How to go with the flow

The business classic Flow describes how you can reach new heights of creativity and purpose when you're in the zone.

by Stefan Stern
Last Updated: 04 May 2016

You know those rare moments when you are 'in the zone', when you forget yourself, creativity bursts out of you, and time simply flies? Me neither. But apparently there is something like that, which could just be within our reach, and that something is the happy state of 'flow'.

The Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi popularised the idea of flow with his book over 25 years ago. 

If a task is too easy or too difficult flow will not happen, Csikszentmihalyi says. Flow represents optimal experience: intrinsic motivation carries you on to reach new heights of achievement and fulfilment.

When you are in full flow you lose self-consciousness and are clear about your goals. You will be immersed in the task in hand. Your ego disappears. You may feel joyful, and filled with purpose. You will be capable of delivering that fashionable 'new' concept: 'deep work'.

Getting prompt feedback can be important in generating flow, as some sort of confirmation that you are on the right track is needed. Go with the flow. Nothing can stop you. In fact, the only thing that might really break your flow is stopping to check you've spelled Csikszentmihalyi properly.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is published by Harper and Row, 1990

Stefan Stern is visiting professor at Cass Business School. Follow him on Twitter: @StefanStern

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