The Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihály once said to his students at the University of Chicago: “Joy arises at the border between boredom and tension.” That was in 1975. Today this state is known worldwide as “flow” – and Csíkszentmihály was instrumental in coining the term. But what exactly is flow all about? We asked one of the leading German flow researchers. Professor Johannes Keller has been researching this special condition at Ulm University for many years – and has answered the most important questions for us.

“The flow state is a special form of being motivated, more precisely a sub-form of intrinsic motivation,” explains Keller in an interview with stern. Intrinsic motivation means that we do something on our own initiative, without any external incentive such as money or recognition. For the expert, flow consists of five defining aspects: “When you are busy with an activity, you have a very focused concentration on it, a kind of tunnel vision. You are also free from any other thoughts, so you don’t ruminate or think about other problems. ” In addition, in flow you have reduced self-attention and a strong sense of control. “That means you don’t really reflect on what’s happening, but you feel completely capable of completing the task independently,” says Keller. Typically, the experience of time also changes – hours then seem to pass like minutes – the most well-known symptom of flow.

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