How to “Flow”: Here’s the Most Magical Chart You’ll Come Across Today

How to “Flow”: Here’s the Most Magical Chart You’ll Come Across Today

The graph above is taken from the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. What is ‘Flow’? This is the magical place where you are completely into what you are currently doing. A flowing activity is one that poses challenges comparable to your skill’s level. Being into the flow results in time passing like it does not exist. The satisfaction of what you are doing makes you a lot happier person.

Here it is what the chart is about:

  • Everything you do falls somewhere on that chart. The main metrics are your skills and the challenges you meet.
  • The best place to be is into the “Flow Channel”. This is a clearly visible line where your skills approximately match the problems you need to solve.

How do we experience getting “into the flow”? Let us go through the graph steps. Csikszentmihalyi uses playing tennis as an example:

  1. The Starting Point. Practicing serving the ball over the net. The challenge is big enough for you, the skills you have allow you to make some successful attempts. You are having fun.
  2. Step Towards Increasing Skills. At some point you become bored just hitting the ball over the net. You no-longer experience the flow. The challenge is lower than your skill level.
  3. Step Towards a Challenge You Cannot Solve. Step  one from our example might be actually the current step when they first start learning. You are stressed out, your skills are not enough to meet the challenge and you are not into the flow. If you have mastered serving the ball, step three might be playing with a much more experienced opponent. Your opponent would be definitely at step two…
  4. Going Back into the Flow From Steps Two or Three. You need to get into the flow from step two or step three.
  • You Are Bored (2). Increase the challenge of playing. Find an opponent with comparable skill level.
  • You Are Anxious (3). Improve your skills to get back into the flow challenge. You could decrease challenge doing isolated exercises instead of playing against a very skilled opponent. All this should be directed towards increasing your skill level, so that you can meet the increased challenge.

Everything you do falls somewhere on this diagram. The activities that let you get into the flow will make you happier. And as we have discussed in previous articles, happiness is the root of productivity.