Getting into the flow of things

I’m currently reading a book called FLOW by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Me-high Chick-sent-me hi). It’s been around for quite a while but I hadn’t gotten around to reading it until now. I am a very lazy reader. I like the idea of being well-read but I’m often too lazy to sit down and concentrate on anything that is vaguely intellectual. I’ve got a long list of books I’d like to read this year, but haven’t quite gotten around to. Anyway, enough about my reading habits.

Flow is an examination of that wonderful state you get into when you are in full creativity mode. It’s the state where you lose track of time because you’re enjoying yourself so much or you are concentrating really hard on something. It’s a great feeling and intention of the book is not only to examine the state of flow, but help you to achieve it more often.

What Mihaly is really talking about is getting more enjoyment out of life. Here is his list of the eight key components of enjoyment. He says that people usually mention one (or many) of these factors when they talk about being engaged in tasks they describe as enjoyable.

  1. The first component is that you must have some hope of actually completing the task. In other words, don’t set yourself up for failure.
  2. Secondly, you need to be able to concentrate on the task.
  3. Thirdly, you need to have a clear goal.
  4. Fourthly, you need some feedback.
  5. You are able to immerse yourself fully in the activity.
  6. You feel like you have some level of control over your actions.
  7. You lose some of your awareness of self (e.g. you might get a stiff back, but you don’t notice until you’ve finished)
  8. Your sense of time disappears.

So how does knowing this information help YOU to be creative?

If you would like to do something creative, I think you can make it easier on yourself if you organise some time and space so that you can really concentrate on the task. Also, you can try  attempting something small but interesting, and not too complicated for your skill level. I think I often sabotage my creative efforts by trying to do something that is really too hard for me to do. In the end, my lack of skills leaves me feeling frustrated and annoyed with myself.

The key advantage of being in a state of flow is that you should feel really good afterwards, so I encourage you to tackle projects that are not too big. Start small and immerse yourself in an activity which will lead you to feeling good about yourself. Give yourself some time and space to explore your creativity.

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