Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Flow" Time : Don't Miss Out

I have been listening and reading a few positive psychology books lately that have reminded me of the importance of "flow", a state of engagement where one is completely involved in a challenging, encompassing activity researched and written about extensively by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
There are a multitude of activities that I enjoy but somehow put aside when the demands of everyday life take over. In creating the list below, I am reminding myself to take the time to do these mostly flow-inducing activities. If they aren't challenging enough to create flow, I know that they are activities that fuel me in a positive way!
  • write
  • doodle, draw, create
  • connect with friends
  • workout
  • write ( yes, I said it again!)
  • research areas of interest
  • integrate ideas into outlines for future writing
  • read
  • listen to new and interesting podcasts
  • run on the beach
  • listen to music
  • go to hear live music
  • watch the sunset

So what fuels you? What activities put you in that state where you are so engrossed that you lose track of time? What are your excuses for not doing them? Here are some of my half-baked excuses!
  • I don't have time! This is perhaps the most lame excuse of all, as most of us have at least 30 minutes in our day that we can commit to an enriching, fueling activity that will help us to be more productive and fulfilled.

  • My partner won't understand my need for this time. If you take the time to engage in an activity that produces "flow", it is likely that you will be happier, calmer and more able to engage in fuller interaction with your loved one. Communication is the key here so that both partners get the time they need in the relationship.

  • I'm too tired when I get home from work. The great thing about flow-inducing activities is that they require that you simply "begin" doing them. If they have been meaningful and enjoyable before, why not just put one foot in front of the other and begin? I have had countless times of being "too tired" but when I get started I suddenly get a burst of energy.

  • I don't know what brings me flow. Now is the time to explore! Brainstorm activities you enjoyed before life's responsibilities got in the way. Numerous people have told me, "I'm not creative!" but then they remember spending hours doodling and drawing as a kid. Find that inner kid! He/she has the key!

Today is all we have. Make it count by fully engaging in life.