Flow- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990, p. 3)- Pursuit of Happiness

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As I ponder on the Theory of Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, its application to education and life in general, it is a refreshing challenge with many layers to it. It’s the belief that happiness is found when one is pushed beyond comfort, this kind of happiness is prepared for and cultivated by setting challenges for one’s self. Contrary to our belief that a a life of no resistance or challenge is ideal, we can all attest that these hard places mold us into better people. As cliche as it sounds.. its a bitter truth. I have seen this scenario play out with my students. Flow is when they encounter a dreaded story that they may have attempted to read but without adequate preparation (vocabulary, language, spelling pattern fluency). As one can imagine the knock in confidence experienced by the student and even anxiety developed from this experience. One day,  finally looking at the dreaded story again, after a period of preparation, the students is able to read it with ease and fluency. This is that sweet moment of flow, that peak moment..well, until another challenge is posed. It is characterized by the the removal of the interference of the mind (emotions).

“Consciousness and emotion are there to correct your trajectory; when what you are doing is seamlessly perfect, you don’t need them (Csikszentmihalyi, 2002, p. 116).”

The Theory outlines that when one is in Flow:

  • Completely involved ( focused and concentrating) on a creative activity, nothing else seems to matter
  • Gives a sense of ecstasy
  • Balance of skill and challenge
  • Inner clarity
  • Knowing the activity/task is possible (no worry of failure)
  • Serenity
  • Timelessness
  • Intrinsic motivation

I have just scratched the surface for the purpose of provocation, but this theory resonates strongly within, due to an innate belief in our need for challenge even though faced reluctantly.


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