So here’s the thing, lately I’ve been feeling like I’m in a rut. I don’t feel like I’ve been productive with all of the ridiculous amounts of free time that I have. And I haven’t. Somehow I get lost away in the wonderful/terrible world of the Internet. It’s so obnoxiously easy to get lost there for hours. And I hate it. Even if I feel like I was researching valuable things, at the end of the day, I still don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything. It was another day wasted. And on top of that, somehow I still end up doing homework until 1 am the night before it's due and then waking up early to finish it. What is wrong with my life?? That is the question.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why that is and what I can do to fix it and be happier with myself and my life. It’s not that I would say I’m unhappy, because I’m not. I’m very happy. But I know that I could feel... More fulfilled. And that I have the potential to do a lot more than what I’ve been doing. So here’s what I’ve come up with.
As a recreation major, I’ve learned a lot about this idea called “Flow”. I love flow. I think it’s super cool. There’s great research to back it up, and on top of that, it’s something that I think everyone can relate to and has experienced. Flow is when you’re engaged in something that is highly challenging, but that you have a high level of skill to match and when you get immediate feedback on how your skills are matching up to that challenge. When Brayden describes getting lost in computer programming to me, I know that’s when he’s in a state of flow.
Perhaps the most relatable, or at least the best known, condition of flow comes from athletics. It’s that being “in the zone” feeling. You’re challenged. You can meet that challenge. And you immediately know how successful you are in that challenge. You're focused and you're happy. I’ve felt flow playing tennis, writing essays, cleaning, putting on makeup, and even blogging or being “crafty”. Crafting is my new favorite hobby, though I think it typically puts me more into the relaxation category.
What does it feel like? There’s a TED talk by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly (try saying that name, I dare you) called “Flow, the secret to happiness” in which he describes what flow is and how it’s been describes by people in the past. Here’s a link to it, but he has a really strong accent, so it’s not an easy talk to listen to. Some of the examples he uses of ways other people have described flow are “ecstasy” and feeling like you’re “floating away”. When you’re in flow, you can completely forget your body. You don’t feel hunger and hours can pass without you realizing it. I’m pretty positive it’s different than getting lost in the internet though.
Why does flow matter? It makes you happy. So friends, if you find yourself in a rut, trying spending a little more of your time doing something that allows you to go into flow. And if you can go into flow at work, more power to ya.