Pubblicato: novembre 16, 2012 in general, training

Directly from Csíkszentmihályi’swords

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Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.



In your daily activities follow the flow….

Some graphics in less or more detail on the concept

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Flow in the Sport

The experience of flow is still one of the least understood phenomena in sport. And yet it is one of the richest, most memorable experiences an athlete will ever know.Some call it a natural “”high.”” Others refer to it as being “”in a zone.”” Whatever it’s called, flow is an elusive and very sought-after psychological state that athletes, coaches, and sport psychologists have tried to understand, harness, and employ to their benefit since Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi first coined the term back in the early 1970s.

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Dimensions of the Flow Experience

When a person’s skill matches the challenges of the situation the
quality of experience improves noticeably. Also, an activity that has relatively clear
goals and that provides rather quick and unambiguous feedback is a likely candidate
for flow (Csikszentmihalyi 1988). This allows the person who is involved in the activity
to know what needs to be done, and how they are doing. A game without rules or a
way to assess performance is impossible to play (Csikszentmihalyi 1988).
People who have experienced flow also mention that they are completely
immersed in the activity. All of their attention is so focused on the task at hand, that
they do not have anything left to become distracted with (Csikszentmihalyi 1988).
Also, there is a sense of control over the outcome of the activity, a distortion of time, a
loss of the awareness of self and everyday problems, and a feeling of transcendence, or
oneness with the activity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988).
When goals are clear, above-average challenges are matched to skills, and when
there is accurate feedback, a person becomes involved in the activity. When this occurs,
all attention is focused on what needs to be done. There is no room for anything else to
enter the conscious, or for the self to become self-conscious – the worry of how we look
to others. This is the negentropic experience that is called flow. Because it is so
rewarding, people will strive to replicate it as much as possible. From this tendency to
want to repeat a flow experience, emerges the teleonomy of the self. Also, this leads to
a selective process by the consciousness to seek out those experiences that provide
flow. This state of optimal experience is one that humans have developed “in order to
recognize patterns of action that are worth preserving and transmitting over time”
(Csikszentmihalyi 1988, p. 34).
The last stage of the flow experience involves the transforming the entirety of
one’s life into a single flow activity, with unified goals that provide a constant purpose
(Csikszentmihalyi 1991). Living one’s life from flow experience to flow experience may
be enjoyable during the actual flow experience, but one will probably still not be
assured of optimal experience. If enjoyment is not linked to an overall meaning or
purpose in life, one is still subject to psychic entropy, or chaos (Csikszentmihalyi 1991).
If a person invests all of her psychic energy to reach this goal, all the parts of
consciousness, as well as all actions and feelings, will be in harmony with each other.
These isolated flow experiences will mesh into activities that “make sense” in the
present, as well as the in view of the past and future. By doing this, it is possible to give
meaning to one’s entire life, and therefore achieve, as close is as humanly possible,
optimal experience (Csikszentmihalyi 1991).

Applications of Flow

Csikszentmihalyi began his research on flow out of sheer curiosity; in this sense
it was “pure” research (Csikszentmihalyi 1988). However, because so much time is
spent in the school and the work environment, these are the places of the most urgent
applications of flow (Csikszentmihalyi 1975). Often times, people are either bored or in
a high state of anxiety in these situations. One the first areas flow was practically
applied was education. In an unpublished doctoral dissertation out of the University of
Chicago, Mayers (1978), it was shown that the amount of enjoyment a student received
form a class was a better indicator of their final grade than scholastic achievement or
the student’s aptitude (Csikszentmihalyi 1988). From the teacher’s side of things, it was
shown by Phlihal (1982), another unpublished doctoral dissertation, that the more
attentive the students are in class, the greater the enjoyment a teacher receives from
teaching them (Csikszentmihalyi 1988).
Through personal communication with I. Vitanyi and M. Sagi, Csikszentmihalyi
(1988) learned that studies of industrial factory workers in Hungary found that bored
workers had a tendency to take unreasonable risks, and those who felt anxious
complained of imaginary illnesses. Also, those workers who enjoyed their jobs were
more personally satisfied and contributed more to the goals of the factory.
One of the largest areas flow theory has been utilized is in the context of play
and leisure (Csikszentmihalyi 1988). However, it has also permeated the field of
leadership and management training seminars (Csikszentmihalyi 1988) and in
determining consumer behavior (Bloch 1986). Csikszentmihalyi (1988) also describes
how flow has been applied in psychotherapy, in anti-drug campaigns, ways to deal with
juvenile delinquency, crime, vandalism, and social deviance. Other applications include
advertising research, the redesign of museums, and Davis (1988) wrote a book on how
to help audiences become involved in the theater. Csikszentmihalyi concludes that
anywhere the quality of human experience is an issue, flow becomes relevant.

Critique and Evaluation of Flow

Some critics argue that the flow theory is too much
of a Western concept, and that it applies more to men than women. By this, they imply
that it is too active and goal directed to represent a panhuman trait (Csikszentmihalyi
1988). Another early criticism is that it was too ethereal, bordering on mystical, for it to
be considered something worthy to be studied in the social sciences (Csikszentmihalyi
1988). Also, the flow theory as discussed in Csikszentmihalyi’s book, Flow – The
Psychology of Optimal Experience, only gives indicators of the flow experience, but does
not explicitly explain how to achieve this state.
Applying Littlejohn’s five criteria of scope, appropriateness, heuristic value,
validity, and parsimony, I will evaluate this theory, as well as expand on these criticisms
of the theory.

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