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Finding Flow

Last week I commented to a friend that I was feeling guilty about not posting another blog submittal. She looked at me and laughed, saying “You’re the ‘Happiness Goddess’! Don’t you know you should only create from a space of feeling good?” I shook my head and laughed because, of course, she was right.

I’ve learned that when I’m inspired, the words stream onto the paper without effort. When I struggle, it is sluggish at best. When I feel forced, either by my own internal prompting or by someone else, my energy drags and it is difficult to complete the assigned task. Have you noticed that in yourself?

For example, I’m back at work as a contractor with the same company I was laid off from a little over a year ago. When I was laid off, I was reporting to a boss who had a management style that was very different from how I like to work. We didn’t get along well, even though I did my darndest to FLIP my attitude about him and the job. My work and my health suffered. But when I was able to quiet my mind and really check in to what I wanted, I knew it wasn’t the right place for me. Something else was calling to me.

Now, after a year of part-time work, I’m back, doing almost the same job I was doing before — but for a different boss. That interim period allowed for a lot of personal reflection, and time to instill some great meditation and exercise practices. As I work now, I am very conscious of appreciating the people I work with and it is reflected in their responses to me. I’m really enjoying what I do. I’m finding it challenging and I’m up to the challenge. Part of this new-found feeling is the people I’m working for but mostly, it’s my attitude and consciousness in the present moment: How am I feeling right now? Do I need to take a break? How am I holding my body? Why am I putting off this task? Can I change my attitude about it before I do it? How will I feel when it’s done? These kinds of questions, allow me to be present in the moment and conscious of how I’m feeling about my work. In each moment, I can shift my attitude about any task. When my attitude and my work are in alignment, they “flow.”

As a contractor, I have to log my hours weekly and last week I noticed I was putting in many more hours than I thought I was. Now, I get involved in a task and the time flies by. This syndrome, i.e. a state of intense absorption and involvement with the present moment was termed ‘flow’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Csíkszentmihályi has been researching the creative process since the 1960’s. He describes flow as:

“Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mihaly_Csikszentmihalyi )

I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing, either at work or during some physical activity. In fact, it is often called being in ‘the zone’ by athletes. Sonja Lyubomirsky, who wrote The How of Happiness, identifies ‘flow’ as one of the twelve strategies for increasing happiness. She says if we learn to control our attention, adopt new values and learn what ‘flows’ in our life, we can increase our level of happiness. Here is a short excerpt from her book on how to increase ‘flow’ experiences in your life. Increasing Flow. Also, check out Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s T.E.D. talk on ‘flow’. http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow.html

Thanks for reading . And just so you know, I wrote this blog when I was happily inspired and the words just streamed onto the paper. I’ll leave you with an appropriate quote from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

“It does not seem to be true that work necessarily needs to be unpleasant. It may always have to be hard, or at least harder than doing nothing at all. But there is ample evidence that work can be enjoyable, and that indeed, it is often the most enjoyable part of life”.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 1990

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