Have you ever been lost in the moment, completely absorbed in what you’re doing? This phenomenon is called ‘flow‘. It occurs when your skill level and the challenge at hand are equal. This sense of flow is often linked to athletes and musicians, however it doesn’t mean that they are the only people that experience flow. Flow can happen to anyone in any aspect of their lives, but is engaging in flow together better than doing it alone? Let’s start getting into the flow state…
Experiencing flow together is better than going at it alone
Researchers from St. Bonaventure University had students participate in activities that would induce flow either in a team or by themselves.
As predicted, student’s rated flow to be more enjoyable when in a team rather than when they were alone. Students also found it more joyful if the team members were able to talk to one another. This finding was replicated even when skill level and challenge were equal.
A final study found that being in an interdependent group whilst in flow is more enjoyable than one that is not. Thus, if you want to get the most enjoyment out of an experience of flow, try engaging in activities together.
Motivation is internal inspiration or external authorization
Most of your conscious action requires motivation and there are two basic types: Intrinsic and Extrinsic.
Intrinsic motivation is where you do something because you love it. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2013) said the highest intrinsic motivation is “Flow” where self-consciousness is lost, one surrenders completely to the moment and time means nothing. Like when a competent musician plays without thinking, or a surfer catches a great wave and rides it with joy.
Extrinsic motivation is where your motivation to succeed is controlled externally. Fear motivation is not getting into trouble or working hard to earn more money. That type of motivation is short-lived. Good extrinsic motivation is where you are practicing to get better but you still need a tutor or teacher to validate your efforts.
Imagery and confidence levels
Psychologists Koehn et al. (2013) conducted research into different performance contexts and the production of the flow state, looking specifically at the way imagery and confidence levels interact to create flow. Participants completed imagery and confidence measures before undertaking a field test (Koehn et al., 2013). Measuring the performance of a tennis groundstroke, Koehn et al. (2013) found a significant interaction between imagery and confidence.
Koehn et al. (2013) were able to demonstrate positive associations between imagery, confidence and the inducement of a flow state, which in turn predicts increased performance. In essence, the conduction of a flow state is seen to significantly increase performance levels in a given external task (Koehn et al., 2013).
Walker, C. J. (2010) Experiencing flow: Is doing it together better than doing it alone? The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(1), 5-11. doi: 10.1080/17439760903271116
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2013). Flow: The Psychology of Happiness: Random House.
KOEHN, S., MORRIS, T. & WATT, A. P. 2013. Flow state in self-paced and externally-paced performance contexts: An examination of the flow model. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 14, 787-795.