Getting into the Flow

Do you ever find yourself so completely gripped by what you are doing that you lose track of time? All of a sudden you look up at the clock and realize that hours have passed? This could apply to a basketball player absorbed in perfecting a shot, or a violinist fiercely concentrating on a piece of music. When does this total engagement and loss of time typically occur for you?

Contrary to what many believe, these moments in our lives are not passive, receptive, relaxing times. These moments are when the body or mind is voluntarily stretched to its limits in order to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. In turn, we later reflect on these moments as great experiences. It's fair to say then that great experiences don't happen to us; they are something we make happen.

However, such experiences are not necessarily pleasant at the time they occur. Take Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps as an example. His muscles might have ached during his most memorable races, his lungs might have felt like they would explode, and he might have felt overcome with tiredness. Yet these were probably the best moments of his life. He was in control and able to accomplish his goals. Getting control of life is never easy and it can be painful. But in the long run, great experiences like these add up to a sense of mastery that comes as close to happiness as anything else we can possibly imagine.

The loss of self-consciousness that happens when you are completely absorbed in an activity-intellectual, social, or physical described in psychology as a state of flow. It is called flow because people regularly describe the experience as similar to drifting along with the flow of a river. You don't have to be an Olympic swimmer or star musician to experience flow. In order to achieve flow, you must experience an activity as voluntary and enjoyable, and it must require skill and present an achievable challenge, with the goal being success. You must feel as though you have control and receive immediate feedback about your performance with room for growth. Thus, you can achieve flow while reading a good book or while fixing your car.

A growing body of research supports the notion that by confronting and meeting challenges, anyone can create flow in their life. What this means is that we should not aim for a life without stress or tension because these pressures actually encourage us to strive toward self-flfllment, or the achievement of our hopes and ambitions.

Scientists such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced: me-hay chick-sent-me-hay) study the impact of flow states on human happiness, productivity, and success. In one study, 250 high-flow and low-flow teenagers were asked to report on their feelings and activities at regular intervals. The high-flow teenagers generally reported more time spent on hobbies, sports, and homework, and measured higher levels of self-esteem and engagement. Interestingly, however, they self-reported lower levels of fun than the low-flow teenagers. Apparently, high-flow teenagers see their low-flow peers as experiencing more fun engaging in low-flow amusements, such as video games, TV, and socializing. However, the high-flow teenagers end up having greater long-term happiness as well as success in school, social relationships, and careers.

If flow has such incredible benefits for our happiness, relationships, and success, then high-flow activities require more initial motivation because they require skill and concentration. In other words, high-flow activities are work-but work that pays off! why do we usually choose to let ourselves be distracted by low-flow, and arguably trivial, activities? Why do we often choose our favourite TV program over an engaging fictional novel or game of basketball? One hypothesis is that high-flow activities require more initial motivation because they require skill and concentration. In other words, high-flow activities are work-but work that pays off!

to keep someone's attention completely:
I was gripped throughout the entire two hours of the film.

absorbed in
If someone's work, or a book, film, etc. absorbs them, or they are absorbed in it, their attention is given completely to it:
Simon was so absorbed in his book, he didn't even notice me come in.

showing strong feeling or energetic activity:
There is fierce competition to join the Special Branch.

a contrary point of view

to go as far as or beyond the usual limit of something:
Many families' budgets are already stretched to breaking point.

useful, important or beneficial enough to be a suitable reward for the money or time spent or the effort made:
She considers teaching a worthwhile career.

a continuous pain which is unpleasant but not strong:
I've got a slight ache in my lower back.
My head/tooth/back aches.

either of the two organs in the chest with which people and some animals breathe:
lung cancer

to (cause to) burst violently:
He was driving so fast that his car tyre exploded.

to use someone or something unfairly for your own advantage:
Laws exist to stop companies exploiting their employees.

to prevent someone from being able to act or think in the usual way:
Overcome with/by emotion, she found herself unable to speak for a few minutes.

add (sth) up
to calculate the total of two or more numbers:
If you add those four figures up, it comes to over £500.

If someone has a mastery of something, they are extremely skilled at it:
her mastery of the violin

relating to your ability to think and understand things, esp complicated ideas:
I like detective stories and romances - nothing too intellectual.

to move slowly, especially as a result of outside forces, with no control over direction:
No one noticed that the boat had begun to drift out to sea.

in this way or with this result:
Bend from the waist, thus.
They planned to reduce staff and thus to cut costs.

to face, meet or deal with a difficult situation or person:
As she left the court, she was confronted by angry crowds who tried to block her way.

a feeling of nervousness before an important or difficult event:
You could feel the tension in the room as we waited for our exam results.

to try very hard to do something or to make something happen, especially for a long time or against difficulties:
Mr Roe has kindled expectations that he must now strive to live up to.

a feeling of pleasure because you are getting what you want from life:
She finally found fulfilment in motherhood.
sexual fulfilment

a period between two events or times, or the space between two points:
We see each other at regular intervals - usually about once a month.

a person who is the same age or has the same social position or the same abilities as other people in a group:
Do you think it's true that teenage girls are less self-confident than their male peers?

an activity that you can take part in for entertainment:
There was a range of fairground amusements, including rides, stalls and competitions.

nervous, anxious or confused because you are worried about something:
Gill seems rather distracted at the moment - I think she's worried about her exams.

having little value or importance:
I don't know why he gets so upset about something that is utterly trivial.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is not a trivial matter.

a fictional story
fictional characters

the need or reason for doing something:
The motivation behind the decision is the desire to improve our service to our customers.

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Read More: The Art of Getting Into the Flow of Work Every Single Day
Reference: Focus on Vocabulary; Pursuit of Happiness
FoV 01 - U01C02

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