when you are looking for your FLOW

Find your flow-state by challenging yourself. Do things you love and enjoy. Find your inner motivation to do what you are doing. Keep it fun and challenging!



Oppland, M. 2021. 8 Ways To Create Flow According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Article in PositivePsychology.com. Published 15.2.2021. Read 24.10.2021.


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