The benefits of flow-state for peak performance and well-being

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The Benefits of Flow

Each of us has a picture, however vague, of what we would like to accomplish before we die. How close we get to attaining this goal becomes the measure for the quality of her life. If it remains beyond reach, we grow resentful or resign. If it is at least in part achieved, we experience a sense of happiness and satisfaction. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p. 9)

 The ability to find joy in challenges and motivation for mastery is essential to individual development and cultural evolution (Csikszentmihalyi et al., 2005). Flow facilitates intrinsic motivation and action, pushing people to their limits (Eccles, & Wigfield, 2002; Jackson & Csikszentmihalyi, 1999; Waterman, Schwarts, & Conti, 2008). Flow is an “optimal experience” because individuals feel “cognitively efficient, motivated, and happy” (Moneta & Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, p. 277).

Flow is related to peak performance and can be a predictor of performance in sport (Jackson, Thomas, Marsh, & Smethurst, 2001), academic learning (Engeser, Rheinberg, Vollmeyer, & Bischoff, 2005), and in the workplace (Eisenberger, Jones, Stinglhamber, Shanock, & Randall, 2005). Flow is also a predictor of creativity (Perry, 1999). Jackson and Csikszentmihalyi (1999) explained,

Research shows that the most memorable and happy moments in people’s lives usually involve a job well done that required skills and concentration or a struggle to overcome a difficult obstacle. People are happy when they have a purpose and are actively involved in trying to reach a challenging goal… It seems that evolution has provided us with a powerful survival mechanism: the feeling of joy we experience when we overcome a challenge. (p. 35)

 Moore (2013) suggested that flow state could be a significant source of well-being and happiness. This may be because flow correlates with persistence in activities (Csikszentmihalyi, 1993), enhances creativity (Perry, 1999) and personal expressiveness (Waterman, 1993). Asakawa (2010) highlighted that flow can result in increased self-esteem, a sense of fulfillment and life satisfaction, and psychological resilience. Donner and Csikszentmihalyi (1992) proposed that one benefit of flow is the quality of subjective experience it facilitates; having a positive experience increases productivity. Moore (2013) noted flow may advance clinical interventions as well. Flow is a psychological experience free from self-consciousness, negative emotions that may accompany awareness of the ‘self’. Therefore, Moore (2013) asserted techniques for producing flow could benefit patients with depression and anxiety.