Iniesta felt it. Donovan felt it.

No sound. No hurry. No doubt.

The concept of Flow, publicized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (do you think he ever gets tired of spelling his name on the phone?) refers to altered state of being that happens when we are in tune with our labors. I wrote about it in my post on Landon’s goal that sent the U.S. to the top of their group. Wikipedia is still the best recap I can find online. There’s a link for the book the book Flow in Sports co-authored by Csikszentmihalyi and Susan Jackson but it’s stingy with the concepts in the book. I’m bringing up again because if the interview Andrés Iniesta gave to El Periódico the other day, where he describes a flow experience scoring the goal that wins the World Cup:

Solo la controla un poco y me la da perfecta. Rasa y bien. Cuando yo la controlo, noto el silencio en el estadio. Sí, parece extraño. Pero lo percibí. ¿Es posible oír el silencio con casi 100.000 personas? Sí, yo lo oí. Parecía que se paraba todo el mundo, como si se hubiera quedado congelado. Al hacer el control, se me quedó botando y perfecta para tirar y yo ya sabía que iba a entrar. ¿Por qué? No sé explicarlo, pero lo sabía. Espero que baje un poco para pillarla bien y chuto. Mientras está botando sé que la voy a tirar cruzada. Lo sé, es complicado de entender. Pero, en ese momento, ya sabía que sería gol, a pesar de que Van der Vaart se tiró al suelo para intentar evitarlo.

Translation courtesy of conlaroja: “(Cesc) controls a little and gives it to me perfectly, smooth and no bounces. When I receive it, I notice the silence in the stadium.  Yes, it seems  strange, but I perceived it.  Is it possible to hear silence with almost 100,000 people ?  I heard it.  It seemed like the entire world had stopped, as if everyone had frozen.  After I controlled the ball, it bounced into a perfect shooting position and I knew that it was going in.  Why?  I don’t know how to explain it, but I knew.  I wait for it to drop lower so I can smash it and I shoot.  While it was bouncing, I knew that I was going to shoot it to the left of the keeper. I know, it’s difficult to understand.  But, in that moment, I knew that it would go in, even though Van der Vaart threw himself on the ground to prevent that from happening.”

Both Donovan and Iniesta talk about time slowing down, events taking place either in  slow-motion or frozen. That fits the (4) distorted sense of time. The silence Iniesta mentions is a manifestation on extreme focus, (2). And both have zero doubt that they will succeed, Donovan saying “You can’t miss from there” and Iniesta with Van der Vaart inches away knows his shot will go in. They are both lost in the act. Nothing else exists got them: not time, opponents, sound, or mental processes like doubt. They aren’t players, they are part of the shot.

Components of flow
Csíkszentmihályi identifies the following ten factors as accompanying an experience of flow:
  1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernible and goals are attainable and align appropriately with one’s skill set and abilities). Moreover, the challenge level and skill level should both be high.
  2. Concentrating, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
  3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
  4. Distorted sense of time, one’s subjective experience of time is altered.
  5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
  6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).
  7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
  8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.
  9. A lack of awareness of bodily needs (to the extent that one can reach a point of great hunger or fatigue without realizing it)
  10. People become absorbed in their activity, and focus of awareness is narrowed down to the activity itself, action awareness merging.
Not all are needed for flow to be experienced.
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2 Responses to Iniesta felt it. Donovan felt it.

  1. Joanna says:

    Beautiful description by Iniesta, no? I think that the closest I have come to this experience is in those moments of partner dancing where the connection and the music are working perfectly. Not the silence part, but just “the knowledge.”

  2. Pingback: Confident but not really sure | Jim's a keeper

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