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The work that doesn’t feel work: what is “flow” and why you should look for it

One of the most clichéd piece of advice jobseekers get is to “do what you love”. This is of course not particularly easy when your options are limited, however, there is a deeper layer of truth why passion for the work you do is so vital to your success.

The ‘flow’


According to Prof. Csíkszentmihályi‘s best-seller ‘Flow’ book,  your anxiety level and job satisfaction can be best placed in a grid: one axis shows the ‘challenges’ while the other points you to the ‘skills’ (ie existing skillset).


Simply put: if you have highly developed skills, for instance you are an excellent tennis player or you are fluent in Spanish and you need to teach schoolkids for these subjects, the challenge level is likely low. You thereare are likely to be bored or, in better case, relaxed about the task.


If you are nevertheless challenged because you need to train these kids for a regional competition, it is a sufficiently challenging task that you can feel in control. On the other hand, if you need to train them for the Olympic games, you yourself may lack the necessary skillset yet the challenge level has radically increased, so become worried or even anxious.

Where is the best place to be?


In light of this, the best place to be is when your skillset and the challenge level are so much in harmony (that is, the challenge is at the top edge of your skills but it does not surpass it). This is the key: you are using the full potential of your skills to fulfil a task that is demanding but possible.


Another important element is that this ‘flow’, a full immersion into a greatly enjoyable task, does not necessarily relate to every aspect of your work: the goal is that majority of the things you do in your job falls into the ‘flow’ category.


Dream job

The first step, therefore, is to clarify which skills do you master or which ones should you improve on or learn? Creative writing, painting, sports, computer programming, online marketing? Then look for a sufficient level of challenge…and bingo, you found your dream job 🙂




Csikszentmihali - Flow - Work that doesn't feel work

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