An Overview of Flow State (Introduction Section)
Philosophers and psychologists have long argued that the major life goal of human beings is the attainment of happiness. Though its importance has been widely accepted, we still know very little about the nature of happiness (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). We work toward it, we hope for it, and we remember it fondly, but we donâ€™t know exactly what it is. We only feel that it is good for us somehow: it makes us feel better, work better, and, wellâ€¦ happy. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyiâ€™s research on happiness and optimal states of experience led him into the exploration of a particularly enjoyable state, perhaps linked inseparably to happiness, that ...view middle of the document...
e. higher cognitive functions balanced with automated action), effortful control over the executive attentional system (i.e. narrowed focus), and selective inhibited neural activity in the higher cognitive areas of the prefrontal cortex that are not essential for the task at hand (i.e. effective use of cognitive resources) (Dietrich, 2004).
Understanding and harnessing the power of flow is important if we wish to achieve greater levels of happiness and productivity in all areas of our lives. Flow has been found to be a major factor in enjoyment and high achievement in activities ranging from athletic and artistic performance, to the workplace. Flow is an independent predictor of athletes' performance during competition (Stavrou, et. al., 2007), student engagement levels in the classroom (Shernoff et. al., 2003), and the extent to which we enjoy our work and leisure time (Csikszentmihalyi & LeFevre, 1989). Csikszentmihalyi and LeFevre found that individuals experience more flow (and thus enjoyment) at work than in leisure but prefer leisure because they feel more control over the selection of activities. Csikszentmihalyi and LeFevre suggest that a shift in the way we perceive work and leisure, along with efforts to increase our autonomy and agency, may drastically change how happy and productive we are in our work and our play (1989).
Studying flow in the realm of education may be vital for understanding how we can improve studentsâ€™ academic success. According to Solomon and Rothblum, up to 50% of college students procrastinate at least half of the time, while 38% more procrastinate occasionally (1984). It is important to keep in mind that this percentage may have grown substantially with the advent of the Internet and an ever-increasing array of digital distractions. Students who procrastinate and later cram for exams may in fact be using this studying strategy in order to achieve flow state, indicating that they are not experiencing a steady balance between challenge and skill level throughout the course (Brinthaupt, 2001). Contrary to prior assumptions, experiences of flow predict procrastination regardless of how motivated the student (Lee, 2005).
Though flow is often reported to be an addictive experience, it does not lead to addiction itself. In a study of avid online game players, Wan and Chiou found that flow state was actually negatively correlated with addictive tendency and that addicts had significantly fewer experiences of flow than did non-addicts (2006). Thus the experience of flow appears to lead to enjoyment, engagement, and improved performance, with little risk of developing dangerous addictive inclinations.
A growing amount of research is revealing that we donâ€™t have to sit around and wait for flow to happen; we can learn to gain control over the experience. Furthermore, flow can be infused into every process and experience of our lives including education, family life, work, community structure, and even â€œthe...