Tag Archive for 'flow'

Is it possible to have fun when doing something difficult in which one is skilled?

It is possible to have fun when doing something difficult in which one is skilled. In fact, many people find great satisfaction and enjoyment in challenges that require their abilities and skills. Here are some reasons why this is possible:

  1. Sense of achievement - Overcoming a difficult challenge and completing a complex task can lead to a strong sense of achievement and personal pride. This sense of success can be very rewarding and enjoyable.
  2. Flow - People enjoy themselves more when they are in the so-called “flow state.” This state occurs when one is fully immersed in a challenging activity that requires skills and concentration. In this state, time seems to pass quickly, and one can experience a deep sense of pleasure.
  3. Competition - If you participate in a race or competition, the desire to win or improve can be very motivating and enjoyable. Competition can add an element of excitement and adrenaline to the experience.
  4. Personal growth - Facing difficult challenges can contribute to personal growth and the improvement of one’s skills. This sense of progress can be extremely gratifying and enjoyable.
  5. Passion and interest - When you are passionate and interested in what you are doing, even difficult challenges can be fun. Passion can fuel motivation and make the entire experience more rewarding.
  6. Social connection - Participating in a challenge or complex project with others can create a sense of community and social connection. Collaboration and sharing challenges can increase the enjoyment and satisfaction of the experience.
  7. Continuous learning - Facing difficult situations can result in continuous learning and the discovery of new skills. This learning process can be exciting and rewarding, as new knowledge and skills are acquired.
  8. Creativity - Solving complex problems often requires creative and innovative thinking. Finding unique and creative solutions can be a very enjoyable aspect of facing difficult challenges.
  9. Sense of purpose - Working on challenging and meaningful projects can give a sense of purpose and meaning to one’s activity. Knowing that you are contributing to something important can increase satisfaction and enjoyment in doing the work.
  10. Personal experience - Every difficult challenge is a unique personal experience. The process of overcoming these challenges can lead to precious memories and exciting adventures, which can be a source of fun and satisfaction when remembered later.

In summary, having fun while doing something difficult in which you are skilled can result from a combination of personal achievement, growth, social connection, continuous learning, and the discovery of new possibilities. These elements contribute to making the experience rewarding and fulfilling for many people.

However, it is important to note that not everyone finds it enjoyable to face difficult challenges. Some may feel stressed or anxious in such situations. The key is to find a balance between the challenge and personal competence so that you can fully enjoy the activity. Additionally, it’s important to manage stress and anxiety in a healthy way to ensure that the experience remains fun and satisfying.

Book review: Running flow

Running flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Philip Latter and Christine Weinkauff Duranso

Human Kinetics

2017, pp.189

As long distance runner I know very well the difficulties to maintain the focus on my run, refreshing in the same time the kind of mood which represents the positive background where to design the pleasure to run also when I am mentally and physically tired. So I learned that what happens in those is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has called mental flow, the running flow.

For these reasons, I have been immediately captured by this book, Running flow, written by him with fellow psychologist Christine Weinkauff and running journalist and coach Philip Latter. It’s the first book devoted to this state of mind for runners, to learn how to reach and coach this mind condition and most important how to maintain it during the worst moments. Till some years ago, the flow experiences was studied only in the top level performances and it were described as something which happens spontaneously and difficult to replicate in a voluntary manner. Now we know, that it is something we can train through specific exercises not only to improve our performance but also, and maybe more important, to live more enjoyable experiences through the running.

“Flow refers to an optimal experience during which the mind and body work together while honed on a task. Flow is often associated with peak performance” (p.16). I remember when running 100km Ultramarathon “Il Passatore” I reached the 79°km and in that moment I started to think: “Ok; focus on the light of  your lamp in the road, and run till the end.”  I have had only this unique thought for the next 21km. For me this has been my flow experience. This is what it’s written in the book when the authors talk about the 9 components of flow (clear goals, challenge-skills balance, unambiguous feedback, focused attention, merging of action and awareness, sense of control, loss of self-consciousness, distortion of time and intrinsic motivation). The first four dimensions represent the flow antecedents and the other six the outcomes of the flow process.

In the book, it’s well explained that the flow state it comes out when the athletes live a condition of optimal self-control associated to an efficient arousal level.

Csikszentmihalyi and his colleagues describe five ways through which one athlete is able to cultivate one’s self into an autotelic person: set goals with a clear and immediate feedback, become immersed in the particular activity, be focused to what is happening in the here and now, learn to enjoy immediate experience and proportion one’s skills to the challenge at hand.

In my opinion the strength of this book is evidently to be applied to one specific sport (long distance running) but the stories of the athletes and the practical information the runners can find to improve their focus and running with this state of mind are absolutely important.

Youth sport: problems and solutions

Youth sport is becoming a great problem and an article published in the magazine of US Olympic Committee helps to understand what might be the reasons and proposals for solutions. I wrote in a short summary but the  article by Christine M. Brooks (Summer 2016) is certainly wider and interesting to read.

  • There is a high pediatric dropout rate from sports (between 2008 and 2013 there were 2.6 million fewer six to twelve year-old kids participating the six traditional sports).
  • Coaches are using higher training intensities at younger ages than ever before possibly causing long-term harm to young athletes (the LTAD model attempts to guide coaches about the appropriate training for children who are at different maturational phases).
  • There is an increase in childhood obesity and subsequent health problems (in the United States, 17 to 31 percent of children and adolescents are obese).
  • The principle of enjoyment embraces Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s notion of ‘FLOW,’ that in turn, explains why individuals enjoy an activity. Approximately 40 percent of pediatric athletes in one survey claim they dropped out of sports because they were not having fun. The coaching goal is to train athletes in small, manageable learning steps so they remain in the zone of FLOW. Research indicates that educated coaches lower kids’ anxiety levels and lift their self-esteem.
  • The principle of striving for improvement involves enticing young athletes to constantly strive for the upper limits of their genetic potential while concurrently keeping them in FLOW. If they are out of ‘FLOW,’ it is theoretically impossible to motivate ongoing practice and striving, and therefore progress toward full genetic potential will be blunted.
  • The principle of appropriate training goes hand-in-hand with the child’s growth and maturation. The LTAD model attempts to match structural growth and maturation to the appropriate motor skill complexity and intensity of physical training.
  • The principle of doing no harm is at the basis of coaching. Four million school-age children in the US are injured while playing sports every year. The reason can partly be attributed to stressing a body that has immature balance and coordination beyond its capacity.

Review book: Golf Flow

Golf Flow

Master you mind, master the course

Gio Valiante,

Human Kinetics, 2013, p. 228


In the title is already explained the goal the golfer has to achieve: let flow the mind and the shot will be good. The author, Gio Valiante was named one of the 40 most influential under-40 people in golf  by Golf Magazine and in this book he talks about flow not only from the theoretical point of view but also from the side of the PGA golfer experiences.

Reading Golf Flow we understand the mental side of golf. It could seem obvious because every person knows that golf is a mental game but here we find explained in which way  this happen; in which way the golfers use their time, practice the control, tune the effort and develop the awareness regarding the performance.  Valiante provides a great deal of current research  and he is never trivial when providing his advices. The amateur golfers reading this book will find many ideas to start their mental practice.

In my opinion the best part of Golf Flow is that one regarding the current top PGA pros, who talk through the author about their mental flow state, saying how much it permitted them to cope under pressure. This book may give the competitive golfers another tool to take their game to their highest level. The amateur golfers will find useful information coming from different top golfers and  from these different persons and experiences they can find that one is better for them.  The many professional insights about his work with the top golf are like this one:

“As it happens for many golfers, Justin’s instinct told him to go into Sunday and to be aggressive right to get-go. The details vary from golfer to golfer, but the philosophy is a cowboy version of golf that goes something like this: “Fire at every flag, go for par fives in two, be aggressive on every putt, and throw all strategy, patience, and ball placement to wind. I asked Justin to do the opposite and let patience and discipline define the round by using the first few holes to establish the rhythm of his routine.”

The book is full of these experiences and for this reason I believe that it’s very useful for the golfer of every level and for the coaches and sport psychologists who want to know better the mental side of the golf.