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Tuesday / July 16.
HomemilastwordThe Last Word: Flow

The Last Word: Flow

A concept called Flow has been gaining momentum in the last couple of years.

It is basically losing yourself in whatever you’re doing – reaching that place where you forget about the outside world and are completely engrossed in what you’re doing, whether that’s working, writing, drawing…testing someone’s eyes, or whatever.

Psychologists refer to Flow as “the mental state of operation in which a person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energised focus, full involvement and success in the process of the activity.”

According to Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the Hungarian psychology professor, who came up with the term, Flow is “completely focused motivation”. It is the place people are most happy.

you will Flow light through life and will be much happier and much more productive as a result

Csíkszentmihályi did a study years ago and discovered, after thousands of interviews, that the common personal experience of “pleasure, interest, and even ecstasy” were derived from activities that “completely matched a person’s skills with the demands of performance”. Participants in the study, including rock climbers, musicians, chess players, and even surgeons, all said when they were in a state of Flow; they reported a greater pleasure and interest in these tasks.

The concept of ‘Flow’ is the same as being ‘in the groove’ (circa 1930’s) derived from swing music, by musicians and devotees. Other colloquial terms for this mental state include; being ‘on the ball’, ‘in the zone’, or keeping your ‘head in the game’.

Internationally recognised psychologist Daniel Goleman, in his book ‘Emotional Intelligence’, said Flow was: “a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In Flow the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energised, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from Flow.”

At work, people will tend to be more focused, with their mind challenged as they try to successfully complete their tasks. In sport, a person aims for personal bests by getting ‘in the zone’. For instance, when swimmers are ‘in the zone’ with their strokes, they not only feel in control, but completely aware of their body movements and their competitors in the water. They become completely absorbed in the moment.

We gain greater enjoyment from whatever we’re doing when we’re in the Flow. Case in point:

You’ve finally arrived at the beach with your family. There are cafes, kids’ rides, the beach, pelicans… it’s glorious. But you still haven’t had your first coffee for the day and you’re absolutely hanging. Finally, you see a café, but the kids at the ends of your hands saw the rides. What do you do? Do you take them screaming into the café or go with the Flow and take them on a ride, before you sit down for your coffee?

Flow only happens in the present and can’t happen if you’re switching between tasks or thinking about the past or the future. It can only happen now.

By staying in the moment, accepting and embracing change, by welcoming new experiences, environments, things and people you will Flow light through life and will be much happier and much more productive as a result.