I’ve been reading this book by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called “The Evolving Self”, which has a really good analysis on how and why people become involved in the activities they do. Mihaly uses a term called “Flow” to describe an ideal state where skills and challenge are in balance and the participant is lost in his or her work, and how achieving this state affects the quality of practicing, training, playing, and working.

From the book:

“All the evidence agrees hat when people in flow act at the peak of their capacity, it both improves subjective well-being and has the potential for socially positive consequences. In each case, flow seems to the be the engine for evolution propelling us to higher levels of complexity. But what happens when people aren’t able to operate at full capacity, when their opportunities are either too daunting for them to experience flow?”

I find this stuff intriguing and totally applicable to training and racing. The author performed studies on productivity relating to how often the participants experienced “flow,” and found that the more interested the participants were in the work, the better their product became. This is a “less is more” perspective, and favors quality work over higher quantities of work.

Wikipedia: Flow

Amazon: The Evolving Self

Wikipedia: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

What does this matter to you? Well, if you are an artist, computer programmer, rock climber, or nordic ski racer, then you are involved in a process where you enjoy exercising your skills to achieve something. The book quantifies skills, difficulty, and gain in a way that helps us understand why we spend so much time doing the things we enjoy, and falls in line with an article I wrote about owning the process of training. What a great read.

Lesson Learned: Fun over boring, quality over quantity.