Check out the next happiness trigger I am sharing with you all, “Flow”. Remember, these are little pieces from my next book Happy Women Live Better: 13 Ways to Trigger Your Happiness Every Day (coming October 1st!). I want your feedback and comments! Don’t forget, every week, I’ll give away $50 in gift cards to one reader who posts on the blog – $25 for you, and $25 for someone you want to bless! Congratulations to last week’s winner April Purdie!
One of the most elusive happiness triggers is flow – your ability to concentrate so intently on an activity that you become absolutely absorbed in it. According to researcher Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of the Optimal Experience, we all experience flow and we feel similar characteristics when we are in flow. You feel alive and alert, you are not self-conscious, and you can feel a deep satisfaction with your efforts. Your efforts may even feel “effortless.” You are in flow, at your best. Athletes and performers often describe flow as being “in the zone.” Writers and artists will say they feel like the work was flowing through them, almost effortlessly, as though they couldn’t get it out fast enough.
But flow doesn’t just happen in the realm of sports and entertainment and art. It can happen if your work does not fall into one of these categories. The store clerk who so enjoys helping customers that she loses track of the time and says, “Is it time to go already?” is in flow. So, too, is the school teacher who gets lost in the excitement of teaching new material – so much so that her students have an enthusiasm unseen in their other classes. Suddenly, they love math, even though last year they thought they hated it! Her passion and flow become contagious and inspire and elevate the students.
Flow is increasingly difficult for women (or men, for that matter!) in today’s culture. We live in an age of interruption. When is the last time you were able to do anything uninterrupted? Can’t remember? Join the club. We are wired to be constantly interrupted. If it isn’t your cell phone ringing, it’s the text message that just came in – or the telemarketer calling your home phone, or the email chime alerting you to your latest email message, which may actually be spam, but hey, it least now you know it’s there waiting to be read.
However, technology isn’t the only culprit. If you are a mom, especially a mom of young children, the idea of doing anything with full concentration when your children are around – other than take care of your children – is pretty much impossible. At work, you are often expected to be on call – responding to the needs of whoever has a question or wants something done, or just wants to chat.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Let’s be honest. Often, even when we have a moment to become fully engaged with what we are doing, we don’t need technology or people to distract us. We can be pretty darned good at distracting ourselves! Ever notice how much you get done when you are supposed to be doing something else? Procrastination is the master stealer of your ability to be in flow.
If you have too much on your to-do list, you’ll find that flow is a rare achievement for you. It is the curse of overload, overdrive and overwhelm. Even if everything on your schedule is stuff you actually want to do, when there’s too much of it, you don’t get to enjoy it. And this steals your happiness. I always know I am at that point when I become stressed about something like driving home two hours to see my family or flying to a speaking engagement. These are things I thoroughly enjoy. I am relaxed doing them. I am in flow, smiling, feeling perfectly in the right place. The exception happens when I try to cram too much into a day or week. Then I’m not in flow, smiling, or feeling perfectly in the right place. Have you been there? Leave your comments below!