Flow proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Flow is the mental state of operation 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. Proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the positive psychology concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields.
In the chart above, I provided a definition of the different mental states in in terms of challenge and skill levels and their respective influence on each other. (Annotation of references below.)
To remain in flow, one must increase the complexity of the activity by developing new skills to meet new challenges. Here’s an example: a singer just beginning her career can be in a flow experience just by singing in front of friends. The challenge is not that great, but neither are her skills. As she sings more and more, and increases her skills, she will have to take on greater challenges to attain a flow experience again. If the perceived challenge is greater than her skill (ex. her singing with Andrea Bodicelli), she will perceive anxiety. If however, her skills are greater than her challenge (ex. Performing in a school program after she has already sang overseas), she will perceive boredom. To maintain balance of the optimum experience, skills should equate challenges.
Walter, J.C. III. Flow – A Theory of Optimal Experience: History and Critical Evaluation. Retrieved from:http://www.waltercarl.neu/PDFs/flowpaper.pdf