Knowledge base

Get immersed in the flow!

Haiman Éva | 2022-10-21
Have you ever felt that the moment, the situation you are in, is perfect, that nothing is missing? Have you ever been immersed in any activity where your attention was completely absorbed and you simply felt happy? If so, you can be sure that you have experienced flow, if not, we're here to help you find out how to achieve it and even use it in your studies.

Flow is “the phenomenon when we become so absorbed in an activity that everything else is overshadowed, the experience itself becomes so pleasurable that we want to continue the activity at any cost, just for the sake of it”. This is how the creator of flow theory and one of the founders of positive psychology, the Hungarian-born Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, who lived in America, put it so eloquently, who this autumn would have been 88 years old.

Csíkszentmihályi, who passed away last year, was born in September 1934 in Fiume, Italy, to parents of Hungarian origin. His childhood was deeply marked by the experiences of the Second World War.

He asked the first big question: what makes a life worthy of living happy? And so, as an adolescent, he began a journey into philosophy, art and religion in search of answers. His later specialisation, psychology, led him on an adventurous path. 

In the meantime, he emigrated to the United States, beginning his studies in psychology, which he completed at the University of Chicago. He worked there until the 2000s, as an institute professor.

Csíkszentmihályi and his colleagues were originally researching creativity when they discovered the phenomenon of flow. In interviews with chess players, athletes and artists, they concluded that these people were not playing chess, running, painting or performing for some external motivation or reward, but the activity itself that they were doing was the rewarding motivation.

Csíkszentmihályi and his team then also realised that flow can be present in any activity, in any job, but also in studying.

There are personality traits that allow people to experience flow more easily and more often than average. Such personality traits include curiosity, perseverance, a sense of adventure and the ability to tune into others. 

So the key is to concentrate on an activity, block out distractions, look for challenging but not too difficult tasks and tasks where you get feedback quickly, because by doing so you lose track of time and your sense of self, and you achieve the perfect experience.

As the Csíkszentmihályi team also found that the experience of flow can enhance our performance, there is no question that being able to achieve as much of the above as possible can also be beneficial in studying.

“I knew from my own experience that work and pleasure can go hand in hand, that the roots of knowledge need not be bitter,” said the Master himself.