Wonder Wednesday

“It is how we choose what we do, and how we approach it, that will determine whether the sum of our days adds up to a formless blur, or to something resembling a work of art.”

– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Happy Wednesday to all of you!

Today’s topic is flow.

What is it? In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book, “Finding Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” he describes flow as a state of consciousness in which one is completely absorbed in an activity, especially, but not limited to, an activity which involves their creative abilities. During this optimal experience one feels strong, alert, in effortless control, self-assured, and at the peak of their abilities.

As an example, maybe you’ve had an experience when you’re completely in he midst of a task or activity and find yourself completely absorbed to the point where you almost forget yourself. You’re acting effortlessly and seamlessly, experiencing a heightened state of awareness in which you are 100% present in the here and now. You lose track of time, of the things going on around you. Some athletes may call this “the zone.” Not surprisingly, this state, aptly coined as “flow” by Mihaly, has been the focus of a lot of recent research in the field of positive psychology.

The key point of Mihaly’s book is that happiness is not at all a fixed state, but one that can be developed by learning how to achieve flow in our own lives. When we’re in a flow state, we are exercising control of our consciousness, rather than letting the external forces of our lives determine our state of mind and being. In other words, happiness comes from within.

He says that the main driver of happiness is determined by where we invest our psychic energy. As we consciously focus on a deliberately chosen goal, our psychic energy literally flows in the direction of said goal, allowing space for harmony within our consciousness.

There are several elements that are involved in the flow state:

  • Clear goals
  • Immediate feedback to actions
  • Balance between challenges and skills
  • Merging between action and awareness
  • Distractions are excluded
  • Lack of worry of failure
  • Disappeared self-consciousness
  • Distorted sense of time
  • Activity becomes an end in itself

As you can tell from the above elements, the essence of flow is the lack of interference of our thinking minds. It falls away and we’re left in a complete state of simultaneously being and doing.

Not only can the flow state benefit our various tasks and creative hobbies, it can also benefit our relationships and situations such as adversities. Mihaly mentions that some people have developed their flow state so extensively that they’re able to translate any perceived threat into an enjoyable challenge, allowing space for an inner tranquility due to a continuous state of mind. He describes this type of person as an “autotelic self,” one who is “never bored, seldom anxious, involved with what goes on and in flow most of the time.”

Another key aspect of flow is that while in it, almost all of the inputs within the brain are focused solely on the activity at hand. This is why we lose track of time, and why we notice the lack of negative thoughts entering or discomfort. It’s pretty easy to see the link between the flow state and mindfulness, something typically achieved through use of yoga or meditation. Mihaly mentions that:

“The similarities between Yoga and flow are extremely strong; in fact it makes sense to think of Yoga as a very thoroughly planned flow activity. Both try to achieve a joyous, self-forgetful involvement through concentration, which in turn is made possible by a discipline of the body.”

Though yoga and meditation can certainly allow us to achieve flow, there are many other activities that open space for us to experience it.

So, my wonder today is:

Have you ever experienced flow? What were you doing? How did you feel during and after? Would you be willing to try to develop this state more fully in your own life?

Let me know in the comments below!

For me, I experience the flow state when I’m painting, reading, and having a quality conversation. I completely lose track of who I am and have entirely merged with the activity at hand. A brilliant liberation of my self.

xo

 

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23 thoughts on “Wonder Wednesday

  1. its really hard to get a chance to experience the flow, life’s distractions are just that and I am terrible at blotting it all out just to allow myself to feel and be. Like the awareness you create here.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. i write this here as a share between you and me though i know others may read this is for you since you feel like i do on a lot of things. it starts with a feeling deep inside me – i may see an object or hear a sound, even a line from a song, something triggers a feeling, and i let the feeling run and overtake me, and then i need to write but as i write i let the feeling simmer and soak, does this make sense?

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      2. Absolutely it makes sense! A beautiful process, truly. Do you ever notice yourself writing almost automatically, as though the thoughts and feelings come out without any effort? I ask because recently you published a post in which you shared a piece that you had written just as you were waking up and hadn’t even looked over spelling or grammar. That experience seems incredibly similar to a flow state. 🙂

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      3. i remember that one, it was like the dream followed me awake, it was almost seamless, from sleep to awake and I always have my laptop next tome, it seemed the natural flow, you are right. and i was surprised later to see that the piece came out really well!

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    1. Thanks, Anne. You’re right, it’s not easy, but it absolutely can be developed! 🙂 I can definitely see how training could influence a flow state – especially because you love it and have the skills for it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. absolutely Kayla. The flow state can happen almost at time. Like when you or paint, etc. It is a state of concentration that forms full engagement. For me, it feels like everything is clicking and moving well. You are on top pf your game.

    The flow state does not happen often for average Joe like me. But it is possible through practice to be better just look at Olympians who can perform on demand. So there is hope.

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    1. Thanks, Terry! Perfect description of the flow state. There is always hope. It’s definitely something that can be developed with practice. I wonder, do you experience it while running? So engaged in the act of it that it become effortless?

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  3. I think I experience flow when I write about something that I really like…or when I write notes about future plans and goals and my action plans… I also experience flow when I color and when I listen to the songs of my favorite artists and focus on the message and the melody (not sure if this last one counts! 😊)

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes, most of the time I find my thoughts all over the place as well. I wonder if you have any hobbies that you enjoy and are also skillful at?

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      1. I like to color and journal! But I usually have the TV on in the background or music while I color/write. Maybe next time I’ll try with some peace and quiet to see if I get lost in the moment. 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I like making cards and handmade silver jewelries. I start working on them without a plan and I am amazed of the results. It is living the present, it is doing what I am happy, as I feel, guided by the intuition only. Thank you for another wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am in this state when I write sometimes, not always and when I’m not it’s not good. In nature walking, I can go for miles without realising just connecting with nature and driving, which I think is probably not such a good flow state!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes! I can definitely relate to walking forever in nature without realizing how far I’ve gone. 🙂 it’s interesting that you mention that you are in the flow state when you write sometimes but when you’re not, it’s not as good. That makes a lot of sense! Sometimes our conscious effort can complicate things in a way that it becomes muddled and sort of lacking in original quality.

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