Cultivating Flow

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“Happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy, or power command.

Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated and defended privately by each person. People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

We’ve all heard about and experienced FLOW: that state where you’re completely engrossed in your activity, so much so that you lose track of time. You are fully engaged in the present moment,      challenged and energized.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is likely the best-known psychologist over the past 50 years, who has    studied, researched and written about Flow. (If you can pronounce his name three times thru, you’ll be coming close to a state of flow!) He calls Flow the secret of happiness. Intriguing, yes?!

He defines it with these parameters:

  1. Clear goals. A future purpose or goal liberates us to enjoy the process. Goals are the means: the journey is the end!
  2. Passion. When we pursue things we love, we’re more likely to find Flow.
  3. Appropriate challenge. Not too difficult, and not too easy.
  4. Great inner clarity. Knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.
  5. A sense of serenity. A feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of ego.
  6. Timelessness. Thoroughly focused on the present, hours seem to slip away.
  7. Intrinsic motivation. Whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.

For me, I find that state of Flow with exercise, yoga and meditation – whether my own practices, or when I’m teaching. I also find it when I work with my hands – cooking, gardening, sewing, and yes, even cleaning the house! Years ago, it use to happen when I played the piano (I’d love to get back to that some day but I can’t even play a C scale now!)

Take a moment now and think about when you experience flow in your life. What gives you intense focus – even joy? Write it down and describe the situation that leads to it, surrounds it, how you feel in it, what you’re producing, and especially, how you feel after you’re done.

And then, think about how you can create more of this in your life! What stands in the way? Is it time currency? Is it energy currency? Is it space currency? Is it financial currency?

Let’s talk about this more next week, see you then!


ps to hear more from this great thinker, Mihaly, you can check out one of his TED TALKS at

and read his book: “Flow, the Psychology of Optimal Experience”

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