You may have experienced it when you have felt at your most engaged and creative when undertaking a task. It could be a work related task or a hobby or other interest. It is when we are so immersed in what we are doing that time simply passes and we can be totally unaware of what is happening around us. We call this flow.
The term flow was first used back in the 1970s and 1980s when Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian born professor of psychology who moved to the United States at the age of 22 years, used the term to describe this experience. He described it as completely focused motivation, single-minded immersion, representing perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning.
After an experience of being in flow we can feel fulfilled and satisfied. We may have achieved more than we ever expected to have, discovering more about ourselves and our capacities.
Flow is likely to happen when we are engaged in a task that we enjoy, that challenges us sufficiently but when we also feel competent and capable. It also usually has a goal or focus that seems to help us to engage and direct our energies.
Historical records suggest that Michaelangelo was in a state of flow when he painted the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. He apparently didn't sleep or rest as he was so fixated on his art work. He would then collapse and rest and start again. Such is the impact of the experience that we can achieve great things.
It is reported that Csikszentmihalyi first became aware of and interested in the concept of flow after observing artists at work. He noticed how immersed they became in their work and the creative achievements this enabled them to undertake.
Of course it could be suggested that the concept of flow is not at all new. Buddhism and Taoism have understood this experience and described it in various ways such as 'doing without doing'.
It's clear that by being in flow we will be promoting our positivity. We may not be intending to paint a great masterpiece but the experience itself will provide us with renewed energy, self awareness and fulfilment.