According to Italian born professor of psychology Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who coined the term, people are happiest when they are in a state of flow ~ a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand.
Csíkszentmihályi identifies the following six factors as encompassing an experience of flow.
- Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
- Merging of action and awareness
- A loss of reflective self-consciousness
- A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
- A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
- Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding
I experience flow most when I am riding my mountain bike down a steep and winding path and when I am editing a video that I am really jamming with. On my bike flow comes almost instinctually; I need all of my focus, there is no room for a wandering of distracted mind and I intensely love the act of riding. The focus and the joy combine to create a peak state of flow.
Editing video is a bit different – my body is not careening down a hill with the wind in my hair – but my creative powers and imagination ARE. When I’m creating a video that I’m really connecting to I can sit at my computer for a 6 hour stretch and feel fantastic, in fact the feeling of time melts aways and becomes something that I return to reluctantly.
Crafting a video experience, like editing GoPro travel footage to music, brings my awareness to the task in a way that another, less exciting or downright boring project simply cannot.
I also get into a flow state when I’ve lost myself to writing, in fact I’m feeling it right now. I don’t want to do anything; I don’t want to eat, chat, check my Instagram or put on a shirt – I’m enjoying writing about flow so much that it put me in a flow state! Go figure!!
FLOWMENTUM is what I call the energy that gathers behind frequent states of flow. The habit of engaging in activities that put you in a flow state actually makes entering new states of Flow easier – you’ve gained flowmentum. You recognize Flow and what takes you there and you seek it out.
Artists live and die by the strength of their flowmentum but any of us can cultivate a habit and momentum of catching and riding the waves of flow, waves that bring us the one simple thing that we all want – HAPPINESS.
That is why when we are stuck, feeling super unflowy or working on a project we are not connecting to it is so hard to start, harder to continue and damn near impossible (or at least it can seem) to complete. Flow carries us along and in the absence of flowmentum we may feel dead in the water.
I cultivate flowmentum by first recognizing it, seeing what puts me in a state of flow and cultivating those activities. When I come to a place or task that I’m not flowing with I stop and do something that I can flow with. I shoot some footage, go on a ride, write a few hundred words and then go directly into the task I was challenged by while I still feel the flowmentum.
I surround sucky tasks with flow and try raise to the tide. The least I can do is sandwich the sucky with flow and hope that a sort of osmosis takes place – Flowsmosis!
Identify where you flow and don’t let too many days pass without going there. You need to create a habit of jamming with flow, building flowmentum. It may not solve all of your problems, but it will make you happier…which is a little like solving all your problems.