Flow Theory Poster Talk

Poster Designed by Gao Yujie, 2018 Fall

Flow is the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task, which means people totally get involved and concentrate in an activity that forgot of time, the behavior of doing things became unconsciously. When you experience flow, it is an autotelic experience, complete involvement, lack of ego, no sense of time, it’s very close when we said in the zone, that narrowing of consciousness and giving up about the past and the future. It often experienced by those who are confident in their skills and able to suspend judgment and not concentrate on goals.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a world well-known psychologist, noted for his work in the study of happiness and creativity. He is also a distinguished professor who taught for many years as the head of the department of psychology at the University of Chicago; He is described as the world’s leading researcher on positive psychology, and considered as one of the founding figures of Flow Theory. He born in 1934 in Hungarian; He emigrated to the United States at the age of 22 to study at the University of Chicago where he received his BA and Ph.D. in psychology. He is the author or co-author of over 120 articles, books or book chapters. His most influential works included Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience in 1990; and Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention in 1996.

He starts the flow theory research by observing and studing on artists who woeking in the creative area because of himself actually also as an artist who dabbled in painting.

According to Csikszentmihalyi,  he identifies a number of different elements involved in achieving flow:

  1. There are clear goals every step of the way.
  2. There is immediate feedback to one’s actions.
  3. There is a balance between challenges and skills.
  4. Action and awareness are merged.
  5. Distractions are excluded from consciousness.
  6. There is no worry of failure.
  7. Self-consciousness disappears.
  8. The sense of time becomes distorted.
  9. The activity becomes an end in itself.

The main thesis of his most popular book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990), is that happiness is not a fixed state but can be developed as we learn to achieve flow in our lives.

For me, I think the most interesting thing is that the key aspect to flow is control: in the flow-like state, we exercise control over the contents of our consciousness rather than allowing ourselves to be passively determined by external forces. As he writes,

“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something we make happen. ”

Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p.3

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

(Here’s a fun trick to remember his name: “Me high? Cheeks send me high!”)