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”

Shared Inspiration #4: Life Lessons Gleaned from Jane Austen

Most will agree Jane Austen is a rockstar.  Her books are hilariously funny, easy to relate to and choc-full of character and wisdom to guide you along your path.

I came across a post (via @GuyKawasaki) by the Huffington Post’s literary critic and Austen aficionado, Bill Deresiewicz which  provides a snapshot into his new book titled A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter. 

This post offers 12 very funny, if not brutal life lessons gleaned from Jane Austen.  Here goes:

  1. You aren’t nearly as special as you think (from “Emma”):  You may walk around like the heroine of your very own novel, but you’re no better than any of the minor characters. You know — those dull, ordinary, conventional people you’re forced to be surrounded by.  Take a good look at them: that’s you.
  2. Gossip is the highest form of wisdom (from “Emma”): The most important things in life are the small, trivial, everyday events, the little moments of feeling, that people like to gab about. That’s what the fabric of our years really consists of. That is what life is truly about.
  3. Humiliation is the fastest way of growing up (from “Pride and Prejudice”):  You’re not as wonderful as your mama told you, and the way to grow up is to realize that. Growing up, in other words, means making mistakes. Only it’s not enough to make mistakes: you have to feel them. Those moments of excruciating shame when you really screw up? Cherish them.
  4. Your feelings are not necessarily right (from “Pride and Prejudice”):  Feelings are always about something, and that “something” is not itself a feeling. It’s an idea, a perception of a situation. And because ideas can be wrong, the feelings that are based on them can also be wrong. So relax a little bit.
  5. Don’t believe everything you think (from “Northanger Abbey”): We do not come to things with open minds, we come with all the ideas we’ve already acquired, and we can’t wait to project them onto everything we encounter. Instead of discovering the truth, we end up with a very elaborate theory that bears no relationship to what’s actually going on in front of us.
  6. Keeping your eyes open is the best way of staying young (from “Northanger Abbey”): Forget Botox. Staying young means continuing to be open to the possibility that life can take you by surprise. Curiosity is the true source of joy. If you think you’ve already seen it all, you have.
  7. Too much money makes you miserable (from “Mansfield Park”): Being able to get whatever you want makes you awfully unhappy when you can’t get what you want. And if everything is easy, then nothing really matters. The only people who can feel are those who have a sense of what it means to do without.
  8. Listening to people’s stories is the nicest thing you can do for them (from “Mansfield Park”): A person’s story is the most personal thing about them, and paying attention to it is just about the most important thing you can do. Our stories are what make us human, and listening to someone else’s stories — entering into their feelings, validating their experiences — is the highest way of acknowledging their humanity.
  9. Friends tell friends when they’re screwing up (from “Persuasion”): The true friend wants you to be happy, but being happy and feeling good about yourself are not the same thing. Being happy means becoming a better person, and becoming a better person means having your mistakes pointed out to you in a way you can’t ignore.
  10. Men and women can be friends, because the sex thing doesn’t always get in the way. (from “Persuasion”): Harry and Sally were wrong. Men and women can talk to each other, sympathize with each other, even share their intimate thoughts and feelings with each other, without having to be attracted to each other. Men and women can be equals, so men and women can be friends.
  11. Love is never at first sight (from “Sense and Sensibility”): Lust at first sight, a whole train of fantasies and projections at first sight –sure. But to love someone, you have to get to know their character, not just their body, and that takes time. True love sneaks up on you. You never see it coming until it’s already there.
  12. Arguing is the best thing about being married (from “Sense and Sensibility”): If your spouse is already just like you, then neither one of you has anywhere to go. A friction-free relationship would be a desert. Conflict is good; disagreements are good; even fights can be good. Committing yourself to someone doesn’t have to limit your growth: it can be the door to perpetual growth.
I’m adding a 13th that I reckon Bill may have overlooked:  
13.  There is no Mr Right: No one is perfect, everyone’s got something which
will annoy the living daylights out of someone else.  Mind you, if Mr Right Now comes in the form of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, my advice is to settle – it’s pretty much as good as it gets.
Mmmmmm Mr Darcy – caio for now, I’m off to watch P&P on DVD.


You can read Bill’s full post here.  If this is anything to go by his book is a must. Can’t wait to read it.


Shared Inspiration #3: “Ignorance”

To me the largest and most damaging risk facing any activity is ignorance. When you don’t know what you don’t know there is rich ground for poor decisions, human error and missteps“.

Craig Tomler, I hear you….

Still sometimes it’s hard to know what you don’t know, if you know what I mean 😀

Here’s Craig’s post from today regarding Ignorance in Social Media.  Oi there’s endless material here….  (via @Twillyon)