Achieving Flow in Everyday Life

Unlocking creative flow to reach the optimal experience

Issue #32

By Vivienne Arkell

Wouldn’t you love to be so immersed in an activity that you lost track of time and place? While still enjoying the feeling of energized focus, full involvement, complete absorption and enjoyment in the process of the activity? Welcome to flow, more colloquially known as being in ‘the zone’: a state of exceptional focus and clarity where one is totally absorbed in the moment and the task at hand.

Cofounder of positive psychology Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life, started researching flow after becoming fascinated by artists who would essentially get lost in their work and loose total awareness of other things. Though the state of flow has been recognized in the historic teachings of Buddhism and Taoism, Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory outlines actionable conditions and goals for achieving a flow state.

How does it feel to experience flow? Most of us have experienced it while engaged in a sport or physical activity. Remember a particularly great run, game of tennis, night of dancing or passionate sex? Maybe you threw a great party, finished a huge project or a great book. You were exhausted afterwards, but during the event you didn’t even notice time passing. You just recall your passion and sensory overload. With the classic five senses working, plus emotions and instinct, you experienced flow.

According to Csikszentmihalyi, there are multiple factors that accompany the experience of flow. Many may be present in a specific activity, but it’s not necessary to experience all of them for flow to occur. Author Kendra Cherry, in the article “The Psychology Behind the ‘Flow’ State of Mind” published by Verywell Mind, summarizes them as follows:

  1. Clear goals that, while challenging, are still attainable.
  2. Strong concentration and focused attention.
  3. The activity is intrinsically rewarding.
  4. Feelings of serenity; a loss of feelings of self-consciousness.
  5. Timelessness; a distorted sense of time; feeling so focused on the present that you lose track of time passing.
  6. Immediate feedback.
  7. Knowing that the task is doable; a balance between skill level and the challenge presented.
  8. Feelings of personal control over the situation and the outcome.
  9. Lack of awareness of physical needs.
  10. Complete focus on the activity itself

What’s important about flow and achieving it?

To achieve flow, you have to give your all to a task. You want the same concentration whether you are planning a major event or just a hot date with your partner. It’s not so much which activity or action you chose. Flow is about being focused and into it. Dedication to the sensual life deserves as much focus as any other endeavor if you expect to truly unlock sexual flow. Finding potential for flow in everyday life is about harnessing your passion and skills to achieve an ‘optimal experience.’ Even mundane activities, when approached creatively, can be satisfying and flowing. To avoid boredom, apathy or anxiety, tasks need to match one’s skill level. Csikszentmihalyi says, “If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can get back to flow state by learning new skills.”

In the state of flow, happiness occurs when full attention is allocated to a creative or challenging pursuit and the state of complete engagement is achieved. Csikszentmihalyi sees it like this: “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.”

Encourage creative flow by choosing activities you can excel at and learn from. Feeling completely engrossed in whatever you are doing is a wonderful zone to be in. The results can be sexy as …

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