You Can Achieve Happiness in Whatever You Do

What Is Flow?

Have you ever been doing something where hours just seem to fly by and you are so absorbed in what you are doing that all things just go right? You are completely focused and engrossed into the activity that your mind and body seem to function in perfect harmony without effort. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi spent the last 30 years of his life studying this optimal state of consciousness and labeled it as Flow. In Flow, creativity exudes from you and you perform at the peak of your potential. Experiencing Flow is the epitome of happiness; although you don’t really notice it at the time because you’re so engrossed in whatever you’re doing. You are in the present moment; not concerned with the past or worrying about the future.

“Control of consciousness determines the quality of life.”
― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Components for Flow

So how do we achieve this ideal state of being? Before we can understand how to achieve it, we must know what it is comprised of. Mihaly said there are 3 separate components that comprise of Flow. These are; having a clear set of goals and measurable progress to add further clarity in the direction of your set task, the task must be able to give you immediate feedback on how you are doing and there must be a solid balance between the difficulty of the task and your own perceived skills.

There are also seven different conditions that coincide with the three components. You must know, what to do, how to do it, how well you are doing it, knowing where to go, knowing perceived skills, knowing the perceived level of difficulty and a freedom from distraction. The chart below is a great example of how (when combined) the last two conditions interact with each other to create different types of emotional states.

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You can see that when your skills are high and the task is easy, you are more likely to be in a relaxed state. An example of this is watching TV or drinking alcohol. When your skill is low and the task is too difficult for you, you’re in an anxious state because you do not have control and are not up to the task.  This is like taking a test you have not studied for. Flow is most often created when high levels of skill and difficulty are matched together. This is why Flow is more often achieved with masters in their respective fields.

How to achieve Flow or State

Mihaly goes more into depth about how to achieve a flow state in his  . I will give you a couple of simple steps that have helped me get into the “Zone” when I am out socializing with people. I usually start off with setting low expectations for myself. This is important because it gives me confidence to build up to the higher level of challenges later on in the night. I simply tell myself to just go up to a person or group of people and say, “Hi.” I do not expect people to open up to me or even want to talk to me. I am looking to be authentic and self-amused. I am creating my own fun. I even say things like, “Man I am bored. Guys, you should help me loosen up and get into a fun state.” I take constant action, not allowing myself to think if things are going well or not. My mind naturally adapts to people’s reactions by using empathy and reading social cues. I soon pass a threshold of not caring about other people’s reactions and instead I am a source of good emotions because I am more focused on creating my own fun. There are more examples and ways to achieve other types of Flow state.

The Flow state while socializing is different from most other activities because you are interacting with others. When you are in Flow, your ‘ego’ withdraws, making way for the process to happen, uninterrupted. You’re not conscious of inhibitions, negative thought patterns, worries, or bad memories of being rejected. You are doing what you want, when you want (which is valuable). Below is a video of me going more into depth about flow in relation to our “Ego” and an example of how a Flow state can persuade other people to let go of their own egos.

“The most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.”
― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

And you can check out the book here:

Flow- The Psychology of Optimal Experience- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi- 9780061339202- Amazon.com- Books