Flow: A Working Definition

December 24, 2012 by John Andrew Williams

Flow has been a big term lately in the past 30 years to describe the optimal state of being productive and fulfilled. It has reached the sublime heights of godliness among those studying positive psychology.

If you’re a graduate student and you find out your date is a psychology major, ask his opinion of flow. You’ll see…

For high school students and their parents, the elusive experience of flow when dealing with grades, the college application, and other work becomes more tangible once you know what you’re aiming for.

Flow happens in the sweet spot when addressing a problem when you have enough stress so that the problem is challenging yet not too much stress so that the problem is overwhelming.

Most students procrastinate and start their homework late in the night because it’s a little overwhelming. Once started, however, most students (and you can keep this a secret) actually like their homework when they understand it.

Again the two parts:

  1. Enough stress to make it interesting
  2. Not too much to overwhelm

The point here: stress is your friend. We need it. Humans thrive in stressful situations. It’s why we’re still alive and not a record of fossils.

Find the sweet spot of stress and welcome to the world of flow.

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