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    Elements of Flow
    Project: Branding the Species
    Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi has done research into something he calls flow. Flow is a state of mind in which a person is totally concentrated in an activity and is and is at an optimum level of performance. This phenomenon was initially proposed by Dr. Csíkszentmihályi to be applicable in extrinsic applications such as designing playgrounds so the participants can experience flow. Since then, though, other researchers have adopted the concept of flow in performance activities such as artistic performance (music & theater), education, business productivity, but especially and most of all to sports.

    Some scholars have proposed that the concept of flow is not much different from mystical experiences. Indeed, when I first started researching mysticism I thought it sounded very familiar to what in running and in sports is called being "in the zone", which eventually led me to the concept of flow.

    Dr. Csíkszentmihályi explains that there are different characteristics, or elements, of a person who is in flow. The following is the list of elements of people who are in flow. Following each characteristic is an example taken from personal experience, of me running the Los Angeles Marathon this past March, where I felt I was completely in flow. It is meant to illustrate what each characteristic of flow is.

  • Person understands their goals and the goals are appropriate for the person's skill set.
    I am running a distance of 26.2 miles, and have been training for it for 5 weeks. I am not as prepared as the experts recommend for a person to run a marathon, so I am basically pacing myself so that I don't go too fast or too slow.

  • High concentration & focusing on a very narrow activity.
    I was running and running only. My mind was focused on just keeping those feet moving, occasionally getting something to drink and greeting the crowd, but that's it.

  • Loss of self-consciousness.
    Didn't care about my appearance, fatigue, or about me at all. Everything was running.

  • Loss of sense of time.
    I was so unaware of the time that when I got to the halfway point and saw that I had broken my all-time record for the half-marathon, had ran the longest distance continuously without stopping, and was well on my way to breaking my full marathon record, I was very much surprised and taken aback because I had not even seen how good I was running and the time that I was doing until this point.

  • Body & mind respond quickly & appropriately to feedback, whether it be failures or successes.

  • Person finds a balance between activity being too easy or too difficult.
    FOR BOTH STEPS 5 & 6: In running we call it pacing when we are able to find a balance between going too fast or too slow. A good runner is acutely aware of what pacing he/she needs to have in order to have a good race. It is important not to go too fast or else there will not be anything left for the final sprint.

  • Sense of personal control over activity.
    This is basically self-explanatory. In running even when not in flow, a runner is really the master of how he/she runs, so my sense of personal control was not much different when running this marathon than when I regularly run.

  • Activity is intrinsically rewarding, becomes effortless.
    Running the first few miles is of course going to be pretty easy for a runner, but even after the tenth mile I still felt like I had the energy that I had at the beginning of the race, and that was because of my pacing. Like I didn't feel like wanting to stop & walk at all. In fact, when I finally did stop & walk it wasn't because I was tired, but rather because I was afraid that if I kept on running I would not have enough energy for the end.

  • Awareness is focused squarely on activity and nothing else.
    Again, just like Steps 1 & 3 above, my awareness was unfalteringly on running and running only. I kept myself entertained in my head with random thoughts and of course all around me I had the crowds cheering the runners on, but subconsciously I was immersed in my running activity.

  • ( edit / delete )  Sat, May 17, 2008  Permanent link

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    monolith     Mon, May 19, 2008  Permanent link
    Hope You've all played "flow" by Jenova Chen. He used Csíkszentmihályi's philosophy to create something we later called "Embedded Difficulty Adjustment", a method of keeping the player in "flowing"state - thus keeping him bonded to the game and providing him maximum gaming pleasure, without programming difficulty adjustment routines - just by game design.
     
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