Home » Blog » November Book of Month ‘Flow’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

FLOW Book Cover Mihaly CsikszentmiCan you recall times in your life when everything just flowed, you may have been dealing with a significant challenge in a seemingly effortless way. You were fully present and focused on what you were doing, you were purposeful and inspired whilst not being highly emotionally charged.

The state of ‘flow’ is described in different ways, here are a few of many examples of how people describe recollections of ‘being in flow’;

  • I was at one with what I was doing’
  • ‘I was in the most natural state that exists’
  • ‘I was in a great state of enjoyment’
  • ‘I was fully present and inspired by the challenge’
  • ‘I was operating without ego’
  • ‘Time stood still’
  • “I was tuned-in to ‘an infinite field of intelligence’.”

Based on his extensive research Csikszentmihalyi lists the 8 Major components of flow as:

  1. Clarity of goals / next steps
  2. Clarity of Immediate Feedback Helps to maintain focus
  3. Challenges match skills E.g you have a worthy opponent
  4. Split attention disappears. Laser beam focus
  5. Everyday worries disappear. You can’t let your mind wander – flow is a form of escape.
    Einstein “Art and Science are forms of escape from everyday life.”
  6. A sense of control but you are only just in control
  7. You transcend your EGO
  8. Time shrinks


Mihaly Csikszentmi illustartion The 8 States Apathy to FlowThis illustration explains Csikszentmihalyi’s 8 activity state categories of which one is ‘flow’. The state of flow is achieved when the challenge of our activity matches the upper limits of our skill level.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to people who are regularly in flow as ‘autotelic people’ who appear to have inexhaustible psychic energy. Even though they don’t have more attentional capacity than anyone else because they are focused on what is most important to them they appear to have inexhaustible psychic energy.

Before you start thinking ‘Psychic Energy’ sounds a little ‘woo-woo’ I should point out the dictionary definition:

“Psychic energy” is: a ‘mental energy concept’ in some psychological theories or models of a postulated unconscious mental functioning on a level between biology and consciousness.

Having studied Axiology (The study of values) for 11 years been personally taught by the world leading authority Dr John Demartini, I can see that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s conclusions about highly autotelic people are same as people who are living with the highest degree of alignment to their highest values.

This equates to doing activities that are aligned with your individual highest values.

In my experience, most people have a sense of what their highest values, but are not clear about them and also are not following these values in their everyday life – hence they are not ‘in flow’.  If you are interested in getting really clear about what your highest values are you can do so for free on D.r Demartini’s website www.DrDemartini.com where you can do his free ‘Values Snapshot’.

The characteristics of an AUTOTELIC PERSON are:

  • They have boundless (psychic) energy
  • They pay more attention to what happens around them
  • They have a more expanded awareness
  • They are more willing to invest attention in things (aligned with their highest values) for their own sake without expecting an immediate return
  • They are less concerned about the impact of their chosen activity on themselves and therefore they have more psychic energy with which to experience life

Highly autotelic people are consistently ‘in flow’ (most of the time, but not all the time) because they are focused on what is most important to them (they have a great sense of purpose).
Finally, I will share 2 of the numerous intriguing observations from Csikszentmihalyi’s research about ‘being in a state of flow’:

  • People who have overcome a traumatic accident or a traumatic period of life, are more likely to develop a more autotelic personality
  • An essential requirement of being in-flow is that you must spend some time ‘out of flow’, so being in a state of flow all the time is clearly not achievable.

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