Filtering by Tag: csikszentmihalyi

"The key element of an optimal experience is that it is an end in itself. Even if initially undertaken for other reasons, the activity that consumes us becomes intrinsically rewarding."

The key element of an optimal experience is that it is an end in itself. Even if initially undertaken for other reasons, the activity that consumes us becomes intrinsically rewarding
— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Last week during one of my middle school dance classes, we were talking about pathways. When I asked the students to tell me what are some examples of pathways in life, one girl answered “the pathway to a career.” Though not the answer I was looking for, she was absolutely correct. I was looking for more tangible pathways like hallways, a staircase, or a dirt road. My student’s response stuck with me. I started thinking back on my pathway to a career, and oh boy has it been curvy, sometimes filled with diagonals, other times seemingly random, but without all the twists and turns I wouldn’t be where I am now and who I am now.

This week I would like to focus on the “Flow Theory.” Flow is a state of consciousness that needs to be obtained in order to feel genuinely satisfied in an optimal experience. Optimal experiences are sometimes thought of as being major events like a performance or a game or getting the job you always wanted, but really our entire life should be one optimal experience. Csikszentmihalyi, the creator of the Flow Theory, identifies eight major components:

-       A challenging activity that requires skills

-       The merging of action and awareness

-       Clear goals

-       Timely feedback

-       Concentration on the task at hand

-       The paradox of control

-       The loss of self-consciousness

-       The transformation of time

We have all experienced Flow at some point in our life. When was the last time you said “time flies when you’re having fun?” Think about what you were doing and see whether the 8 components were present. Most likely they were. It’s easier to experience Flow when we are involved in a task that means a lot to us, for example working on a big project at work or preparing for an audition, but it is harder to reach that Flow state when we are involved in more mundane tasks. And lets be honest much of life is filled with mundane tasks that are necessary to get through in order to achieve that greater goal.

So how do we make it easier to obtain a Flow state with mundane tasks? First, we need to make sure we are fully engaged and being present in the task. We already know mindful listening is a good technique to help with being present. Second, even the most mundane tasks can be fun. It’s about changing our mindset about them. We have many tools to help us with that, positive replacement being one of them. Maybe we make getting through an inbox full of emails into a game? Third, we need to limit the self-talk that becomes distracting. Here’s where our trigger words come in handy.

At times, we may seem lost and that our path is turning into a dead-end or keeps going in a circle. It’s at these times when we need to trust that there is still forward motion. By staying engaged, being present, and trying to maintain a Flow state, that sense of “lostness” will dissipate and be replaced with fulfillment and purpose. We are all capable of achieving this. We have the tools and the skills. Now, we just need to use them to create our practice.


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