Training of trainers – NFL and interactive methods in Youth work – ACHIEVE

Lesson 13 – Learning flow – text

text lesson

Flow (psychology) – In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, 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. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. Named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields, though has existed for thousands of years under other guises, notably in some Eastern religions. Achieving flow is often referred to as being in the zone.



Cziksentmihalyi defines flow as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” (Cskikszentmihalyi, 1990, p.4) He identifies a number of different elements involved in achieving flow:

There are clear goals every step of the way.

  • There is immediate feedback to one’s actions.
  • There is a balance between challenges and skills.
  • Action and awareness are merged.
  • Distractions are excluded from consciousness.
  • There is no worry of failure.
  • Self-consciousness disappears.
  • The sense of time becomes distorted.
  • The activity becomes an end in itself.

As the above qualities indicate, the flow-like state is not primarily characterized by subjective feelings, even positive ones. Rather, the essence of flow is the removal of the interference of the thinking mind. When Michael Jordan is “in the zone” and making that behind-the-back pass, he is not consciously thinking “how can I pass the ball,” and if he did, he would interrupt his flow-like state and probably throw the ball into the stands. Absorption in a task indicates the absence of the self, and a merging of your awareness into the activity you are engaged in. As positive psychologist Martin Seligman puts it, “Consciousness and emotion are there to correct your trajectory; when what you are doing is seamlessly perfect, you don’t need them (Csikszentmihalyi, 2002, p. 116).”

From this example and many others, Csikszentmihalyi points to five ways through which one is able to cultivate one’s self into an autotelic person:

  1. Setting goals that have clear and immediate feedback
  2. Becoming immersed in the particular activity
  3. Paying attention to what is happening in the moment
  4. Learning to enjoy immediate experience
  5. Proportioning one’s skills to the challenge at hand

As these criteria indicate, flow is created by activities with a specific set of properties: they are challenging, require skill, have clear and immediate feedback (one knows whether one is doing the activity properly or not), and have well-defined success or failure metrics. Flow is a constant balancing act between anxiety, where the difficulty is too high for the person’s skill, and boredom, where the difficulty is too low.Flow

Thus flow is a dynamic rather than static state, since a properly constructed flow activity leads to increased skill, challenge, and complexity over time. Since one’s skill doesn’t remain static, repeating the same activity would fall into boredom; the flow reward inspires one to face harder challenges. This is why sports are extremely well-designed for producing flow; another popular activity that appears to meet these criteria (and thus explains its wide appeal) is the playing of video games. The only problem, Csikszentmihalyi writes, is that these kind of flow activities can easily become addictive, which ultimately results in a loss of the control of consciousness and thus further unhappiness.


The training program “Training of Trainers” is an educational product that is currently missing in the partner countries – Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania. Due to the early stage of development of the youth sector and youth work in these countries the educational materials aimed at non-formal learning are still limited and insufficient. The lack of adequate educational framework for training of youth workers in the field of formal education leads to inefficient use of the capacity of professionals.

This course fills a gap in the youth sector, namely the need of methodologies for the preparation of trainers, who are able to train youth workers. This course will set the basis for the preparation of teams of trainers of youth workers. The course will serve the goal of development of youth work in the participating countries and other interested parties. A large number of youth workers can be trained according to the methodology at national and international level to use and promote non-formal learning as a tool to enhance the realization of young people in the labor market and increase their social cohesion.

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