Ever had the feeling of complete focus and contentment on a work/study task or hobby? That's called 'flow', and when you find it, cherish it. Because, as Arlo Laibowitz explains, finding that elusive state of flow can lead to great happiness. 


True happiness and satisfaction in our work, studies, or hobbies. These are things we all strive for, but only a few seem to be able to obtain such contentment. Did you know that there is a state that means to be fulfilled and engaged in these activities? That state is called flow, named by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [Mee-high cheek-sent-mee-high]. So, how does 'flow' work and how can we obtain it?


Flow: the meaning 

Csikszentmihalyi defines flow as the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of focus, involvement and enjoyment. This state is characterised by total absorption in what one does, and the resulting loss in one's sense of space and time:

  • Action and awareness become merged.
  • We have no worry of failure, because we are in control.

Our sense of time becomes distorted, because the activity becomes rewarding in itself. Check out our full video on flow here:


Autotelics, and how to achieve flow

There are people who have developed their flow in such a way that every obstacle becomes an enjoyable challenge. Csikszentmihalyi calls these people 'autotelic'. These are people that are never bored, rarely anxious, and constantly involved with what is going on. So, how do we become more autotelic ourselves? There are some conditions that have to be met to achieve it:

  1. The activity has a clear set of goals and progress.
  2. The task must have clear and immediate feedback.
  3. We have to pay attention to what is happening in the moment without distractions.
  4. We need to learn to enjoy the immediate experience.
  5. We have to proportion our skills to the challenge.

How do we obtain and maintain flow?

Flow is a balancing act between anxiety; when the task is too difficult, and boredom; when the task is not difficult enough. That is because when we are in flow, we subconsciously work towards becoming masters. So, to maintain flow, we must seek greater challenges.

Flow - fulfilled and engaged - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - happiness.org
Go with the flow: increase your challenge level and avoid boredom


It's an innately positive experience. It produces intense feelings of enjoyment, with long-term benefits to positive effect and happiness. Csikszentmihályi also stated that happiness comes from personal development and growth. Flow states create this development and growth.

The more time we spend in flow-state activities, the more our intrinsic motivation and self-directed learning increase. So, challenge yourself with more complicated tasks, improve your skills, and repeat this process continuously, to help boost your happiness and satisfaction. 


Written by Arlo Laibowitz

arlo.jpgArlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.



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