Cover of Flow by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi

For decades, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied what makes an experience genuinely satisfying. He calls it 'flow' - a state of concentration so focused that you lose all sense of time and end up with a feeling of happiness, even exhilaration.

Malcolm discovered this book at university in the 80s and it taught him that every thing you do potentially can be made into a flow experience, that even something boring like washing the dishes can become a wonderful experience, something which gives you energy and joy, when done in this way.

One common example for Malcolm is riding a bike off road. While he's riding, if he's distracted and thinking about other things, his performance on the bike isn’t so good, he's more likely to have an injury and or even fall off. He doesn’t particularly enjoy the experience or how he feels afterwards.

However, if he enters it with the deliberate intention of flow, then he sets himself two challenges, one physical, one mental, to get some fun out of doing it. He focuses on the way in which he rides, and he sets small challenges to see if he can do them — like trying to ride through a particular gap, choosing a specific route so his brain is having to work flat out to do it successfully.

It doesn’t matter how good you are at riding, it’s how good you are at matching your abilities to the challenge so that it's challenging enough to absorb your concentration without being so difficult that you fail. When you're that focused, you’re completely lost in the moment and time goes away.

At the end of a flow experience, you snap back to reality and there’s a sense of exhilaration.

What we love about this book is that it makes you feel empowered without having to massively change your life. You can do all the same things you were before, but by setting yourself a challenge you can make those things compelling and enjoyable. 

We take a flow approach to the teaching that we do. When we teach firemaking or navigation, we work to create challenges that are difficult enough to engage them completely without being so difficult that they discourage them. Guests tell us that the hours fly by and the look of pure joy on their faces when they've mastered a new skill is one of the biggest reasons we do what we do.