Learning Goal: I’m working on a management discussion question and need an explanation and answer to help me learn.
For this exercise, please think of something that you do to produce flow. As you recall, flow is defined as an intense involvement in an activity. The engagement in the activity is such that you are focused on what you’re doing, your attention isn’t split between two or more thoughts or emotions, you’re absorbed in such a way that you don’t notice any unnecessary effort on your part, you’re not self-absorbed or worrying about consequences, and you may lose track of time because you’re so involved in what you are doing. There are myriad ways that people can experience flow. People have reported flow when reading a book they enjoy; when playing sports or competitive games; when being with really good friends, family members, or others they feel comfortable and open with; when creating works of art; or when relaxing on the beach. In fact, the activities that can produce flow are almost endless. In addition, their range is often unique to each person.
There are also degrees of intensity associated with flow. Some flow experiences are mild, such as being absorbed in a project you find interesting or a conversation with someone with whom you feel close. Others are a bit more intense and may involve more activity, such as playing a vigorous and highly competitive game or being onstage performing a dance or musical event. The creator of the flow concept, Dr. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (1997), often refers to this level of intensity as one that balances high skills with high challenges, that is, as “just manageable challenges” (see Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2009). Very intense flow experiences can take on aspects of altered states of consciousness, such as a drastic alteration of one’s sense of time (either slowed down or sped up) and a loss of self-awareness that is similar to some religious experiences. As you might expect, that degree of intensity is rare for most flow experiences.
During the next week, please try to significantly increase your participation in an activity that generates flow. If you do not engage in the activity very much, then you should do more of it. If you already do it frequently, you can try to intensify your experience (for example, by focusing your attention on it more deeply). You may decide to initiate something that you’ve never done before. The main idea is to increase your absorption in and awareness of any activities that produce mild or moderate flow. In your journal, please record how the increase in flow changed your well-being both in the short run and over the course of the week. You may also record any unanticipated activities that produced flow experiences for you.
Do you have many interests or only a few? At school or work, do you soon feel bored when things become routine? Such questions center on curiosity—a personality trait gaining increasing attention in positive psychology. Historically, of course, many inventors and scientists—ranging from Marie Curie to Thomas Edison—have cited curiosity as a key force for innovation. As one of the most popular filmmakers of our time, Steven Spielberg (USC News, 1994) told an audience of graduating college students, “I do believe that the greatest quality that we can possess is curiosity, a genuine interest in the world around us…. From basic curiosity, great acts are born.”
Since the early 2000s, psychologists have studied curiosity as a specific trait, and among the leaders has been Dr. Todd Kashdan of George Mason University. He (Kashdan, Rose, & Fincham, 2004) helped develop the first scientific scale to measure curiosity—and then found in an experimental study that high scorers showed greater playfulness, wit, and ability to bond emotionally with a stranger of the opposite sex than low scorers. Highly curious people also gave more attention to their assigned partners during their conversation; curiosity proved to be an asset during the early phrase of romance. More recently, Dr. Kashdan’s (2013) research team also found that highly curious people were less emotionally aggressive toward their romantic partner than their less curious counterparts. Why? Presumably because they were less defensive and more open to differences of opinion.
Curiosity has been demonstrated to be beneficial cognitively. In a study led by Dr. Matthias Gruber (Gruber, Bernard, & Charan, 2014) of the University of California at Davis, participants were asked to review more than 100 trivia questions such as “What does the term dinosaur actually mean?” and “What Beatles single lasted longest on the charts?” Participants then rated each question as to how curious they were about the answer. Then, while the researchers scanned their brain activity using an MRI machine, participants revisited each question and waited briefly for the answer. Gruber’s team found that greater interest in a question—that is, curiosity—not only predicted better memory for the answer, but a day later, the results still held. Somehow, curiosity “primed” the brain for learning and long-term memory.
In this activity, identify a country that you’ve never visited but about which you have been curious. Over the next week, use the Internet to learn about its history, natural environment, politics, and culture, including its music and arts. Jot down facts and topics that you find intriguing from your web explorations.