This morning, I was listening to Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who originated the concept of Flow. Something he wrote about reading and flow jumped out at me. But to understand it, you’ll have to understand the concept of flow.
Flow, which is also known as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time.
As Csikszentmihalyi points out, flow can happen with any activity, but is most common where the level of challenge to the person and the level of skill in the person are both high (see image).
Now, back to the book. Here’s what Csikszentmihalyi said about the difference between two common leisure activities, reading books and watching television:
People who view television more often than the average tend also to have worse jobs and worse relationships. In a large scale study in Germany, it was found that the more often people report reading books, the more flow experiences they claimed to have. While the opposite trend was found for watching television. The most flow was reported by individuals who read a lot and watched little TV. The least by those who read seldom and watched often.
As I said in my last post, we cut the cable cord long ago and I read, on average two books a week. I can tell you that this quote is definitely true of my experience. I can easily get lost in a book, but rarely enjoy watching television. In fact, last night I was watching a movie with my family and went to bed before the conclusion because I was tired. Then, I read for a while before going to sleep.
Do you get into flow when reading? If so, what books challenge you? If not, what gets you into flow experiences?