Optimal Living and the “Flow” Experience

Optimal Living and the “Flow” Experience

Dec 10, 2010

Think about the people closest to you.  Would you say that they are deeply enjoying every aspect of their lives?  Would you qualify their experience as optimal, their lives as exceptional?

Now, let’s make this a little more personal.  What about you?  Are you happy?  Do you find joy in the little things as well as the large?  Does your every thought, word and action bless and enhance the world around you?  Do you feel challenged and inspired by every area of your life and under some pressure to constantly upgrade your skills?

If you feel there is room for improvement, I highly recommend a thought-provoking book by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” (available at Amazon http://tinyurl.com/yalhw8x).  Mr. Csikszentmihalyi proposes that the “flow” experience, the state of deep enjoyment which leads to growth of the self, can be known regardless of the nature of outer circumstance.

A mentor of mine once shared a pearl of wisdom with me.  He said, “It’s not so much what happens to you, it’s how you handle what happens that matters.” Here is a case in point.  Another friend of mine alerted me via Facebook that her house had burnt to the ground last week.  She was dropping her three children off at school and came back to a pile of smoldering ashes.  A tragic event to be sure, but her attitude was forward-looking, she was deeply thankful for the safety of her children and her words carried a tone of resolve to not just move on, but grow from the experience.

The key to a happy life was not locked in a time capsule in a previous era, in fact, it is available to anyone, here and now. It may require some renovation in the way you’ve looked at your life, those around you and what you do, but true happiness is at hand.  I encourage you to listen to Mr. Csikszentmihalyi speak on the topic, and then finish the post below.

I encourage you to put more and more of your everyday life in the flow channel.  Regretting the past, dreading the future, casting aspersions on the world around you inevitably block the flow in you and through you. Be willing to lose yourself in everything you do today.  Enjoy every morsel of it as you would your favorite cookie or fondest memory.  Refrain from pre-qualifying what you have to do as being “good” or “bad” and instead focus on how you can leave the situation or conversation in better shape than you found it.

“It is not easy to transform ordinary experience into flow, but almost everyone can improve his or her ability to do so” notes Mr. Csikszentmihalyi.  Dare to make the ordinary extraordinary! Look for the opportunities for action, for progress, for growth and development in your life and in your to others and the community at-large.  Note the temporary obstacles, but don’t dwell on them.  Nobody loves a hater.

Be willing to embrace new challenges and take the time to develop the necessary skills.  Find that upper zone Mr. Csikszentmihaly described as “optimal,” not for yourself, but for the rest of humanity!

One comment

  1. operating in “the flow” is a wonderful feeling but what I really like is “not doing it for yourself but for the rest of humanity”….in the growing family of natural health professionals this is what we focus on – helping others. thanks for the post and video – inspiring!

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