Positive psychology focuses on the aspects that enrich the quality of life. Flow is one of those aspects. This refers to a state of mind where one has the ability of giving his or her full concentration on a task. It results from the ability of an individual to focus his or her energy towards the task at hand impacting thorough involvement and enjoyment. Besides, it also often impacts success since full attention is put into the task. Positive psychology calls this full engagement in a task flow. The roots of this term can be traced back to the ideologies of the positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He felt that flow is the basis of success in the process of learning and service performance. It is the ability to overcome anxiety and depression so as to enhance the ultimate positive in an experience. Flow further offers the individual a sense of achievement and immense joy (Csikszentmihalyi, 1995).
Ever since the conception of flow, it has been used in a variety of areas with the aim of enhancing success. Concentration and mediation practices apply this concept in harnessing positive energy. For example, the concepts of flow have been well known over time in most of the eastern religions, like Buddhism and Yoga. In this case, one is expected to concentrate on a particular task and avoid other thoughts in order to enhance positive energy. This is called the action of doing nothing in Buddhism. Flow can be acquired in various individual tasks. For example, athletes apply the concept of flow to make sure that they succeed in their professions. Artists often put all their energy in work in order to create remarkable pieces of art. In fact, they get lost in their tasks for several hours, often neglecting food and even sleep. This was the motivation behind the research conducted by Csikszentmihalyi (Csikszentmihalyi, 2008).
Csikszentmihalyi introduces ten factors of flow. The participant must have clearly outlined goals. This enables the individual to conduct proper structuring and get the direction for the activity. Concentration is also important for proper flow. It is the essence of flow owing to the fact that it ensures the full immersion of the individual into the task. According to Csikszentmihalyi, the third factor is that the individual has a loss of feeling of self-consciousness. This is critical in enhancing flow since it impacts a sense of timelessness and also ensuring that one is sensitive to hunger and sleep. Therefore, the loss of a sense of time is the other factor of flow. The fifth one entails the ability of the individual in negotiation of changes, thereby adjusting their performance so that the state of flow is maintained (Jackson & Csikszentmihalyi, 1999).
Csikszentmihalyi also point out that the person should set realistic goals for the task for the maintenance of flow. In this case, the essence is to strike a balance between the levels of ability and challenge such that the task appears challenging and also achievable. This will result into success due to the flow, and thereby enhancing enjoyment at the end of the activity. It is also essential that the individual has a sense of control over the exercise. This enables the individual to stop where necessary so as to avoid the consequences of overexertion. The activity must also be rewarding to some extent, since positive feedback encourages effort and motivation for the maintenance of flow (Horn, 2008). For flow to take place, it is ideal that the individual neglect bodily desires while conducting the activity. This forms the requirement for effective flow as outlined by Csikszentmihalyi. It is also critical to attain complete engagement or absorption in the activity to ensure flow. These ten factors are correlated and can, therefore be summed up into a few requirements. Besides, one does not have to meet all the requirements in order to realized flow. This gives people an easy time when it comes to the achievement of flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1995).
The maximization or achievement of flow is a goal that can be met. There are various strategies that can be used in enhancing the attainment of flow. For example, it is easier to establish flow in areas where one is successful. This is attributed to the fact that an individual can concentrate in such activities and is sure that he or she can meet the task if given enough effort. Therefore, the first strategy is to establish the activities that one is already experiencing flow in so as to enhance them. Such activities can include sports, work, hobbies and other daily activities. This initial practice and its results will motivate one to embrace the second strategy, which entails learning to create better flow in new areas. This requires one to outline realistic, relevant, measurable and planned goals. In order to keep track of outlined goal, one should focus on constant feedback. It is also important to balance the level of challenge and the individual’s skills in setting the goal. Flow also requires that one builds up his or her strengths since this impacts full potential while also enhancing success (Jackson & Csikszentmihalyi, 1999).
Another key element for maximizing or achieving flow is passion. It is easy to accomplish flow is one is passionate about what he or she is doing. Therefore, joy is a key element in attaining flow in a particular activity. One who is keen on maximizing flow should figure out how to enhance fun in a task. Concentrating on the task enables one to maximize and attain flow. This can be encouraged by avoiding distractions like noise and interruptions. This can be achieved through working in a conducive environment, devoid of distractions (Csikszentmihalyi, 2008).
Even though these factors enhance the achievement of flow, it is not mandatory that flow can always be attained. An individual may apply all the ten factors and the strategies of positive psychology without success based on his interest in the activity and also the kind of task. Therefore, failure in the attainment of flow is normal at certain times and individuals should not always expect to achieve flow. However, one can enhance the chances of achieving flow through concentration on the task, instead of flow. This is because concentrating on flow is counter-productive since it takes the mind of an individual off the task. Nevertheless, concentration on the task enables one to attain maximum flow (Horn, 2008).
In short, flow is the ability to put full concentration on a task. It entails ten key factors as identified by Csikszentmihalyi. These factors are aimed at the development of attainable and measurable goals, while also creating a better environment for success and flow in the activities. Flow enhances the enjoyment in achievement in various areas like sports and art. Several strategies may be applied in enhancing flow; however, there is no condition that flow must be attained. Concentration on the task instead of flow increases the chances of an individual to accomplish it (Csikszentmihalyi, 1995).
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1995). Optimal experience: Psychological studies of flow in consciousness. Cambridge [u.a.: Cambridge University Press.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2008). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York, NY: BasicBooks.
Horn, T. S. (2008). Advances in sport psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Jackson, S. A., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1999). Flow in sports. Champaign, Ill. [u.a.: Human Kinetics.