THE FLOW MODEL — What Makes you Happy?

Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle came to the unsurprising conclusion that what a person wants above all is to be happy. In 1961, the US psychologist Michaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote: ‘While happiness itself is sought for its own sake, every other goal — health, beauty money or power — is valued only because we expect that it will make us happy.’ Csikszentmihalyi looked for a term that described the state of feeling happy. He called it ‘flow’. But when are we ‘in the flow’?

After interviewing over a thousand people about what made them happy, he found that all the responses had five things on common. Happiness, or ‘flow’, occurs when we are:

  • intensely focused on an activity
  • of our own choosing, that is
  • neither under-challenging (boreout) nor over-challenging (burnout), that has
  • a clear objective, and that receives
  • immediate feedback

Csikszentmihalyi discovered that people who are ‘in the flow’ not only feel a profound sense of satisfaction, they also lose track of time and forget themselves completely because they are so immersed in what they are doing. Musicians, athletes, actors, doctors, and artists describe how they are happiest when they are absorbed in an often exhausting activity — totally contradicting the commonly held view that happiness has to do with relaxation.

What is preventing you from being happy?