More share buttons
Share on Pinterest
There are no images.
Share with your friends










Submit

What Makes Life Worth Living?

Finding “Flow” Produces Optimal Results and an Optimal Life

“Imagine that you are skiing down a slope and your full attention is focused on the movements of your body, the position of the skis, the air whistling past your face, and the snow-shrouded trees running by. There is no room in your awareness for conflicts or contradictions; you know that a distracting thought or emotion might get you buried face down in the snow. The run is so perfect that you want it to last forever…”

The picture painted above describes an instance of “flow.” They are the words of  none other than Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the man behind the theory of “flow.”

Have you ever found yourself working on something so intensely that you actually forget what time it is? Have you ever been so immersed in focus that you actually forgot to eat? There are so many things we do in life where time seems to fly by, and we don’t even realize 5 hours have passed. We refer to it all the time…being “in the zone,” or in our case, “CRUSHING IT!”

It’s full immersion in flow, not happiness, that makes life worth living. Sure, we can be happy lounging in the sunshine with a piña colada, or relaxing in bed watching TV, but this kind of happiness depends on external circumstances. We need the beach or the television set, in these cases, to be happy. The happiness that follows flow is of our own making, and it leads to increasing complexity and a greater challenge.

WHERE TO FIND FLOW

Flow happens when 1) you face a clear set of goals that 2) require appropriate responses. Imagine playing a game of chess, for instance. It’s easy to enter flow because chess requires goals and rules that make it possible for the player to act without questioning what should be done, and how. During the entire game, you live in a self-contained universe where everything is black and white. The same thing happens when you play a musical piece, write a computer program, climb a mountain, or perform surgery. In contrast to normal life, these “flow activities” allow a person to focus on goals that are clear and provide immediate feedback.

Flow also happens when there is a perfect balance in challenge and skill. If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can return to the flow state by learning new skills.

How often do people experience flow? If you ask a sample of typical Americans, “Do you ever get involved in something so deeply that nothing else seems to matter and you lose track of time?” roughly one in five will say that this happens to them as much as several times a day, whereas about 15 percent will say that this never happens to them.

A better way to study flow is the Experience Sampling Method (ESM). This method provides a bird’s eye view of a person’s daily activities and experiences. At the signal of a pager or watch, which goes off at random times within each two-hour segment of the day, a person writes down in a booklet where he is, what he is doing, what he is thinking about, and whom he is with, then he rates his state of consciousness on various numerical scales.

“The ESM has found that flow generally occurs when a person is doing his or her favorite activity–gardening, listening to music, bowling, cooking a good meal” says Csikszentmihalyi. “It also occurs when driving, talking to friends, and surprisingly often at work. Very rarely do people report flow in passive leisure activities, such as watching television or relaxing.”

Almost any activity can produce flow if the right ingredients are mixed together, so it is possible to improve the quality of life by making sure that the conditions of flow are a constant part of everyday life.

FLOW AT WORK?

I think it’s safe to say that many people don’t actually “enjoy” their job. Thus, how can they possibly find ways to achieve flow?

Actually, there are many ways to make one’s job produce flow. Turning a dull job into one that satisfies our need for novelty and achievement involves paying close attention to each step involved, and then asking: Is this step necessary? Can it be done better, faster, more efficiently? What additional steps could make my contribution more valuable? If, instead of spending a lot of effort trying to cut corners, you spent the same amount of attention trying to find ways to accomplish more on the job, you would enjoy working-and probably be more successful. It’s all about optimization, baby!

The same type of approach is needed for solving the problem of stress at work. First, establish priorities among your tasks. Successful people often make lists or flowcharts of all the things they have to do, and quickly decide which tasks they can delegate or forget, and which ones they have to tackle personally, and in what order. Successful people live by the 80/20 Rule.

The next step is to match one’s skills with whatever challenges have been identified. There will be tasks we feel incompetent to deal with. Can you learn the skills required in time? Can you get help? Can the task be transformed, or broken into simpler parts? Usually the answer to one of these questions will provide a solution. That transforms a potentially stressful situation into a flow experience.

I bet you’ll take a whole new meaning to the phrase “go with the flow.”

 

skelly

skelly

Biomedical Engineer who earned his degree from The Johns Hopkins University & Columbia University. Named one of Forbes’ Top 30 Under 30 in 2013. Co-Founded America’s first Pure Play healthy vending company in 2003.
skelly
Share on Pinterest
There are no images.
Share with your friends










Submit