a basketball player stands out of focus in front of a cheering crowd

Want to experience creative flow? Here’s how to change your perspective.

Writers, athletes, gamers—they’re all hoping to experience “the zone” where hard work comes easily and the most satisfying results are flowing.

That often mythical goal is the subject of a study by David Melnikoff, a Northeastern visiting research scholar in psychology, who has assembled a formula that can help people establish a sense of flow and achieve goals of all kinds.

“‘Flow is the feeling of being completely immersed and engaged in what you’re doing,” Melnikoff says. “The goal of the research is to take this coveted but hard-to-harness experience and make it easier for people to cultivate in their own lives by grounding it in a mathematical formula.”

Melnikoff’s simple formula, I(M;E), was tested in five experiments that covered a variety of activities. It revolves around three variables. The means (M) are the action you take. The ends (E) are the result. The mutual information (I) defines the relationship between the means and the ends.

Your approach is crucial. The more you know about the action (how jogging helps you lose weight, for example) the more likely you are to achieve the sense of flow and fulfill your goal (of losing weight, in this case), according to Melnikoff.


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Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

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