In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow, he describes the how the optimum flow experience can be gained if we can balance our skill level with the challenge of the activity. If we are doing something that is well below our skills and the challenge is low, we are bored. If the challenge is too great in that we don’t have the adequate skills, we can experience anxiety. There exists a sweet spot where our skills and the challenge mostly matched, with the challenge being slightly greater. This is when we are in flow.
|Skills vs Challenge|
There are many opportunities for us to be in flow, be it in our work or leisure. My focus currently is to ensure that I create a future career around my flow experiences. For too long my work centred around tasks that drained my energy and frustrated me. In the next few months while I recover from my stress-induced condition, I’m trying to find flow experiences that are not too taxing. I’ve been told that the brain relaxes while doing creative activities so I’ve been drawing and trying to find ways to express myself creatively.
I bought a second-hand piano a while back, and while I played as a child, I’m quite rusty. My energy levels are too low to commit to a regular lesson right now, but I’ve been downloading some sheet music. I know that my skill level is very low at the moment, but I know that I can work at it to become more skilled. As my skills grow, I can increase the challenge by trying more difficult pieces. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says in his book ‘In this growth of the self lies the key to flow activities’.
It is enthralling to know that within me lies the opportunity to play beautiful music. It’s something I’d love to share with my children. At the same time it is a little daunting but I think that is the fun of it. Nothing that is worth anything comes easily.
In the long term my work needs to centre around flow activities. I know myself well enough to know that I get bored not achieving things. That can be an impediment to my recovery so I’m occupying myself with things that can help me recover. I’m finding flow activities that may or may not be part of my long term career or leisure.
What talents from childhood or your past have you forgotten about? What have you always wanted to try? It’s important to note that passive activities like watching TV are distinctly not being in flow. How much more can we get out of our lives if we focus on flow activities that indeed make us more skilled and happier people?