You are probably wondering what exactly “flow” is. Psychologist Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi defines flow as a state of intense absorption and involvement with the present moment. It’s always hard to stay in the present moment when you are looking forward to an upcoming concert or reliving the past by reminiscing about your college days. The present gets looked over almost all of the time because either you do not want to be in that particular present moment or you are in the present moment and loving it, but it’s going by too fast to even think about it. So now I want to ask you…when was the last time you had a “flow” experience?
“It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were. When we choose a goal and invest ourselves in it to the limits of concentration, whatever we do will be enjoyable. And once we have tasted this joy, we will redouble our efforts to taste it again. This is the way the self grows.” -Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi
Alright, after reading that quote I think we are all on board and want to have as many flow experiences in our lives! Flow is fulfilling and encourages us to keep doing it because it does make us happier. It can almost be described as the experience of riding a rollercoaster; we just get a natural high off of the moment. Since they are generally rewarding, we obviously want them to keep occurring.
As I said in the beginning, it takes focus in order to stay present in our lives. We must constantly apply focused mental disciplines or strenuous physical exertion in order to obtain flow. Although it seems like tough work we are naturally drawn to keep doing it since we get that initial high. Also, the demands keep us working hard as we are striving, growing, learning, and becoming more competent, expert, and complex.
The experience of flow involves us with life, helps us enjoy activities, have a sense of control, and a feeling of self. You are probably wondering how on earth you can start experiencing flow because you want to expand your mind and body to its limits. Here are some suggestions:
- Control Your Attention. In order for you to enter the state of flow you have to be directing all of your energy into the task at hand.
- Maintain New Values. People who are happy often face many hardships of their own, but they use their bodies and minds to help them stay happy. Happy people are open to new and different experiences and they keep learning until they die.
- Experience Flow In Your Conversations. Whether you are talking on the phone or in person try to experience flow by intensely listening and being mindful of your own reactions to what the other person is telling you. Our initial instinct is to respond automatically after someone says something, but instead give them time to expand on their ideas.
STARTING RIGHT NOW (WHY WAIT?), BEGIN TRACKING HOW MANY FLOW EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE IN ONE DAY. WHETHER YOU ARE WORKING, TALKING ON THE PHONE, COOKING A NEW MEAL, OR GOING FOR A JOG AROUND THE PARK, COUNT YOUR FLOW EXPERIENCES AND START INCREASING THE NUMBER DAILY TO DEEPEN THE APPRECIATION OF AWARENESS AND EXPERIENCE.