Physics and Positive Psychology

Maurice is one of the smartest most interesting people I’ve ever met. People have taken his courses on photonic propagation and come out feeling punch drunk.

I remember telling him once that I was going to be driving from Ottawa to New Brunswick and needed to wake up at 5am the day after I reached Fredericton. At 5 am (my time, not Ontario time) my cell phone rang. He’d gotten himself up and called me.

I told him I wanted to re-acquaint myself with the equations that describe a spring oscillating under a weight. He dropped by my office one day and derived the equations from scratch on my whiteboard. I remember he was tired that day and literally started to fall asleep standing up as he was writing the equations.

Our rapport created an unusual and powerful combination between Physics and Positive Psychology. I decided to leverage that combination one day be telling him about a concept called Flow.

Flow is a term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer in the research of peak of performance and one of the most cited authors in the field of positive psychology.

Csikszentmihalyi describes Flow as; a unified flow from one moment to the next, in which we feel in control of our actions and in which there is little distinction between self and environment, stimulus and response, past, present and future.

I described the defining characteristics of Flow.
Through that dialogue Maurice distilled them down to 7 simple statements, I love the way his mind works.

1. Goal is clear
(outcome is not vague, you’ll know if you achieved it or not, outcome is dichotomous)

2. Challenge is slightly stretch
(Challenge is slightly greater than or equal to your peak skill – calls for your best).

3. Presence of Feedback loop
(You know how you’re doing at all times, allows you to continually course correct.)

4. You are your talents
(Engaged in the exclusive use of your talents)

5. You are fully concentrated on salient factors.
(No distractions, no extraneous inputs, no compromise of performance due to fear or worry.)

6. Time has no meaning
(time either flies or stands still)

7. You approach the upper limit of intrinsic satisfaction.
(You love doing it for the sake of doing it).

This conversation has kept me interested and excited about this concept for over  ten years.

I learned from Maurice that maybe there isn’t a big difference between physics and positive psychology after all.

4 thoughts on “Physics and Positive Psychology

  1. Thanks Omer for starting your blog with Flow. It’s an area where I would like to expand my knowledge. The seven points will be a nice list that I can reference.

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