Find your flow to experience happiness.
HOW ENJOYABLE ARE YOUR CURRENT ACTIVITIES?
How many times have you needed a break from the responsibilities of your life - needed time to just recuperate and relax from stressful events and circumstances only to discover that sitting back on the sofa with the remote control or taking a long hot bubble bath left you bored and no more rejuvenated than when you began?
That is because an essential part of well-being includes what positive psychologist have coined "flow." Flow rarely comes from passive leisure activities. In fact, according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book, Finding Flow, Americans experience flow nearly three times more often when engaging in hobbies and nearly four times more often when engaging in sports and games with others than they do watching television, yet most Americans spend three more times of their personal free time watching T.V.
WHY ARE WE NOT LIVING LIVES OF ENGAGEMENT?
Why do we actively chose to spend more of our time engaged in something that leads to lower levels of well-being and satisfaction?
The answer is simple. Flow requires an initial effort. The effort may be directing one's attention, overcoming fatigue, moving to a new environment or simply conquering old habits. When one lacks the discipline or desire to overcome such initial obstacles, settling for a more accessible, albeit less fulfilling activity, is easy to do. We simply fail to consciously realize that the initial effort is an investment, an investment with gratifying dividends.
THE ANATOMY OF FLOW
Flow occurs when you are engaged in a constructive activity which:
- You enjoy,
- You have the skill set or experience to navigate successfully,
- It challenges you slightly or incrementally.
Typically, flow requires an activity with well defined parameters so that the goal and appropriate responses are familiar to the one engaging in the activity.
For example chess and poker create flow states for many players. The player is clear on the end goal of the game as well as the framework in which it is played and the appropriate skills and responses along the way. This creates an opportunity to get lost in what Csikszentmihalyi terms a "self-contained universe" of responses in strategy and skill, creating total engagement. Anxiety and boredom have no place in flow activities.
Nearly any activity can provide flow provided:
- It has a clear, attainable goal,
- It fully engages your knowledge, experience and skill set, often expanding them incrementally,
- It creates focus,
- It provides immediate feedback.
If the activity is too great a challenge, you won't achieve flow because frustration or difficulty will get in the way. If the challenge is too low, such as in passive activities like watching TV or doing a puzzle beneath your capacity, you won't achieve flow either because you won't be fully engaged.
TYPES OF FLOW
Individual hobbies and activities, such as gardening, nature walks, cooking, playing music and completing challenging puzzles and word games can provide good flow, as can working toward a feasible yet challenging goal.
Group hobbies and sports such as playing with an equally skilled tennis partner, joining a softball team or becoming a member of a local craft club also provide excellent opportunities for flow.
Social activities and social connection can be a fantastic opportunity for flow as well. This is because social interactions are both rewarding and slightly challenging. Social connections remain slightly challenging because they require us to regularly adjust our interpersonal skills according to personality, circumstance and environment.
Spending time with others who have similar goals and interests to our own continually challenge us in enjoyable and purposeful ways. So meet regularly with stimulating friends, volunteer for your favorite cause or join a local events club on meetup.com!
HOW TO IDENTIFY ACTIVITIES THAT CREATE FLOW IN YOUR LIFE
A great way to achieve more flow in your life is to self identify and create a flow list of activities you enjoy and are capable of. Simply do more of these more often!
Also be sure to identify those activities which may have at one time provided flow but have become too tedious too disruptive or too emotionally charged to now provide enjoyment for enjoyment's sake. For example, if you used to enjoy a weekly poker game but find you are increasingly more competitive and smile less, realize that this activity no longer contributes to your flow list.
Many people are not aware of what brings them flow. People who have focused on tasks and obligations, for example, have rarely made time to discover or engage in flow activities.
In this case, try experimenting and logging what gives you pleasure - Have you always considered gardening? Try it! If you enjoy it, note what you enjoy and experiment with similar activities.
Experiment at work as well. See where you can use your signature strengths more in your job tasks and job related organizations, so that you can be more energized by your career.
Not sure what your signature strengths actually are? Talk to me about taking my Strengths Finder 2.0 Assessment. I provide this assessment to all my Clients who may benefit from it, with constructive and favorable results.
Need personalized assistance in increasing your levels of life satisfaction and life balance? Make an appointment with a Life Coach today!