Flow has had a major impact on the development of the field we now call “positive psychology.” My own take here is that we often correlate “psychology” with negativity. Often times, when we think of psychology, we think of depression, mania, obsessive-compulsive disorder. Even in the field of psychiatry, a publication known as The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) is the product of more than 10 years of effort by hundreds of international experts in all aspects of mental health. It’s literally a “manual” of “mental disorders.” No wonder when some of us think of psychology, we think of it as a field of disorders, of irregularities, of confusion, messy, chaotic, infected, diseased.
Well, Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi became interested in the opposite side of psychology when he sat down and began to research optimal experiences, autotelic states, and happiness. He set out to discover the psychology of optimal experience. Let’s just say at the time his scholarship was groundbreaking and it paved the way for other scholars to contribute to this burgeoning field of positive psychology.
People like Steven Kotler, a journalist who studies flow, wanted to find out just why and how some people are able to “hack” flow. He wrote a book called The Rise of Superman and another called Stealing Fire. He also helped create The Flow Genome Project (http://www.flowgenomeproject.com/ (Links to an external site.)), a campus in Northern California devoted to the study of flow, wherein they teach people how to tap into their individual flow states: “Flow is the peak performance state where you feel your best and you perform your best. The good news is it’s hackable.”
In this TEDx talk, Kotler describes his book where he looks at performance athletes who have learned to harness “flow”: How to open up the next level of human performance | Steven Kotler | TEDxABQ (Links to an external site.)
Watch the video above and answer the following questions:
1) Discuss the feelings associated with a specific activity that caused flow in your life.
2) Which is easier – changing external conditions or altering one’s reactions to unpleasant circumstances?
3) Kotler looks at performance athletes. What about the rest of us? How do regular Joes and Janes hack flow?
4) Is it safe to assume some people will never be able to hack their flow? In short, are some people simply more hardwired to chase flow states?
*This Discussion Board should be done after you’ve finished the book.
Early in his book, Csikszentmihalyi tells the story of King Midas. He writes,
“The myth of King Midas well illustrates the point that controlling external conditions does not necessarily improve existence” (43-44).
1) What do you think of this quote now that you’ve finished the book?
2) How does the quote relate to Kotler’s suggestion that we can hack flow? What stops us?