Teaching has always been one area of my life where it has been easiest to achieve flow. What is flow? According to Mihaly Csikszentmichalyi, flow is described as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Below is a chart that describes the characteristics of flow:
He correlates the state of flow to the closest representation of true happiness. Of course, we can’t always be in a state of flow or we would be ignoring too many other important people or events in our lives.
Now that it is summer and I’ve had a chance to catch my breath from the exhilaration of flow in the classroom, it has become apparent where an attempt towards flow is needed- my personal life. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not experiencing any type of crisis or doubt about my lot in life. But I am looking for flow as it relates to finally integrating my mental and physical health. I purposely said that I’m looking at an “attempt at flow” because the true state results in superior outcomes beyond simply benefitting from routine activities. Still, flow is a state of being that is worthy of emulating as much as we are able with the belief that it will increase happiness around us.
So, how am I finding flow?
I’ve been consistently jogging at the local high school track since December and working on other strength building exercises. My goal is not to run a marathon or even achieve a certain weight. My goal is to aim for flow. The health benefits are beginning to show and while I’m running my mind is able to cut through idea overload and either focus on how grateful I am that I can run, the rhythm of my breath or the narrowing of an idea into some sort of action.
Thanks to @Timneedles I have rediscovered the benefits of creating something every day. This month he started The Everyday Renaissance Project which you can find out about here. At first I really wanted to create something super artistic and that was worthy of critique. Then I realized that I was wholly out of my league after so many years of appreciating the arts but not truly creating anything. After talking with my artistic sister, I realized that this challenge wasn’t really about being recognized as an artist as much as it was about seeing what happens when you devote 15-30 minutes a day to a creative endeavor. It has been an extremely rewarding experience. Most of all, I enjoy seeing the creations of others, and personally, the act of creating frees my mind so that my hands, ears, and eyes can take me to places I would never go if I hadn’t devoted time to it.
I look forward to continuing my pursuit of flow. It seems to be leading to a truer state of happiness. If you would like to hear from the expert himself, then have a look at Mihaly’s Ted Talk.