Action Sports should adopt Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. They should claim him as one of their own, putting his face on bumper stickers and splashing his book covers on websites, blogs and twitter hashtags. Because Csikszentmihalyi, pronounced CHEEK-sent-me-HY-ee, a professor at Claremont Graduate University, invented the idea of flow.
What does flow have to do with action sports, you might ask?
Csikszentmihalyi studies happiness. Flow provides our most optimal experiences. And almost everything about action sports is about getting into flow. According to Csikszentmihalyi, certain things have to happen for us to be in a flow state:
- Skills must match the challenge: too easy and you get bored, too hard and you feel overwhelmed
- Action and awareness merge: you become “one” with the wave/snow/single-track/wing
- Feedback is immediate and unambiguous: you fall, you die (or else you get really, really hurt)
- Concentration is essential: see feedback above
- Sense of control: oddly you gain a sense of control even in the midst of what might appear a chaotic situation
- Time either slows down or speeds up
- Loss of self-consciousness: you focus solely on the moment and forget about your ego, your bills, your life outside the moment
- The experience is autotelic: you are skiing, riding, flying, etc not for an external reward but solely for the experience itself
Have you ever lost yourself in the moment? If you’ve ever felt flow you know what I’m talking about. Skiing a hard line or mountain biking down a tight single-track requires intense concentration and skill. Time slows down, consequences are high, and we completely lose ourselves in the activity. We are in flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wants you to feel flow more often.
Flow=happiness. And I bet that flow is the biggest motivation for pushing ourselves in our sports. I know that’s true for me. I’m not out there for the glory or to gather sponsorships (not that sponsors are kicking down my door to sign me). I’m out there for the experience itself. I’m out there for flow.
Join me this week on The Edge Radio as I talk to the father of flow theory, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi about flow, creativity and getting out on the edge. The show airs live Wednesday 8am pacific and will be available as a podcast a few hours after it airs. You don’t want to miss this one. Seriously.