In considering overcoming the boredom in life which is part of Living More than OK, we can move to more than OK by becoming aware of Flow moments and activities in our lives. Writings and research such as Finding Flow and Beyond Boredom and Anxiety; fully describe the Flow process and importance of it by the author, Dr. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of Positive Psychology and Creativity now at Claremont Graduate University. http://www.brainchannels.com/thinker/mihaly.html
Flow is that experience where you are totally absorbed in what you are doing? It occurs most often when we are doing things we enjoy. One definition of it is , “The state of complete absorption and interest in a task occurring when ability/skill and challenge are high” (LeFevre & Csikszenmihalyi”). Have you ever been involved in a favorite activity and it felt like time stopped and you were able to accomplish more than you imagined you could? You were in a Flow state. Much of Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s research initially was on sports and musicians -- studying their flow states as Flow in seen easily in these activities.
One may think if Flow just happens why study it? I appreciated in Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s books how in his research of the issue his main concern is for people to live living happier and more complete lives. People living more fulfilling lives and moving beyond the mundaneness of boredom is one main reason I started this blog. If being aware of Flow helps people live more fulfilled then a thought that comes to my mind is how can we increase the amount of time we are experiencing flow? Of course we can’t live in complete absorption all of the time. Dr Csikszenmihalyi points out that we can’t be in flow all of the time. If we were we would be like a world of Energizer Bunnies or Flow itself would become boring.
Flow is often found in the activities you really enjoy doing. Next time you are doing your favorite activity, photography, writing, fishing, quilting, or gardening see afterwards if you felt re-energized by the activity. Ask yourself is you felt like time just flew by. Did you feel a deeper sense of concentration? Most likely you were in Flow.
In the studies on Flow, there were common aspects of those who experienced flow. Here are some of the main aspects. One is having Goals. Clear specific concrete goals can help us improve in our lives and enhance our opportunities of flow experiences. The goals are guides often for the activities we enjoy doing and desire to excel in them. Again the example of sports comes to mind. Coaches and athletes often make use of goals in their practice and competition.
Concentration and focus are helpful in attaining flow. I have observed artists at their canvas and they don’t distractingly look around but are absorbed in their work on the canvas. If you watch Sport stars in gymnastics and ice skating you can see intensity in their eyes as they are mentally focusing at the task at hand. Some sports stars will mention in interviews that they are often visualizing their performance in their split seconds before the game or sports activity. We have great power given to us to focus on our tasks if we tap into that power God has given us in our minds.
Importance of having a balance of ability and challenge is another aid to flow. Dr. Mihalyi C. in his research looked at ability levels. Flow occurs when we feel challenged yet we have enough knowledge and ability to have confidence in that we can meet the challenge. If we don’t have the ability to do the activity then frustration occurs which is definitely not a flow experience. We can continue to improve as we grow in our abilities to reach higher levels of expertise on those things we enjoy doing.
Another main aspect I would like to point out is then merging our awareness and action together. With the goals and focus in place we then move into doing the activity. Here we do the activity and we simply enjoy doing it. Mental activity and physical action merge into oneness as we paint, swim, jog, write or sew. Now flow occurs and we don’t overanalyze. What stops the flow is if we start to judge ourselves –“what are others thinking of me?” “Am I doing this right?” Leave the questions for a later reflection time simply do it! For example a swimmer in a race doesn’t have the opportunity mid-race to stop and reflect on his progress. Reflection on performance has its place after the activity but to win the race the swimmer must stay in the flow of the race experience trusting his talents.
By making use of flow activities in our lives we can enjoy our daily life more. We can continue to improve and find delight is our favorite activities. Also since focus and concentration are part of the Flow experience we can build up our ability to focus better in other activities by replicating the power of focus in our flow activity. Other benefit to flow is that we are exercising our mind so our mental facilities are strengthened. As we increase our ability level our ability to reach new challenges grows. This can aid in improvement in creativity as we consider new ways to engage in our favorite activities. The more we make use of flow in life the more we have opportunities to enjoy the life journey we are on.
What are some of your favorite flow activities? Are you learning more about that activity to keep increasing your challenge level? What one new activity would you like to add in your life schedule?