Saturday, September 28, 2013

On Flow: Reading Csikszenthihaly

I had seen this book referenced in some other books and I thought I would go to the source. 

It is an interesting book, but the structure and style of the author's sentences make it hard to read at times.  The reading of the book doesn't, well, Flow.  (The joke here being that flow in the sense of the ease of reading and the namesake state of being are probably both separate and the same thing.)

My preconceived notion of what "Flow" is tracked closely with what they call when athletes are "in the zone" and why I have come closest to in practice, where you just turn off your conscious mind and react through muscle memory.  I was pretty close, but my notion was more limited.  For the author, you can have flow at work, which to me seems ludicrous at first blush but is true.  I can think of personal experiences where I was making pizza years ago, and in explaining how well I worked with one coworker, I called it a "dance". I didn't always dance at that job, but when I did, it was beautiful -- time flew and the memory of the shift was a pleasant memory.

You don't always flow though, and that's what concerns me.  The author shows all these people experiencing these states, but I am wanting to know how to create these states.  Reading the book, an d explaining it to my wife, she asked if it was a 'self-help' book with the negative baggage that comes with that phrase.  It is not, but I for one wanted more hint on how to get to there from here. 

One big thing about reading this for me was that it needs updated and expanded (and I'm sure the work has bee furthered).  It is a twenty + year old book and the research it is based on is even older.  I would be interested in seeing the physiological reaction to flow.  Can you throw someone in an fMRI machine and induce the fl,ow state?  If so, we could see in a different manner what a flow state looks like.