Celtics game, the psychology of flow

People looking to learn about flow have the right book here.

My beloved  Celtics are about to tip off Game 6 against the Orlando Magic, and the stakes are high indeed.

After storming to a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead, the Celtics, should they lose tonight, could be in line for an unprecedented defeat of epic proportions (For those of us who consider basketball games epic, anyway.).

The difference between the two teams in Games 3 and 5 have been palpable.

Whereas in the third game, the Celtics were playing lockdown defense, passing crisply and moving without the ball in the process of storming to a 23-point rout, in the last game the tables were reversed and the Magic were draining threes, physically dominating the C’s and showing the form that led to their winning 59 games for the second consecutive season.

In each game, the winning team was in the flow.

In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Hungarian psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi explains the elements behind each team’s impressive outing.

Csikszentmihalyi says that flow is when one is fully engaged in the task at hand, when time seems to melt away and complete absorption takes over. This happens more often when one is internally, rather than externally, motivated by whatever one is doing, and when there is an effective balance between one’s skill and the level of challenge.

Examples of flow abound.  For instance, the upcoming World Cup has included renewed interest in the Brazilian goal by Carlos Alberto in the finals against the Italian squad.  While Alberto’s first-time strike put the punctuation point on the match, the setup, in which eight members of the team touched the ball, was even more notable for soccer purists.

Flow is by no means restricted to sporting events, although readers could reasonably be lead to believe this from the contents of this post.  Any source of passion can lead to flow, provided that it includes the necessary elements.

One of the most interesting parts of Csikszentmihalyi’s work is that, while flow cannot be forced, it can be enhanced through disciplined action and clear goals.

The pre-game activities are just about over, so I’m going to hop and check out the game.  I’m optimistic, but not overconfident, that the Celtics will get their flow back and advance once again to the NBA Finals.

We’ll know soon enough.  Whichever teams win, though, I do recommend reading about and applying the principles of flow that Csikszentmihalyi expounds.


2 responses to “Celtics game, the psychology of flow

  1. Jeff –
    This book was recommended to me 8 or 9 years ago by one of the smartest people and one of the best managers I have ever worked for – thank you Rob. It is a fascinating book which is not an easy read but really makes you think. I brought it with on a vacation, but I would not recommend it as a “beach read”. Thanks for reminding me about the ideas of “Flow”.

    • jeffkellylowenstein3

      Amen! Sorry I missed the game on Thursday. It sounded like a thriller.

      Hope all is well with you and your crew.


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