The 8 Elements of Flow – Flowskills

The 8 Elements of Flow

The 8 Elements of Flow
Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Chick–sent–meehayee) describes eight components of the flow-experience.

The first three are basic prerequisites; the other five address the subjective experience during activity in flow.

1. Clarity of goals and immediate feedback
…as seen in many sports or the arts. A tennis player knows exactly what is required in order to win a game. The rules are clear. In every action, success or failure is immediately perceived. Sports and the arts are therefore classic flow-activities.

2. A high level of concentration on a limited field
This allows a person’s consciousness to delve deeply into the activity. In contrast, there are often chaotic and contradictory demands in daily life which may cause confusion and dissatisfaction.

3. Balance between skills and challenge
The difficulty of a task has to provide the right degree of challenge to a person’s ability. A too difficult piece of music will leave a musician frustrated and disappointed, a too easy one leads to boredom and routine. So flow occurs in range between ‘too much’ and ‘too little’.

The relationship between requirements and capabilities
4. The feeling of control
Characteristic for flow is the feeling of heightened control over one’s actions. The expression ‘control’ is easily misunderstood. It can put many people off by its association with compulsive domination or nervous attention. Control in flow has none of these qualities. It is a state of security and relaxation with the complete absence of worry: the paradox known in Zen Buddhism as ‘control without controlling’.

5. Effortlessness
Flow involves flexibility and ease; everything works harmoniously and effortlessly. A tennis match or a solo performance on stage may look strenuous from the outside; yet, if in fact the player is in flow, he or she does not experience any particular strain. The activity runs smoothly, guided by an inner logic. All necessary decisions arise spontaneously from the demands of the activity without any deliberate reflection.

6. An altered perception of time
In a deep flow-state, one’s normal perception of time is on hold. Time can either feel condensed – two hours feel like ten minutes, or expanded – seconds feel like minutes. That is why the flow-mode is called ‘timeless’.

7. The melting together of action and consciousness
Complete involvement creates a state in which there is no room for worry, fear, distraction or self-conscious rumination. Performers do not feel separated from their actions; they are one with their performance. This feeling of unity can expand to a person’s surroundings (nature) as well as to a whole group of people working together (team flow).

8. The autotelic quality of flow-experiences: IROI
From Greek autos – self and telos – goal. Not only achieving the goal of an activity is rewarding but the activity in itself is fulfilling. Flow is therefore “Immediate Return on Investment”.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play. Jossey-Bass
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. HarperCollins
Good Business. Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning. Viking
Creativity. Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. HarperCollins
The Evolving Self. A Psychology for the Third Millenium. HarperCollins


High performance is normally associated with great strain, the mobilization of all resources and subsequent exhaustion. In flow, however, high performance comes with a sense of ease and enjoyment, followed by a feeling of deep satisfaction. Not only the result of an activity is rewarding but the activity itself is fun. You feel involved in your task; success comes from genuine engagement.
While the first kind of high performance can be necessary for short times of crisis, it can lead to severe burn-out if used on a continuous basis. On the contrary, flow is the model for sustainable work performance. Furthermore, working in flow increases self-assurance and self-confidence and fosters the growth of one’s entire personality.
The key to a heightened performance is the deliberate control of your state of mind and the management of your energy. The techniques taught in the seminar are easy to apply and highly efficient.

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