Thinking of you, Mihaly. You Helped Me Find My Flow.
Many of you who’ve gone through MEA programs are familiar with Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, the famous psychologist who popularized the idea of Flow, a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand that creates almost an ecstatic state.
Unfortunately, Mike (as he asked me to call him) passed away on Wednesday at the age of 88.
I’ll never forget a dozen years ago when I was going through a dark night of the soul and not feeling any flow, I was introduced to Mike as I was preparing to write my book "Emotional Equations" that had one chapter devoted to Flow. I had a phone call with Mike and he asked me, out of the blue, if I would join him and his wife Isabella at their summer cottage in Montana for three days so that we could talk about flow.
Wow! He helped me to see that getting into the flow channel required a stair-step of challenging yourself and then building skill, repeat. His nine component parts to maximizing the possibility of a flow state were the challenge-skill balance, merging of action and awareness, clarity of goals, immediate and unambiguous feedback, concentration on the task at hand, paradox of control, transformation of time, loss of self-consciousness, and autotelic experience. I know that all sounds really geeky, but I sat at the foot of this man for twelve hours a day (except when we would walk along the flow of a stream) and I took copious notes and this experience helped me to wake out of my funk.
More recently, we combined Mike’s Flow concept with Carol Dweck’s Mindset idea and created the love child that was chronicled in this Wisdom Well post around the start of this pandemic.
Mike, wherever you are, just remember Erik Erikson’s wisdom, "I am what survives me." What survives you is a psychological concept that has helped many break out of their funk and into flow.