What is Flow?

December 16, 2020

Research into Flow examines what is essential in order to create a fulfilling life (Lopez, S., & Snyder, C. , 2009, p. 195). What makes life worth living and brings long term satisfaction? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990) a Positive Psychologist has found that activities that bring about a State of Flow produce sustainable satisfaction and long term happiness.

Flow can often be referred to as being “In the Zone”. A mental state. When you’re in Flow you feel energised, focused and experience the uninhibited, unconstrained joy of an activity to the full. Once you find Flow you discover a renewed drive in pursuit of achieving high quality rewards for your work.

So I ask myself, how can I gain a State of Flow in my teaching practice? As a beginning teacher I’ve only experienced Flow a fleeting number of times. Engaged students, passion for the topic, students enjoying the learning asking questions that inspire further teaching around the learning area. I’ve chased the feeling ever since. 

This is why I’ve created Primary Flow. To share, to inform, to help and to support Early Career Teachers be more successful within their roles. To achieve Flow Schaffer (2013, p.4) suggested the following conditions need to be met:

  1. Knowing what to do

  2. Knowing how to do it

  3. Knowing how well you are doing

  4. Knowing where to go (if navigation is involved)

  5. High perceived challenges

  6. High perceived skills

  7. Freedom from distractions

With increasing expectations and classroom complexities, it feels like Flow is impossible to achieve. Teaching requires hard work, preparation and a thorough understanding of the curriculum content. With that, the first 3 years of teaching are a significant learning phase, emphasising the importance of conditions 1-3, knowing what to do, knowing how to do it and knowing how well you are doing. In learning these areas the following conditions 4-7 will begin to fall into place as we learn to appreciate the skill, challenges and focus that our practice demands. The beauty of teaching is that it’s always changing and we’re always trying to better ourselves. 


Csikszentmihályi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-06-016253-5.

Lopez, S., & Snyder, C. (2009). The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology Second Edn. New York. Oxford University Press, Inc. 

Schaffer, O. (2013). Crafting Fun User Experiences: A Method to Facilitate Flow. Human Factors International Whitepaper. Iowa. Human Factors International, Inc.