Sex, drugs, and rock & roll are just like computer programming, right? Oh, and reading or having a great conversation? Pioneer in the field of positive psychology and champion of creativity, curiosity, and a life of meaning, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced “Me high. Chick sent me high!”), wrote the books on Flow, the sensation of complete immersion. In his research he discovered people in all walks of life; poor or rich; educated or not; from deserts, cities, mountains, or tundra; as welders, physicians, shepherds, executives, or prisoners of war– even computer programmers– people who could create the optimal experience of Flow, even during what most people would consider mundane tasks. You probably know the feeling of Flow, and it wasn’t necessarily sex, drugs, and rock & roll that brought it on.
When was the last time you lost yourself doing something you care about?
People who experience Flow commonly describe it in these terms:
- There is a clear goal.
- You have a task you have a chance of completing.
- You have the opportunity to concentrate on it.
- You have control over the outcome.
- There is immediate feedback.
- Performing the task feels effortless and worry-free.
- Your sense of self disappears.
- Time disappears.
While I still eat chocolate somewhat compulsively, it’s nothing compared to my cravings for Flow. To enter the timeless, selfless, effortless state of immersion has become a practice I return to as often as I can. And to align that practice with meaningful work elevates any activity to the sublime. This is the purpose of Pilot Fire: to ignite your passion for your own vitality, your life of love, your business, and the work you put into the world; in other words, to find Flow all of the time.
So how do we do that? I say, with one small step at a time. Flow does not happen on a grand scale; it happens in tiny moments that sometimes grow into minutes, and at best a couple hours. If that’s the case, then plans you make only serve that practice if they help you focus on the present.
M.C.’s book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, is a life-changer. As a story-teller, he involves you with the people he studies, as a scientist, he proves his hypothesis, and as a sage, he delivers an alternate world in which happiness is achievable every day. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand how some people are able to engage life fully. My work is simultaneously inspired and grounded by his work. And my life is much richer. It just might do the same for yours.
While he’s written many books and articles on the topic, I suggest you start with this one. Here’s a link that’ll give me a couple pennies if you use it to buy his book: Flow. I’d let you borrow mine current copy, but I’ve learned it won’t come back!
And now, back to now
Sure enough, sex and rock & roll might get you into Flow. (I can’t recommend drugs. My luck in that area has been pretty Flow-free.) But what about the rest of your life? I try to find Flow while doing dishes. I also try to find it in concert (singing) and now as I write this article. If it’s possible all the time, I have two questions for you:
What were you doing the last time you remember falling into Flow?
And what can you do today
to find it again?
Let us know, and have a great week. – David