Positive subjective experiences have been defined as one of the three problem fields of positive psychology. Typically, they are identified with positive emotions. Flow experience has a more complicated structure including the components of control over one’s actions, the challenges/skills ratio, concentration, clear goals and feedback, that cannot be labeled as purely emotional phenomena.
The 3D model of experiences distinguishes three objective criteria of the optimal. First, all living creatures strive toward the pleasant and away from the unpleasantt. Second, the living creature strives to the success provided by effortful control. Third, human beings strive to make their actions meaningful, in terms of broader contexts and distant consequences of their actions.
Three dimensions of optimality are thus distinguished: pleasure that refers to positive affective balance, meaning that refers to coherence and connectedness with broader contexts/perspective, and effort that refers to controlling the outcomes. Their combination explains why we find an experience specifically rewarding. Eight types of experience, including flow experience, can be logically distinguished in terms of the possible combinations of these three components. Two research methods based on this model provided helpful data for the extension of flow theory.