On the Happy Life (De vita beata) is a dialog written by Seneca, circa 58 A.D. and addressed to his brother, Novato, in which he establishes the moral precepts that, according to him, will lead to a happy life. In there we find the theoretical prototype of what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (b. 1934) would call the Flow Theory, given the similarity of his proposal with that of the contemporary psychologist: letting yourself go with the natural flow of things, living in harmony with nature, entering into the full groove of life.

For the Croatian-born, California resident, where he began his research in the mid-1970s, the concept of flow is an operative mental state in which the person who carries out an activity is completely immersed in it. His first studies were carried out with musicians, artists and athletes that experienced something in the most critical moment of their practice, and something very similar to ecstasy. By definition, ecstasy is being or entering into another place, into another dimension. So the composition of a masterpiece of music, the culmination of a poem or an extraordinary book, the sporting feats of Michael Jordan, are associated with a term that appears in almost all of the interviews that he granted: the flow. Things flow, move, almost effortlessly, and which is something natural and almost inevitable: it flows.

For the large majority of the inhabitants of the West, the concept is present in a colloquial manner: “let it flow”, “flow”, “get in the zone,” etc. It is true that, often, and above all as a result of abuse of the idea, it is said sarcastically, bordering on the disdainful. It is also true that it is something very American (as it comes from the phrase go with the flow), and it could even pass as a marketing motto. However, the psychologist’s idea has a certain rigor rendered by research. An “experience of flow,” supposes, as its first component, having clear aims, as proposed by Seneca. And this is the basis, to set objectives for oneself. Concentration and the focus of energy on achieving those objectives, and also, during the course of that activity, and seeking feedback, which implies a more critical reflection regarding the action and a certain objective distance to therefore adjust the failures in its development.

Generating a balance between the level of skill and the challenge, for example if someone proposes becoming an astronaut by the end of the year but their life has not been in the least athletic, or if someone wants to ‘become’ a poet like someone who converts to a religion, it is practically impossible to flow in the continuum of their aims. Furthermore, the activity has to be intrinsically pleasurable, and cannot be forced. Perhaps this is the most essential element: enjoying what you do and doing it with the aim of enjoying it.

The Flow Theory implies immersing oneself in an activity. But which activity? Living. Living is an inevitable action. Whoever writes or draws, whoever practices a sport and turns it into a profession, someone who makes discoveries, etc., all are living and, in their aim, are trying to incorporate themselves into the flow of life, to get into the natural order of things, to flow.

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On the Happy Life (De vita beata) is a dialog written by Seneca, circa 58 A.D. and addressed to his brother, Novato, in which he establishes the moral precepts that, according to him, will lead to a happy life. In there we find the theoretical prototype of what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (b. 1934) would call the Flow Theory, given the similarity of his proposal with that of the contemporary psychologist: letting yourself go with the natural flow of things, living in harmony with nature, entering into the full groove of life.

For the Croatian-born, California resident, where he began his research in the mid-1970s, the concept of flow is an operative mental state in which the person who carries out an activity is completely immersed in it. His first studies were carried out with musicians, artists and athletes that experienced something in the most critical moment of their practice, and something very similar to ecstasy. By definition, ecstasy is being or entering into another place, into another dimension. So the composition of a masterpiece of music, the culmination of a poem or an extraordinary book, the sporting feats of Michael Jordan, are associated with a term that appears in almost all of the interviews that he granted: the flow. Things flow, move, almost effortlessly, and which is something natural and almost inevitable: it flows.

For the large majority of the inhabitants of the West, the concept is present in a colloquial manner: “let it flow”, “flow”, “get in the zone,” etc. It is true that, often, and above all as a result of abuse of the idea, it is said sarcastically, bordering on the disdainful. It is also true that it is something very American (as it comes from the phrase go with the flow), and it could even pass as a marketing motto. However, the psychologist’s idea has a certain rigor rendered by research. An “experience of flow,” supposes, as its first component, having clear aims, as proposed by Seneca. And this is the basis, to set objectives for oneself. Concentration and the focus of energy on achieving those objectives, and also, during the course of that activity, and seeking feedback, which implies a more critical reflection regarding the action and a certain objective distance to therefore adjust the failures in its development.

Generating a balance between the level of skill and the challenge, for example if someone proposes becoming an astronaut by the end of the year but their life has not been in the least athletic, or if someone wants to ‘become’ a poet like someone who converts to a religion, it is practically impossible to flow in the continuum of their aims. Furthermore, the activity has to be intrinsically pleasurable, and cannot be forced. Perhaps this is the most essential element: enjoying what you do and doing it with the aim of enjoying it.

The Flow Theory implies immersing oneself in an activity. But which activity? Living. Living is an inevitable action. Whoever writes or draws, whoever practices a sport and turns it into a profession, someone who makes discoveries, etc., all are living and, in their aim, are trying to incorporate themselves into the flow of life, to get into the natural order of things, to flow.

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