Flow vs Deliberate Practice

Flow and Deliberate Practice are rather popular concepts these days. This shouldn’t be surprising, as everyone wants to be fulfilled in their work and play, and many people want to become an expert in some domain. However, proponents of each approach appear to be in conflict a lot of the time. On top of that, some people think they are the same thing! I believe that they are separate but compatible: two aspects of the same consistent model.

What do we mean by “Flow”?

In an email thread among alumni of CFAR’s rationality workshops, one member commented with a few paragraphs to this effect:

What good SNS* looks like is being in a Flow state. A Flow state is a state in which you are intensely pushing yourself, to the limits of your abilities, toward a goal you are intrinsically motivated to pursue, and receiving frequent and immediate feedback on your progress.

*SNS: for a relevant discussion of the Sympathetic Nervous System, see my earlier post on Againstness Training from a few months ago.

I responded with

I do agree that good SNS looks like what’s described here. At the very least, anything that feels “intense” is almost certainly SNS, and this state you describe is clearly good.

However, I don’t believe this is flow. I think the term you’re looking for is deliberate practice. The turbocharging class/concept [taught by CFAR] is basically a framework for turning anything into deliberate practice.

The book cover for Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

A fascinating look into a very fundamental part of the psychology of happiness and life satisfaction.

What this exchange reveals, however, is the ambiguity in the word “flow”. » read the rest of this entry »

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