really interesting article (some of which is pasted below): http://www.37signals.com/svn/posts/104-all-about-flow
It definitely describes how I feel when I make music and also the feeling i get surfing and snowboarding but it was in the context of work that I find it most intriguing. The link was forwarded to me by a colleague after a few of us had had an absolutely brilliant meeting in which we completely re-planned our corporate web site strategy. It sounds like a potentially dull topic given that we’ve made about 600 of them for our clients but we got so immersed in the creative process that the ideas felt like they were becoming sacred and only we could now keep them safe in our new ‘club’. I left so buzzing I found it hard to subsequently explain them to my wife when I got home – it’s like my brain was exploding… I guess my colleague and I were in ‘flow’…
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” describes flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas on flow stemmed from his attempt to discover a path to happiness. He wanted to figure out “how to live life as a work of art, rather than as a chaotic response to external events.”
“Flow” & Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discusses what it feels like to be in flow:
Completely involved, focused, concentrating – with this either due to innate curiosity or as the result of training.
Sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality.
Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done and how well it is going.
Knowing the activity is doable – that the skills are adequate, and neither anxious or bored.
Sense of serenity – no worries about self, feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of ego – afterwards feeling of transcending ego in ways not thought possible.
Timeliness – thoroughly focused on present, don’t notice time passing.
Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces “flow” becomes its own reward.
So how do you get there?
Flow with Soul is an interview with Csikszentmihalyi (btw, his name is pronounced “Chicks sent me high”). The fact that you were completely immersed in what you were doing, that the concentration was very high, that you knew what you had to do moment by moment, that you had very quick and precise feedback as to how well you were doing, and that you felt that your abilities were stretched but not overwhelmed by the opportunities for action. In other words, the challenges were in balance with the skills. And when those conditions were present, you began to forget all the things that bothered you in everyday life, forget the self as an entity separate from what was going on — you felt you were a part of something greater and you were just moving along with the logic of the activity.
Everyone said that it was like being carried by a current, spontaneous, effortless like a flow. You also forget time and are not afraid of being out of control. You think you can control the situation if you need to. But it’s hard because the challenges are hard. It feels effortless and yet it’s extremely dependent on concentration and skill. So it’s a paradoxical kind of condition where you feel that you are on a nice edge, between anxiety on the one hand and boredom on the other. You’re just operating on this fine line where you can barely do what needs to be done.