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How You Can Experience Your Best Moments at Work or in Leisure

By Angelica Ribeiro

Have you ever lost track of time at work or in leisure? If so, you were in flow, a feeling you should often experience. Let me explain.

In his book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi shares that “the best moments in [your life] are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable […]. 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.” You can experience these best moments when you are in flow. According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

You reach flow when you are doing an activity in which the level of challenge matches the level of skill. As a result, you really enjoy what you are doing. To better understand flow, imagine two lines: the y-axis represents the challenge level, and the x-axis represents the skill level. If your challenge is high and your skill is low, you will experience anxiety because the activity is too difficult for you to perform. If your challenge is low and your skill is high, you will feel bored because the activity isn’t engaging. In other words, the task is very easy for you, and you don’t need to devote much attention to it. To experience flow, your challenge level and your skill level are high.

It’s important to mention that not everybody experiences the same flow activities because people have different skills and perceive challenges differently. For example, writing this blog or an academic paper produces flow for me but not for my brother Ricardo. That’s because my skills match the challenge level of writing. On the other hand, playing the piano doesn’t produce flow for me, but it does for him. To me, the challenge level involved in that activity is a lot higher than my skill level. Therefore, while writing brings me more enjoyable moments in my life, playing the piano brings my brother more enjoyable moments in his life.

As Csikszentmihalyi points out in Flow, when your challenges and skills are both high, you are more creative, cheerful, and active. Also, you concentrate more and feel happier, stronger, and more satisfied. Bottom line: You can experience your best moments at work or in leisure by engaging in flow activities.

Angelica RibeiroAngelica Ribeiro is a professor and the author of How to Create Happiness at Work: Seven Evidence-Based Strategies to Enjoy Your Day, Running into Happiness and My Happiness Habit Journal. When Angelica was a PhD student, she found that her academic commitments were throwing off her work-life balance. That experience led her to go through a determined journey to increase happiness in her life. Her happiness journey was so successful that, as she completed the PhD coursework and dissertation, she wrote and published her book and journal to share her experience with others and inspire them to bring more happy feelings into their lives. Visit