Don’t you just love when you are in the flow? It’s like everything you do just works, you feel connected, focused, content. Well I’ve always thought saying that you are “in the flow” or “in the zone” was a way of phrasing a sense of how you are feeling. I did not realize that it was actually a state of being that had been studied. As it turns out the study of “flow” has been around for decades.
In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990), Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi shares years of his research on the subject. He defines flow as, “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” He also identifies the elements that are necessary for “flow” as being clear goals, immediate feedback, balance between challenge and skills, action and awareness are merged, distractions are excluded from consciousness, there is no worry of failure, self-consciousness disappears, sense of time becomes distorted, the activity becomes an end in itself.
Daniel Pink, comments on Czikszentmihalyi’s work in his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2011) when he writes:
“Most important, in flow, the relationship between what a person had to do and what he could do was perfect. The challenge wasn’t too easy. Nor was it too difficult. It was a notch or two beyond his current abilities, which stretched the body and mind in a way that made the effort itself the most delicious reward”
So why do we want to be in flow? Well anyone who has experienced “flow” knows that it feels good, but also the frequency of time spent in flow is a very strong predictor of happiness. Flow is something that we can actually control. We can consciously choose to increase our experiences of flow. In order to do that we need to be aware of what actually puts us in this state. Then intentionally increase the frequency at which we do those things.
Think about it, what are the things that you do that give you that flow feeling? Is it a sport, something that you do in your work, playing with your kids, walking in nature, dancing? Whatever it may be, make a commitment to do it, if even just one time this week.
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