Conditions of Flow

The three conditions of flow, as described by Mihaly are:

  1. Clear proximal (nearby) goals
  2. Clear and immediate feedback
  3. A balance between perceived challenge and skill

To quote Mihaly et al, “Of course, this is not to say that these are the only factors that affect the degree to which one becomes involved in an activity.” They then mention the level of importance enthusiasm to a person and how their actions in the moment align with their character and values enthusiasm and Direction. Mentioned elsewhere by Mihaly et al are the additional negative factors of distractions attention and low self-esteem enthusiasm.

More Detailed Conditions of Flow

Let’s look at those three conditions of flow again, this time, relating them to major factors controlling them and giving you the levers needed to master them.

  1. Clear proximal goals — Right now, what am I doing and what do I need to do?
    • This is all about direction. Are you clear on your direction? It’s worth noting that even if this activity isn’t part of your big goals in life, you can still be in flow as long as you are clear on what you’re doing in the moment. Essentially, you are clear on your next steps, your micro-direction, your micro-goals.
  2. Clear and immediate feedback — How am I doing?
    • Clarity of direction is the biggest factor here.
  3. A balance between perceived challenge and skill — If I’m not in flow, what can I do to help induce it?

    • Conceptually, this is the holy grail. Practically, you gotta deftly adjust your current situation. Technically, there are specific “recipes” to use that will help. Balancing Challenge and Skill is the most important condition because it’s the result of every element that dictates quality experience: direction, enthusiasm, attention, and energy.

Now that we have a clear list of the conditions of flow, we need to relate them to the Four Factors of Flow.