An interesting selection from Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.
For Csikszentmihalyi, the signature experience of experts is flow, a state of complete concentration “that leads to a feeling of spontaneity.” Flow is performing at high levels of challenge and yet feeling “effortless,” like “you don’t have to think about it, you’re just doing it.”
For example, an orchestra conductor told Csikszentmihalyi:
You’re in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist. … My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching in a state of awe and wonderment. And [the music] just flows out by itself.
And a competitive figure skater gave this description of the flow state:
It was just one of those programs that clicked. I mean everything went right, everything felt good. …it’s just such a rush, like you could feel it go on and on and on, like you don’t want it to stop because it’s going so well. It’s almost as though you don’t have to think, everything goes automatically without thinking.
Csikszentmihalyi has gathered similar first-person accounts from hundreds of experts. In every field studies, optimal experience is describes in similar terms.