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About Flow and The Quality of Experience

“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile . . . Optimal experience is something that we make happen.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 1990



Flow—optimal experience, being "in the zone"—is often described as an exhilarating rush that comes from peak performance. The flow framework does teach us much about productivity and achieving excellence via the mastery of skills balanced with the challenges we have. As Mike taught us, "Life is nothing more than a stream of experiences. The more widely and deeply you swim in it, the richer your life will be" (Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, 1999).


Our foundation's mission has a much bigger focus: Everyone’s power to design a life for flow. To flex the muscles of attention and self-control and thrive at full capacity when there’s work to do, a problem to solve, a piece to create, a routine to disrupt, an injustice to overcome, chaos to be conquered, a new purpose to find.


Flow experience shapes how we feel about ourselves and the challenges we choose, how we deal with the challenges that choose us, how we connect with others, and how we find purpose and enjoyment in everyday life. In flow, we can transform anxiety and boredom, the default settings for many adults. 

A flow seeker sees challenges not as threats, but as opportunities for action and optimal experience. What we learn from the "best moments" we spend in flow help us thrive even in our worst.








The Quality of Experience Quiz

The quiz introduces you to the nine dimensions of flow experience. It is intended to prompt some thinking about how each dimension plays out in your life and the control you have over each one that may be greater than you think. We suggest focusing on one domain of your life at a time. What's on your mind most right now? Your work? Your relationships? Your learning? Your leisure time? One particular skill you want to master? Do the quiz for each one.


It all begins with Challenge. So click in the Challenge circle to begin and work your way around. The more "Yes" answers you can honestly choose, the closer you are to living up to your full potential for excellence in meeting your goals and for great quality of life. For each authentic "No" you choose, you'll see a suggestion for transforming a No to a Yes and preparing your mind and your environment for optimal experience.

Please Note: The Quiz is not currently available for mobile devices. Please visit on your desktop.

"Flow has the potential to make life more rich, intense, and meaningful. It can increase the strength and complexity of the self; it drives individuals and cultures to creativity and outstanding achievement; and it provides the energy that propels evolution."

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 1990



The Flow Channel Foundation is committed to building a global Flow Fellowship with a two-part mission:














About The Flow Channel Foundation



  • Supporting and contributing to empirical research focused on social, psychological, and neurobiological perspectives on flow

  • Describing the flow dimensions and the elements over which human beings can enable and sustain them 

  • Better understanding the relationships between flow and other principles of positive psychology and a good life.

  • Connecting researchers and program creators to create new collaborations.

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Creating and curating content and events focused on flow as a practical means to “Be Good, Feel Good, Do Good.” 

  • "Be Good":  Developing skill mastery and goal achievement

  • "Feel Good": Seeking flow as a means of transforming anxiety, stress, boredom, chaos, and trauma

  • "Do Good":  Organizing life and work into meaningful patterns and larger purpose; directing flow experiences toward improving quality of life for others; using flow principles to encourage the full flourishing of human potential in communities, workplaces, families, and schools.

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About Mike: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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Mike devoted his life to pioneering research and teaching practical strategies for psychological strength-building through flow. The theory for which he became known as “The Father of Flow” was born of personal experience.

  • At 10 years old, navigating terrifying routines during World War II. Dealing with displacement and loss of loved ones as his family tried to stay ahead of bombing raids, shifting political boundaries, and then Russian tanks after Eastern Europe’s painfully short-lived liberation from the Nazis.

  • Understanding what it means to lose personal freedom as well as stability during 14 months in an Italian POW camp while the Allies sorted out his diplomat father’s loyalties.

  • Discovering how to get his freedom back if not physically, then in the way he focused his own attention. He could lose himself in the flow of a game. In chess, it wasn’t racking up wins that mattered. It was making the moves in an absorbing universe that had clear goals and instant feedback. Later, he found it again as part of a scouting troop in the mountains near Rome. At the end of a climb, when everyone else collapsed to rest, Mike felt good. He felt “together” and confident that he could have some control over his life and overcome hardship.

  • By devoting his life to answering this question, first against a backdrop of massive systems failure and destruction: Why do some people survive, even thrive after devastating challenges, while other people’s families, fortunes, relationships, institutions, and belief in their own free will collapse?

"Of all the virtues we can learn, no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge."

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

This is what we learn every time we experience flow.

The Flow Channel Foundation is named for the core principle in Mike’s flow framework: The idea that there is a zone of experience in which our cognition, motivation, and emotion all work in harmony while we are totally absorbed in a challenging and rewarding process.

When our attention is scattered and our skills not as well-matched with our challenges—or we think the challenge is either too high or too low—we experience other subjective states reflected in various versions of the Flow Channel Model. Too often, we land in the channel where anxiety or boredom rule. The second model below represents the version of Mike’s thinking reflected in the award-winning serious game FLIGBY (Flow is Good Business) he helped develop with ALEAS Simulations. The seeming “effortlessness” of flow happens after cycles of intense effort at mastering something. To keep experiencing flow, we have to stay curious, keep learning, and keep elevating both our skills and challenges.

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Mike authored and co-authored hundreds of books and academic papers over his lifetime but was always focused on the future and how to help each new generation make his ideas practically useful. Early in the 21st century, he co-founded the field of Positive Psychology with Martin Seligman and the Quality of Life Research Center at Claremont Graduate University. For another couple of decades, Mike travelled throughout the world as a speaker and consultant helping organizations and schools create environments for authentic human flourishing. Until he passed away in 2021, he remained one of the most generous of all mentors, as well as a man who lived what he taught as a husband, father and grandfather. Learn more about The Father of Flow at the links below. Join us in the Fellowship of the Future Mike envisioned as the ultimate purpose behind his work. 

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Bio: Mike and his Co-Founders

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi—Mike—was named one of the most influential living psychologists ( and recipient of Brain Channel’s Thinker of the Year Award. More

Passings: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the ‘Father of Flow,’ 1934-2021

BACK IN THE 1950s, when Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was 16 and traveling in Switzerland (but with no money to enjoy skiing or even go to a movie), he heard about a free lecture in Zurich. The lecture was on the topic of flying saucers. More

Positive Psychology: An Introduction

A science of positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions promises to improve quality of life and prevent the pathologies that arise when life is barren and meaningless. More

Flow, The Secret to Happiness

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi asks, "What makes a life worth living?" Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of "flow." 2004 TED talk

A Climber We Lost

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, best known for his research and findings in the state of consciousness he called “flow.” He considered rock climbing a perfect conduit for experiencing flow, and was a climber himself. More

Isabella Maria Csikszentmihalyi, née Selega, passed away at her home of 23 years in Claremont, CA on June 8, 2023. She was born in Poland, daughter of a schoolteacher, but after their home was burned down by Nazis, the family was taken to Dachau and forced labor camps in Germany. More

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