“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
That is a brief description of the state of flow, also called “being in the zone,” as described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced me-high chick-sent-me-high), who says we can facilitate the conditions for this quality of optimal functioning, and that it may be found in a wide range of careers and activities.
His interest in this topic resulted from his doctoral thesis on “how visual artists create art” for which he studied photos taken every three minutes as artists created a painting.
He says he was “struck by how deeply they were involved in work, forgetting everything else. That state seemed so intriguing that I started also looking for it in chess players, in rock climbers, in dancers and in musicians.”
From my article Creativity and Flow Psychology.
Csikszentmihalyi is the author of “Flow – the Psychology of Optimal Experience” and a number of related books.
“What some people might not know is that I have what they might call an “unusual passion” for playing the cello — which I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old. It really is a part of the fabric of my being… I think when I really feel connected to my spirit and my essence is when I’m making music. It is my great escape.” Paula Zahn – on The Oprah Show.
Photo: “Sejong Soloists, the hip, 14-piece conductor-less string ensemble returned for its Eleventh Annual Gala on Thursday at Zankel Hall at Carnegie. Television journalist Paula Zahn [playing cello] served as emcee for the 11th year in a row for the event.” [timessquaregossip.com Dec. 10 2010]
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Creativity and Flow Psychology
Susan K. Perry, PhD, is a social psychologist, teacher and author of the book “Writing In Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity” – which is based on her work in flow psychology and includes interviews with dozens of writers.
Referring to a comment that her book “helps writers negotiate that vital movement from ‘busy mind’ to ‘no mind’ where they can write with authenticity and real power,” Dr. Perry clarifies that it’s more a move to “some other place.
“I don’t believe that when you get into a creative place, you’re giving up thinking,” she says. “You’re super-thinking — better and with more parts of your mind than you do normally.”
But, she adds, there is a ‘busy mind’ aspect which “means you’re fragmented, you’re unfocused, distracted, too many things on your mind. You want to get to a place which is both loose, relaxed, and focused.
“What I found in my studies of flow are that two things you need to do to get to this place where time stops and you can be most creative, are to loosen up, and focus in. It’s a paradox, obviously, to be loose and focused at the same time. And they overlap, and one may come before the other.”
[Also see her Facebook page.]
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Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD, a cognitive psychologist at NYU, explains more about this topic in his article on The Creativity Post, an excellent publication with “Quality content on creativity, innovation and imagination.”
Kaufman writes, “Flow – the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task- is a strong contributor to creativity.
“When in flow, the creator and the universe become one, outside distractions recede from consciousness, and one’s mind is fully open and attuned to the act of creating.
“There is very little self-awareness or critical self-judgement; just intrinsic joy for the task.”
He reports on research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and others on associations between “flow proneness, intelligence, and the major dimensions of personality.”
In one study, researchers “asked professional pianists to play a musical piece five times and rate their level of flow each time. The respiratory patterns and emotion-related activity of the facial muscles found in those entering flow more frequently suggested that they were experiencing an emotional state of enjoyment and a lack of mental effort.
“Contrast this with taking an IQ test, where it’s difficult to bring your expertise to bear on the task. Instead, flow seems most likely to occur when a person engages in a task with a moderate level of challenge that is well matched in difficulty to a person’s current skill level.
“Flow also shares some commonalities with the mental states of high concentration seen during meditation, which also seems to be a form of concentration uninhibited by our critical facilities when one is fully immersed in the moment.”
The researchers summarized: “Flow may thus be a state of subjectively effortless attention that occurs during skilled performance and has different underlying mechanisms from attention during mental effort.”
From Who Enters Flow? by Scott Barry Kaufman.
There are multiple quotes by him in posts on my various sites – one example:
Madness and creativity: do we need to be crazy?
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In his article Superfluidity: Peak Performance Beyond a State of ‘Flow’, Christopher Bergland – a “world-class endurance athlete, coach, author, political activist and motivational speaker” – points to the performance of athlete David Freese in the World Series as a perfect example of “Superfluidity” in action, which Bergland defines as “the supreme Flow experience.
“It is an ego-less state of ‘Super Flow’ marked by zero friction (rubbing/slowing), zero viscosity (resistance to flowing) and Superconductivity (zero loss of energy).”
He includes in his article this video to further explain the idea of superfluidity:
Bergland says, “Superfluidity is a state of perfect harmony. When you are so immersed in what you are doing that you completely become one with the task at hand to the point that your ego dissolves you are in a state of Superfluidity.
“This may sound like a familiar definition of Flow — however, this tier needs to be re-categorized as something supreme inside the flow experience. Abraham Maslow ran into a similar problem of differentiation when defining ‘Peak Experiences.’
“There was a misconception that a Peak Experience had to be isolated to things like being on top of Mt. Everest. The definition was too ambiguous and lofty.
“To avoid this, Flow should be looked at as having various levels. Regular Flow is accessible daily, Super Flow is more episodic but still readily available.”
Video: Madonna – “Like A Prayer” [Truth or Dare Outtake]
Bergland writes, “This live performance of Like a Prayer is a perfect way to deconstruct the difference between Fluid and Superfluid performance. I have watched this video dozens of times and have tagged the specific points in the performance when I see Madonna transition into Superfluidity.
“As you watched it for yourself, when did you see her click over? Learning to identify the episodic moments of Superfluid performance inside an otherwise entirely fluid performance is a helpful tool for identifying ways that you can take your performance to a higher level. Learn from the greats by watching them closely and emulating them.”
He adds, “This video was filmed at the zenith of Madonna’s career near the end of a grueling world tour that was hampered by nagging throat problems.
“Madonna shows complete grace under pressure throughout the performance. She is totally in control, but also has the ability to be completely uninhibited and ‘let go’ which allows her to hit it out of the park, just like David Freese would.”
For more perspectives, see my post about creativity researcher Shelley Carson, PhD and developing creativity and enhancing the flow experience: Shelley Carson on Brainsets and Creativity.
She writes about accessing the ‘stream’ brain set [her term – an analogy to mindset] which, she explains, is “a state like ‘flow’ or ‘being in the zone’ where thoughts and actions flow almost effortlessly, seemingly without much conscious input.”
Get her book for more information and techniques: Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life.
You can find more on these topics by doing a search using one of the search boxes at the right (or below if you’re viewing this on a mobile device).
Article publié pour la première fois le 18/05/2015