In Honor of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Who Gave Us Flow

Jeannette Cooperman in The Common Reader:

My exultant “Ha!” woke the library. I had just read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s definition of “flow”—that magical feeling of getting so caught up in what you are doing that you lose track of where you are, what time it is, who might want something of you. I knew that feeling, and I craved it. Freed from space and time, oblivious to chores and deadlines, I could think and breathe and imagine. These bursts of oblivion drove everybody around me crazy, of course. I re-entered the world in a daze and had to scramble back into task-mind. But I came back refreshed and happy.

Eager to learn how to summon the state at will, I read Csikszentmihalyi’s criteria. First, the challenge must be proportional to your skill. Too difficult, and you will be anxious; too easy, and you will be bored. Next, you must be completely involved in the task at hand, focused, and concentrating (an ability we are all fast losing). Your motivation must be intrinsic, rooted in the task itself. You must have a clear sense of what you are doing and how well you are doing it.

All this struck me with such force that I memorized both the spelling and pronunciation (chick-SENT-me-high) of the man’s name, tossing it into conversations whenever possible.

More here.