Goals with an eye toward flow

Written on January 5th, 2012

Flow — the timeless state of unselfconscious absorption in life — usually occurs when we (choose to) stretch to achieve something difficult and worthwhile. The experience of flow is its own reward. Not just poetically or spiritually, but in terms of neurotransmitters. It’s one of the ways we want to feel. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who did the research and coined the term, flow is most possible when three conditions are present: clear goals, ready feedback, and a dynamic tension between challenge and ability.

We create one of the conditions, when we set goals. To experience flow, the stretch has to be right. Too much and we’re frustrated; too little, we get bored. And we need to look for situations that provide feedback.

I think we usually conceive of flow as an experience that is fairly fleeting. But if flow can be invited or pursued over time as I’m proposing, then — as you envision the year ahead — these would be goals worth investing in.