Can you think of the last time you were in complete flow? What were you doing? Where were you? Who were you with? And what did being in flow feel like? Take a moment and think about it. The thing is when you are in complete flow it doesn’t feel positive while you are doing it, you’re not even aware that you’re in flow until after you’re out of the flow right? And that’s what’s so fascinating about it. How many times have we heard this phase – “I was in the zone. I was in complete flow, I didn’t even feel the time passing.” I used to race a lot and I would always find myself in my zone when I’m at the start line and then be in flow as I tackle the race and reach my finish line. I’m always in flow even now when I run or when I’m in the most intense coaching sessions with my clients, living my purpose.
My friends, being in complete flow is one of the components of authentic happiness. To be completely and genuinely happy it’s important to first cultivate meaning and then find flow. So let’s start with Meaning. Meaning is really important because it gives you purpose, a sense of fulfilment and also direction. Being engaged on meaningful activities feels satisfying, it makes your life feel important and the time you spend on this planet worthwhile. This is really crucial to long-term happiness.
Take a minute here and think of what is meaningful to you? Perhaps you know what it is but sometimes it’s really common to get completely disassociated from ourselves. The reason we find this disconnection is because we think life is happening to us and we run around everyday doing all the things we feel need to be done without even taking sometime to think of what is really important. So to get reconnected with values and our purpose may take some real deep thinking and work. But it’s vital to your long-term happiness.
Let me ask you this question. Sit with it for a minute – What is important to you? Think about it or journal if you need to but go deep and find out what is important to you. The activities you do in your life really need to mean something to you. Otherwise you can spin and chase after stuff that ultimately feel disappointing and unfulfilling.
Meaning needs to be attached to your personal values. So get a piece of paper and list 10 of your most important personal values. Once you’ve done that order them in terms of your priority. This is really critical so you can chose the top ones that mean the most to you and start living those values. Think of how you can translate your values into everyday action. The smaller the gap between your values and actions, the happier and more in alignment you will be.
The next key to authentic happiness is Flow. Being able to create flow means, identifying it, finding opportunities for it and then allowing yourself to have the experience. Being in a state of flow is key to life worth living. When you are living a life of meaning and from a place of values then flow is most likely to follow. For many people flow is the experience of being immersed in a process they find meaningful, pleasurable and absorbing. When we are engaged in an activity like this we are in the present moment, outside of time and totally absorbed in the activity we are doing. I’m sure you’ve all experienced this – when playing with your child, being with the people that you love, being creative, listening to music, running, going outdoors or writing. When meaningful activity intersects with pleasure then you fall into flow.Being in flow brings profound contentment and happiness.
In positive psychologyflow, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterised by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one's sense of space and time.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi developed the concept of flow and describes its 8 characteristics:
Complete concentration on the task.
Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback.
Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down of time).
The experience is intrinsically rewarding, has an end itself.
Effortlessness and ease.
There is a balance between challenge and skills.
Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination.
There is a feeling of control over the task.
Finding Flow in meaningful ways really requires practice and intention. Flow is much of a mind-set as it is a physical experience. It can happen during peak experiences but the kind of flow that is the bread and butter of life is one that happens when we do everyday things when we can find pleasure, gratitude and meaning.
Here’s a simple exercise I want to leave you with to help find flow. Try this with intention for a week and see where you get. I’ll give you a series of questions – think and then journal about each one.
What brings meaning to me?
What brings me pleasure?
What activities combine meaningful and pleasurable elements?
What action can I take to engage in these activities more often?
If you are interested in deeper work on fulfilment, values, meaning and finding flow, do reach out to me for a conversation. “The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
I'm Poornima Nair, Certified Life Coach, NLP Practitioner and Founder of Live Authentic Coaching. If you are curious about coaching, interested in being nurtured, inspired and pushed to your edge, to discover and create the relationships, career, lifestyle, finances you are longing for, please reach out to me for a taster of what great coaching does to foster the clarity, mindset, qualities and skills that will allow you to breakthrough.