The flow, or « what’s up Dr. Csikszentmihalyi? »

As a matter of humbleness, it’s nice from time to time to meet names even more impossible to read than polish ones! More seriously, this famous Hungarian psychology professor, who emigrated in the United States in 1956, became famous through his theory of the flow. What is this about? Simply about special moments that may happen to everyone of us, during times of higher creativity, motivation and fulfillment.

 A state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter

Obviously, haven’t we all dreamed of « flowing » at work? Actually it may happen! Then temporal constraints seem to vanish. Then forget about your watch (provided you don’t have a « smart » one). Some people will approach this intense level of satisfaction on the early days of their professional life or when practicing their favorite hobbies. Other people will find out their ability to flow later in life, maybe further to a deep personal change, provided they will first of all genuinely listen to themselves. Provided they will move away from external influences and pressure (relatives and friends). How many times in our lives have we heard: « if I were you… I would do this/wouldn’t do that »? But how often did we ask ourselves about the meaning of it all? Some propose a pyramid made of three dimensions: the head (where our values lie), the heart (where interpersonal relationship develop) and the hand (symbolizing work, execution). It’s challenging to set the balance between these three dimensions. However Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi invites us to choose the quality of our lives, rather than multiplying experiences with poor personal meaning!the flow

One must admit our spontaneous attractions towards easy-access pleasures, exciting and attracting us, leading us to buy, to spend time and money, to follow our impulses for power and high emotions. It’s not about avoiding these types of pleasures and impulses. But just consider this special taste of emptiness over the long run! Instead, why not turning to more lasting, sustainable food for thought? Here come relationships with friendly people (sharing our values), having a strong positive effect on ourselves. Here come too relationships with nature, although some skeptical people won’t see the point of setting up « meetings with Mother Nature ». Not to forget cultural and artistic activities, reconnecting ourselves with our true nature.

After all, beyond our quest for a career and professional achievement, in a positive thinking mindset, it’s never too late to come closer to our personal values. Eventually we’ll find ourselves more relevant, more efficient, more capable of sharing positive ideas. Be it through artistic creation, community activity or entrepreneurship. Denis Doucet, the author of « The Little Pinguin Principle: do you suffer from over-adaptation? » puts it this way: we all have a great tendency to adapt ourselves to a changing environment. Unfortunately, we tend to over-adapt ourselves! Out of conformity, sticking to the image projected by our family or by the entire society surrounding us…

Some may need to attend special sessions, investing lots of time and money, in order to tackle the flow. Personal development centers keep blooming: business is business! Others will more spontaneously meet their « element » (see also Ken Robinson). Howsoever, once you’ve found it, everything will just look so obvious. At least for yourself!!

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
Robinson, Ken (2013). The Element.

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