Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Theory (1975, 1990) describes moment to moment subjective experience, defined by the relationship between person (perceived skills) and environment (perceived challenge) that is engaged in for the sole purpose of enjoyment. Achieving a flow state is the ultimate manfifestation of intrinsic motivation. Empirical research has proven that when entering a flow state, one not only produces positive emotions, but also experiences personal growth.
Jackson and Marsh (1996) define the Flow Sate;
1. A balance exists between perceived skills and perceived challenge
2. The task has clear goals for the participant
3. There is a merging of action and awareness. This occurs moment to moment
4. One acts with deep, effortless involvement. As a resuly, worry and self-doubt are eliminated.
5. There is a sense of control over oneself and one’s environment
6. There is a loss of self-consciousness
7. There is full concentration on the task at hand
From the above, we can see that it is important to place adolescents (students, athletes, people) in situations where they perceive their skill lvel matches the perceived demand of the task. Any deviation from this challenege/skill balance allows self-consciousness to enter into awareness, thus compromising performance and potentially limiting the quality of one’s experience. Csikszentmihalyi has also stated that experiencing a flow state creates meaning in individuals lives by allowing them to achieve purpose and, therefore, have a positive impact on their emerging self.
Pete Thompson, Ed.S., BCC, is a board certified Life Coach and performance psychology practitioner. He works with adolescents and young adults throughout the United States.