Happiness is something humankind has been chasing as far as we can collectively remember. Indeed, happiness tends to be the reason for almost everything we do in our lives.’ Too often we allow ourselves to be dragged down to a place where we forget that to be happy is the point – we think to ourselves that whatever I currently have or do should already be making me happy and if it doesn’t, then there is something wrong with me.
We have to stop it.
If happiness is cheese we have to allow ourselves to eat and we have to go where the cheese goes, not just expect it to be delivered to us when we desire and there are several tested ways to keep your cheese and eat it too! Yesterday we talked about taking the time to be happy and that the way we spend our time is vital to our happiness. The right people, the right experiences, the right memories, focusing on the moment and understanding that what makes you happy and how you define what happiness is changes over your lifetime are all methods for ensuring your happiness.
Today we are going to talk about something a little different, though like all subjects in our experience it is tied inextricably to time. The concept is called flow. Psychological researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that flow is the completely focused, single-minded immersion in an activity that produces a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment of the activity (wiki).
An easier way to think about would be to call it being ‘in the zone.’
Flow is further described as encompassing six specific factors: intense and focused concentration on the moment, action and awareness merge, reflective self-conscious (the inner critic) is silence, a sense of personal control over the activity, a distortion in the experience of time and finally the activity itself is intrinsically rewarding to the person committing the action. That means that the activity (a haircut, color, nail job, piano performance, baseball pitching, puzzle solving etc) is the reward: finishing the task and finishing it right are the prize.
While more will come this week on the importance of mindset when it comes to being happy, being in a state of flow is itself a mindset that is highly conducive to growing and maintaining happiness. Being in flow is, as was so eloquently state by martial arts legend Bruce Lee, like being water: it takes the shape of the situation. If you pour water into a cup, it becomes the shape of the cup.
How do you find your flow? The most important is to do something you love to actively do. Passive activities like watching television do not typically induce flow, as active involvement in the activity (the combining of motor and mental processes) is required to get ‘lost’ in said activity. After knowing what you love to do, the next requirements are that your skills be closely matched to the activity. Ideally, the activity would be a higher-than-average challenge and the individual has above-average skills in that activity.
The final piece of the puzzle is the need for immediate feedback: how well are you performing? In order to maintain the state of flow, feedback on performance should be constant and immediate; understanding that you are doing it correctly absolutely matters to establishing flow, otherwise you would spend your time with that self-reflective critic constantly bickering away!
No matter what you love, do it and do it the best that you can. Seek challenges that not just match your skill set, but push you just a little bit further! The higher the challenge and the higher the skill, the higher the payback in flow, and by consequence, happiness.
Want to learn more? Interested in how GCI Murfreesboro strives everyday to provide a happy and productive learning environment? Ready to start a new career, or heck, stop in for a tour of our beautiful new campus?
Drop us a line and let us know! 🙂