It’s empowering and magical – even transformational when it happens and that is why you need to find flow to find fulfillment. Who wouldn’t want more life engagement, more life satisfaction, better quality of life, more positive emotions, more resources and more self-esteem, which have all been attributed to flow. Recognizing these moments is not difficult. Creating them, however, might be the first step. Either way, here are everyday sort of examples of flow and how you can dial in your own “time stood still” moments as well as one of mine.
Flow has been defined as a state of complete absorption in a complex or challenging activity that stretches our skills. It is also described by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi as the experience we have when we are completely immersed in an activity for its own sake, stretching our bodies and minds to the limit in a voluntary effort to accomplish something worthwhile. In fact, I have a podcast on this subject on iTunes from 2009 when the topic came up in a discussion regarding professional athletes, who often experience flow during peak performances. In researching for the podcast, I found that there are specific traits or characteristics that are more likely to be present during this type of peak performance. You can find a thorough list in this article entitled What is Flow. I like to take a slightly less academic approach with my description.
When time stands still. We can lose track of time during a crisis so I don’t like to intrinsically identify flow with this phrase. Here is my somewhat unorthodox list.
- Your environment and surroundings sort of melt away. You are keenly focused on your activity without trying to keenly focus (unlike me doing geometry with my teenagers but very much like me working on artistic designs and wording for online posts).
- Timelessness or a lack of a time “frame”. Like the difference between waiting at a stoplight when you’re late for an important appointment verses that fully engaged state while solving a favorite jigsaw puzzle.
- You are not ruled by constant judgments or boundaries by your ego or by anyone else. Standards and expectations are not yardsticks.
- It adds an inherent freedom or break from your mundane earthly duties (which obviously vary greatly per individual).
- You feel alive, connected, confident and even slightly challenged.
- It feels productive and worthy and as if it is a part of your essence, your being. (I am not in flow when I’m trying to do math homework but I’m quickly “flowing” if anything needs to be colored, and more so if I get to chose the colors!)
- You kick-ass, or not if you are learning a new task, but it is often when you are at your best. Musicians might say you played “in the pocket” and the term, he/she was in the groove or in the zone is common.
I think you get the picture and I bet you can create your own comparisons. Ponder these activities for possible moments of flow.
- Sports and recreational activities such as jogging, running, swimming, hiking, dance and practice drills that you do in repetition such as dribbling basketballs, kicking soccer balls, pitching a baseball, spinning on the ice.
- Artistic expressions such as singing, creative dance, playing an instrument, drawing, writing, sculpting.
- Work projects such as designing, strategy and brainstorming sessions, presentations, research.
- Home activities such as yard work, gardening, house cleaning (don’t laugh, it can happen), ironing (still don’t laugh), repairs and decorating.
The reason you want to find flow to find fulfillment is that it leads to more purposeful living in general. Your uniqueness, expressed via your innate and learned talents, results in immediate feedback of worthiness and in-the-moment living and we know for certain that mindfulness leads to more peace and contentment. Being “in the zone” means you are “being” exactly as you are meant to be – ego aside and void of those nasty, limiting feelings of self-consciousness. Take time to figure out how your innate talents relate to your life’s purpose or at the very least, make sure you allow your “flow” moments to occur enough to give you doses of pure fulfillment – a true gift and one that will result in clarity and inspiration in other parts of your life.
My Moment. I’ve had many but the first time happened during my junior year in college when I introduced Vincent Price in our large (and fully packed) auditorium. I had butterflies in my stomach. I was pacing backstage, rehearsing my intro even though it was memorized. I was anxious yet excited but after I walked on stage and started speaking into the mic, time literally stood still. I cannot tell you what I said but I knew that I belonged in that spot, doing what I was doing and I later recognized that I experienced genuine flow in those short 90-seconds. Does that mean my life purpose was instantly and clearly defined as a speaker-introducer? Obviously not, but it explains who I am today and how I replicate that moment in my work and service to others. It was a big clue even though I did not recognize it for a long (long) time. Don’t let that happen to you.
I offer up this amazing article called The Art of Manliness with several other related posts that will help you further use flow as a starting point – to find flow to find fulfillment and I believe, assist you in living your life purpose.
If you want one-on-one guidance (with a little honest pushing and prodding when needed), let’s work together! We can chat first to see if we are a good fit.