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Some individuals are getting the flow without realising it.

Updated: Mar 17, 2020

Some individuals are getting the flow without realising it. It might be that there are things that help them to achieve that state, some people are getting into the flow even at very early stages of musical practice when they are for example 9 years old.

It might be that they deal with several instrument practising problems in a successful manner that allows them to control the way they think. Is it happening on purpose, do they get special training, do they observe others while solving issues and dealing with complicated problems, do they see a final musical result?

I will try to explain how it is possible and what is needed to achieve the FLOW easily. From many observations, I have come to realise that there are certain things that would make it possible to use the FLOW early and on demand. Firstly, flow is a very rewarding state when many “satisfying”’ chemicals are produced naturally in the body. We could easily allege that primarily “showing off” to create a beautiful music was worth it. There are plenty of books on the topic of the brain and music. There is also plenty on what the FLOW is and how to get there, but… most of that information is largely only available for adults. There is not much information about FLOW for children and younger students. I will try to find out how important early observations and very early stages of life are in influencing abilities to develop the flow early.

We read in Csikszentmihalyi’s Talented teenagers:

the roots of success and failure that “what characterises people who uses their skills to the utmost is that they enjoy hardships and challenges of their task”.

If this is so, then what convinces children and teenagers and that 'harder is better' and worth that hard work? Flow state becomes a more and more popular tool to manage many different areas of human development. Flow techniques have most likely been used for many centuries. This chapter will analyse current findings and theories to help understand how complex flow is to achieve the flow(ing) way of studying and practising musical instruments from the past 20 years of musical education.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines flow as the movement of something in one direction (especially of liquids, gases, or electricity); movement in one direction, especially continuously and easily … to continue to arrive or be produced. (, 2019) Sinicki, 2019 writes that:

A ‘flow state’ is an almost mythical concept within business, art, sports and martial arts that describes a state of being wherein a person starts acting almost instinctively without distraction while focused intensely on a specific task or goal. The term was originally proposed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi but has since been ‘borrowed’ by just about every self-help guru, sports psychologist and executive under the sun.

At the beginning of the book Flow – The Psychology of optimal experience - (Csikszentmihalyi 1990), we unexpectedly read that the subject might be a happiness:

This fascinating book is all about happiness and how to find it. Csikszentmihalyi is an authority on the subject. As he explains, happiness is not something that happens, that money or power can command. Happiness is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated and defended privately by each person. It is only by controlling our inner experience that we can become happy. Happiness cannot be reached by consciously searching for it. As J S Mill once put it, “Ask yourselves whether you are happy and you cease to be so”. (Flow – The Psychology of optimal experience - By Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi - Harper, 1990)

At the beginning of the book we will find:

Optimal Experience

The author (Cziksentmihalyi) uses the term “optimal experience” to describe those occasions when we feel a sense of exhilaration, a deep sense of enjoyment, which we cherish for long and that becomes a landmark in our lives. These moments are often not passive, receptive, relaxing times. They tend to occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something that is difficult or worthwhile. Everything we experience is represented in the mind as information. If we are able to connect this information, we can determine what our lives will be like. Optimal states result when there is order in consciousness. This happens when we are focused on realistic goals with our skills matching the opportunities for action. Goals allow people to concentrate attention on the task at hand, forgetting other things temporarily. The key element of an optimal experience is that it is an end in itself. It may be undertaken for other reasons but the activity soon becomes intrinsically rewarding. It is autotelic. (Auto means 'self' and teleos means 'goal'). An autotelic experience lifts life to a different level.

This book (Flow – The Psychology of optimal experience) gets more and more interesting from the same beginning and keeps descending on the idea that happiness might be just “us”. Brainbiz is an Australian example (article) of using FLOW on an everyday basis, presented by Sylvia Vorhauser - Smith. Flow techniques are also popular between managers and people where a task might require a high level of complexity, where people need to trust and believe in themselves. On the website (Vorhauser - Smith S. 2018 The Neuroscience of Flow - (accessed June 2019), we read:

Your fingerprint and brainprint have this in common: they are uniquely yours. They differentiate you from every other human. Your fingerprint is fixed for life. Your brainprint is changing – every day. Today’s unrelenting, fast-paced world calls for adaptability, stamina and resilience – in leaders and their teams– to drive organisational transformation

Why is it relevant? Because it is written in a way that might present some idea about flow by giving a promise of the reward already when reading the text. Isn't it brilliant? This is more like the pure idea of Flow - the journey to success is the most interesting!

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