"The best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we can make happen."
I love this quote. 💚
It's from Mihaly Csikszentmihaly.
He's the psychologist who coined the term flow.
What I love is the way Mihaly makes the connection between flow states and finding the deepest meaning in our lives.
Flow happens when we wholly engage with our practice, and let the world disappear.
That nagging Woody Allen voice in our head evaporates. And an explosion of brain chemicals makes us feel like we’re both falling in love and winning a race, all at the same time.
But Mihaly reminds us that flow is about so much more than just a good feeling.
It’s our brain’s way of rewarding us for connecting our practice with our deepest values, for pursuing something that's truly "difficult and worthwhile".
Drum roll, please! That trigger is:
What's the easiest way to let go of distraction, and get "into the zone"?
Super simple: It's the recognition that we’re engaging in something interesting and worthwhile.
To find that enthusiasm (that helps us enter flow) we needn't reduce our lives down to “finding our one, true passion” as though it were destiny, written in the stars.
Motivation isn’t monolithic. And no-one needs to be on fire with a single “ultimate purpose” in order to have meaning in their lives.
I mention this because:
I've seen that sort of thinking paralyse people. Especially in their twenties! 😳
Instead, to forge our gateway to flow, enthusiasms can be constructed, like legos, from a variety of interests and beliefs. And these are allowed to be flexible, and to change! Why?
Because the value of passion is no-more-nor-less than it's focusing power: It gives us an emotional doorway to enter flow.
Because being in flow is an end in itself: It means we’re connected to meaning and growth, and able to feel and perform at our best.
And besides, if you're going to find an "ultimate purpose" anywhere, you'll probably find it, in a state of insight, during flow. 😊
Not before-hand. So, please don't put your life on pause, waiting for passion to manifest. Cultivate your purpose through action. 💚
And now for some homework.
With all the above in mind, flow researcher Steven Kotler * advises us to grab a pen and paper (because handwriting engages our brain more deeply) and make some simple lists to ignite our motivation to enter flow:
1). What specific elements of practice are you most curious to explore? Start with just 5.
(Multiple, overlapping paths of curiosity are just as good at triggering flow as one burning passion).
2). What are the meaningful benefits for yourself and the world that could come from this practice, if you go deep?
(Having a cause greater than yourself helps you to let go of ego, and drop "into the zone”).
3). Can you journal a paragraph about how one of those specific elements you’re curious to explore connects with a meaningful benefit for you and the world?
Here's my example list-making to help me get stoked for meditation practice:
I feel like I just scratched the surface! And writing these is something I’ll keep coming back to. Why?
Because it works. I’ve practiced more since I wrote these. And I can feel my focus and enthusiasm grow. 💚
Now, I’m curious: Will you try it? 😊
*These lists are adapted from Kotler’s advice. But you can check out his email newsletter if you’re curious to learn more.