In the Zone

I met the founder of the theory of “Flow’ and author of the book by the same name Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi at an International Positive Psychology Conference in Canada.

The term flow had come up a lot in what I’d read to that point. It had even appeared in a Tai Chi teach yourself workbook with reference to Mihaly.

At the conference I asked Mihaly if he had any advice for students to increase their flow whilst studying to which he paused and said:

“I’ve worked in higher education for decades…

The seeds of learning are bitter…but the fruits are sweet.”

The point was that flow may not always show up in all areas all of the time and that’s okay!

In his book Mihaly says it like this:

“It is not enough to know how to do it; one must do it, consistently, in the same way as athletes or musicians must keep practicing what they know in theory.”

He does though go on to say that:

“...enjoyment comes at a very specific point, whenever the opportunities for action perceived by the individual are equal to his or her capabilities…when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.”

He gives the example of playing tennis which: “is not enjoyable if the two opponents are mismatched. The less skilled player will feel anxious, and the better player will feel bored.”

Which one are you?

The less skilled or the more skilled?

If less skilled what can you do to even the playing fields with a goal at hand (e.g. chunk it down/develop a skill?)

If more skilled than the task at hand – where and how can you create stretch goals or opportunities that match your skill level?

One of my personal and professional goals at the moment is to create and write 1000 blog posts. I first tried to set it as 100 posts but it was ‘too easy’. 1000 was a great stretch goal for me and to avoid making it feel overwhelming I’ve decided to go big by playing small – that is one or two new blog entries per day.

I’m not too concerned about how many reads I get. I’m totally ‘in the zone’ with my craft at hand because it combines reading, researching, creativity and writing – all the things I love to immerse in.

What are those elements for you? How can you bring to a stretch goal that has you neither bored nor anxious but rather inspired?



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