Biggest Pitfall of the Flow

The best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. 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 make happen.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

These next few posts discuss how to more easily cultivate a flow state during your day to day, practices, and games. Otherwise known as being in the zone, the flow state “is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”

The Biggest Pitfall

The easiest way to avoid getting in the flow is by opting for pleasure over enjoyment. The biggest difference here is that enjoyment takes some effort. You find pleasure when sitting on the couch and watching TV. However, an activity that takes a little effort like writing or doing a puzzle produces enjoyment.

Getting in the flow requires you to check in, not check out. Taking that initial step away from the TV or phone can seem like moving mountains. Once you begin, though, the activity itself feels effortless.

Practice Makes Perfect

Making these choices and seeking the flow state takes practice. If you want the ability to drop into this mindset during games you have to practice it at other times throughout your day. I’m not saying you can never watch TV, but if you always opt for pleasure during your free time when it comes to your sport it will be hard to dial in and be completely present.

We will continue looking at ways to practice the flow over the next few posts. For now when making decisions about how to spend your free time ask yourself the question I often do. “What do I REALLY want?” Will I be happy knowing I watched more TV or proud that I made some progress on a project I’ve always dreamed about?

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