Finding Flow

Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about well-being. 

A quick recap of last week before we continue.

Last week, we turned our attention to the second element of the PERMA model of well-being - Engagement (1). We started by examining the power of our attention. Attention determines what appears in our consciousness. Yet, attention is a limited resource. The nervous system can only process so much information at any given moment. When harnessed with intention, our attention becomes a powerful tool to improve well-being (2).

Engagement, much like positive emotions, is subjective and dynamically impacted by your unique interests, talents, strengths, and skills (3). So, I invited you to consider the question -  “What capture’s your attention?” and explore when you feel engaged. What did you notice? When did you feel engaged? Did your answer(s) surprise you?

This week, I want to dive a bit deeper and find flow!

What is FLOW?

Flow is the optimal state of engagement. Some folks call it being “in the zone”. Flow acutely focuses our attention in the present moment. It comes through deep concentration when attention is freely given to direct action toward a goal. Check this out!

Flow only occurs in highly engaging activities. It happens when your skills effectively meet the task at hand, and is a delicate balance of skill and challenge between boredom and anxiety. Further, it is only possible to achieve a state of flow when you believe your goal is attainable. It requires a feedback loop that says you are on the right track. 

In Flow.png

Flow feels effortless in the moment, yet it is far from effortless. It arises from total concentration and ordered consciousness. This requires the attentional application of skills towards an intentional goal (2). 

Flow is frequently associated with a loss of the sense of time (2). During periods of flow, thought and feeling are typically absent (2). Yet, in its wake, flow leaves an invigorated feeling of enjoyment and satisfaction from working at full capacity. 

Flow can beneficial for our well-being not just because it produces positive emotions in hindsight, but because it promotes personal growth, the development of skills, and persistence with challenging tasks (3). That said, flow is not inherently good or bad. Some folks may find flow while doing activities that are destructive or addictive. For instance, flow can explain part of why it is difficult to stop playing a video game or gambling. So, intention is key to finding flow that promotes personal well-being.

Attention and goal-directed action are key ingredients to creating the optimal experience of flow. You can increase flow with increased clarity of goals, feedback, concentration and ideal levels of challenge. 

This week, I invite you to explore the activities that give you a sense of flow. 

Ask Yourself: 

  • When does time stop for you? 
  • When are you fully engrossed in an activity?
  • When do you lose self-consciousness or feel completely absorbed in what you are doing?

Take five to ten minutes to sit in a quiet place and consider when you find flow. Use your discoveries from last week on what captures your attention. Once again, listen carefully to yourself as the answer may not be what you expect! 

Then, see if you can find flow.

Remember, a flow activity provides a challenge you can meet. Flow happens with activities you want to do, feel absorbed in, and don’t feel self-conscious doing. Time may pass more quickly or slowly than you expect. Clear goals and immediate feedback are important for flow. So, try setting a SMART goal [Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant, and Time Bound] with an activity you enjoy to increase your chances of finding flow.

Engage, Play, and Enjoy! I hope you have fun finding flow this week. I look forward to seeing you next Monday as continue to explore engagement!

As always, gratitude for the expertise of the following resources.

References

1. Seligman M. Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and wellbeing. New York: Free Press; 2011. 

2. Csikszentmihalyi M. The anatomy of consciousness. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience (pp. 23-42). New York: Harper Perennial; 1990.

3. Grenville-Cleave B. Introducing positive psychology: A practical guide. Icon Books Ltd; 2012.