Go With The Flow

*Image sourced from Oh, Pioneer!

Me and one of my loveliest lovelies, Jen, were lucky enough to attend a preview screening of Roko Belic’s The Happy Movie, a documentary explores the science of happiness, and includes a whole lot of positive psychology and neurology.

This was a fascinating and, as you’d probably expect, heart-warming film which goes into the pursuit of happiness to unlock and share the secrets and principles of happiness.  Call me naive, but who doesn’t want that, right?  Right On!  Here’s the trailer and I recommend it thoroughly if you get the chance to see it….

And here is a great article outlining the key principles of happiness from the film too (via Sylvia Somerville, Suite 101).

The film was choc-a-block full of great ideas that can help us mindfully create a happier life and included interviews with a number of influential experts,  including Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of “Flow”.

It is this concept of Flow that has really captured my attention and I intend to do a whole lot more of it and harness it’s magic in 2012.  It is the state of being fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.  It’s often referred to as being in “The Zone” .  The emotions that go with it are a “feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task”, being completely involved in what you are doing, having inner clarity (knowing what needs to be done), timelessness (hours slip by) and a sense of serenity with no worries about oneself.

Csikszentmihalyi himself describes it as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it”.  Check – I get this often and it feels like absolute bliss.  And the best bit about Flow is that you can get it doing just about anything- reminds me a bit of the old VB ad “you could get it gardening, you could get it swimming, you could get it milking a cow… matter of fact I’ve got it now” (ps I don’t really get it milking a cow, but whatever floats your boat, hey!).  Although, it rarely happens during passive activity and  is most likely to occur when one is wholeheartedly performing a task or activity.

With thanks to the many contributors to Wikipedia, as they have explored Mr Csikszentmihalyi’s concept further and presented it in bite sized chunks for our reading pleasure.  Accordingly, it is noted that Flow is not a forced state, but rather one that “just happens” (a bit like magic, I guess) and that it best achieved when a number of conditions are available, being:  1) Undertaking an activity with clear goals and direction; 2) The right amount of capability of the individual in undertaking the task at hand; and 3) The need for clear and  immediate feedback allowing the individual to adjust where needed.

I’d add a few of my own conditions, noting that these might just apply for me, and that is 4) the more focus on the task and the less interruptions in undertaking the task the better; 5) allowing for a degree of play, fun, collaboration and experimentation (the journey of the task is what keeps my flow alive); and 6) appreciating that within chaos is the key to order and sometimes by throwing it all up in the air, provides clarity and allows an idea to consolidate with greater zing and ease.

Csikszentmihalyi also claims that individuals who have an “autotelic personality” have a greater propensity for achieving Flow.    These personality traits include “curiosity, persistence, low self-centeredness, and a high rate of performing activities for intrinsic reasons only”.  Sounds very much like our old mate Maslow’s concept of Self-Actualisation – love it when these principles work together.

If you still want more:  Here’s a 2004 Ted Talk by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the topic

And here’s a link to his book at Book Depository:

I for one think 2012 is asking for some real Flow and as Joseph Cambell puts it:, it seems like the right time to  “Follow Your Bliss”

2 responses

  1. Such a good way to start the New Year, Meg. No one is happier than I am that the concept of ‘new year’s resolutions’ seems to have been pushed aside by the idea of choosing a word or theme for the year. It sets a body up for much more of an aspirational journey than a continuous test. You’ve got me thinking about the kinds of activities in which I have experienced flow.
    A coincidence that you mention Joseph Campbell! I am currently reading the Power of Myth. I also like his quote “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” which, I guess, brings us back to the idea of flow when being absorbed in the activity obliterates everything else.
    Much happiness for 2012!

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