I recently came across a presentation that put into words what I have tried to explain as my "WHY" since I was about 20. It was a HUGE relief.
I'm kind of an introvert, its not that I don't like people or anything. It's just that I am most content from internal things than external forces. That doesn't mean I don't want external things; I enjoy nice clothes, the newest tech and other material things as much as the next guy. Relationships are also extremely important to me, I just don't always feel driven to get out an create more of them.
The internal thing I wanted is what I called at the time, "rest." I wanted to be at rest with myself. Seems ambiguous, right?
To me it meant, being at rest with my choices, my thoughts, my actions and the direction I was traveling. I believed that I would experience a sort relaxed happiness and contentment if I could align all of these things and then keep them aligned.
It's the same idea we envisioned when we first started talking about pressPlay. It's funny because if I had to write in one sentence what pressPlay means, I would adjust what I just wrote above to apply universally.
PressPlay means contentment with yourself, your choices, your thoughts, your actions and the direction your life is moving.
So, the presentation I started with...
The presentation was given in 2004 by a man named, Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi, at a TED conference. He was presenting on the idea of happiness and its source. The initial question inspiring his research and presentation was, "What Makes a Life Worth Living?"
Csiksgentmihalyi's answer is the actions people take and their experiences during the activities. The most interesting part to me was his explanation of the human ability to process information.
He explained (and I'm paraphrasing a bit), the human nervous system is incapable of processing more than 110 bits of information a second. for context of what that means, in order to listen to another person speak it takes about 60-75 bits of information. That is why it is very difficult to have two people speak to you at the same time. It's almost doable, but not quite.
Our focus is the key. When creating something new, an artist doesn't have enough attention to monitor how their body feels, whether they are hungry or cold, tired or sometimes even pain is forgotten. It is almost as if your body disappears and all that exists is the activity. He describes this experience as the "flow state."
How does it feel to be in flow:
- Completely involved in what we are doing - focused, concentrated.
- A sense of ecstasy - meaning being outside everyday reality.
- Great inner clarity - Knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.
- Knowing that the activity is doable and that our skills are adequate to the task.
- A sense of serenity - no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego.
- Timelessness - thoroughly focused on the present, hours seem to pass by in minutes.
- Intrinsic motivation - whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.
I've felt this state before, and it can be intense. The characteristic that helps me see that it has happened is the timelessness aspect of it. I realize, wow, an hour just flew by.
The problem is, the flow state can be quite fleeting. My goal is to expand that flow state to a larger concept in my life and the life of others by sharing the concept.
Living a flow life
living a flow life starts with knowing where you enter a flow state for you. Ambiguous? This chart helped me to understand it better:
There are eight quadrants on an axis of challenges/skills. Flow begins to occur when challenge and skill levels are at mid levels and then actually increases as the activity becomes more challenging and requires more skill.
It makes sense because flow occurs from focus. The more challenging and skill required in an activity, the more likely it is to create a state of flow.
That means a flow life is achieved by challenging yourself in areas you are skilled. That is a cool thought, you will find your flow in an area that challenges you while at the same time, it consumes you because it is your passion.
Pretty cool, huh?