Course excerpt from In the Zone: Finding Flow Through Positive Psychology
The concept of flow, also known as optimal performance, is a condition we are all capable of, yet seldom cultivate. When in flow we experience a profound and dramatic shift in the way we experience ourselves, our capabilities, and the world around us. Our focus sharpens, our strengths are heightened, we feel an intense sense of euphoria and connection to the world around us, and we often realize capabilities we didn’t know were possible. For clients, flow doesn’t help them become more capable, it dramatically improves their lives – teaching them not just to expect more from themselves, but how to cultivate the very conditions that make expecting more possible.
Flow is the term first used by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – now a recognized expert on the topic – to describe “highly focused mental states” that are characterized by almost complete absorption in an activity that is inherently rewarding.
Flow happens when what we are doing so captivates us, almost enthralls us, that for a moment (and sometimes hours), our awareness and actions merge, and movements flow effortlessly without conscious thought, direction, or intervention. Our skills almost perfectly match the demands of the task, and we experience the challenge in front of us with the delighted exaltation that perfecting our strengths provides. As we do, self-consciousness quiets and we feel what can only be described as a “passive mind, and active body.” In this self-transcendent state, many describe feelings of euphoria, ecstasy, and elation. And while flow is often attributed to extreme athletes, the most creative minds, and exceptional performances, the experience is universal to us all – we are all wired toward self-actualization.
In flow, people consistently report feelings of connection with something larger, an increased sense of awareness, heightened strengths, and a unique feeling of euphoria. Flow is commonly described as those “peak moments” that make life worth living.
When in the flow state, we become so completely engrossed in the task at hand that – without consciously choosing to – we lose awareness of all other things: time, people, distractions, and even basic bodily needs. The reason for this, Csikszentmihalyi explains, is because all of our attention in the flow state is on the task at hand; there is no more attention to be allocated elsewhere (Csikszentmihalyi, 2008). Csikszentmihalyi further describes flow as the “optimal experience” and one that brings a high level of gratification.
In describing what leads to flow, Csikszentmihalyi explained that three conditions must be met:
- One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task.
- The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows them to adjust their performance to maintain the flow state.
- One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and their own perceived One must have confidence in one’s ability to complete the task at hand.
In the Zone: Finding Flow Through Positive Psychology is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that offers a how-to guide on incorporating flow into everyday life. According to the CDC, four out of ten people have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Further, the APA reports that most people suffer from moderate to high levels of stress, and according to SAMSHA, adult prescription medication abuse (primarily to counteract attention deficit disorders) is one of the most concerning health problems today. And while clinicians now have a host of resources to mitigate distress and reduce symptomatology, the question remains: how do clinicians move clients beyond baseline levels of functioning to a state of fulfillment imbued with a satisfying life purpose? The answer may lie in a universal condition with unexpected benefits. This course will explore the concept of flow, also known as optimal performance, which is a condition we are all capable of, yet seldom cultivate. When in flow we experience a profound and dramatic shift in the way we experience ourselves, our capabilities, and the world around us. Our focus sharpens, our strengths are heightened, we feel an intense sense of euphoria and connection to the world around us, and we often realize capabilities we didn’t know were possible. For clients, flow doesn’t just help them become more capable, it dramatically improves their lives – teaching them not just to expect more from themselves, but how to cultivate the very conditions that make expecting more possible. This course, packed with exercises, tips, and tools, will demonstrate just how flow can be incorporated into your everyday life, and used to help your clients move from simply surviving to a life that harnesses and builds upon their own unique potential to thrive. Course 21-11 | 2016 | 30 pages | 15 posttest questions
This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document). Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more.
Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists; the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB #1046, ACE Program); the Florida Boards of Clinical Social Work, Marriage & Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling (#BAP346) and Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).