For many years, University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has been urging us to seek those elusive states of flow in our lives, those experiences when “heart, will, and mind are on the same page.” They may involve “singing in a choir, programming a computer, dancing, playing bridge, [or] reading a good book.” In these moments, “what we feel, what we wish, and what we think are in harmony.”
Ideally, we can achieve a state of flow through our work. What better combination than to be paid for work that brings us into such an engaged and harmonious place?
However, we know that work can be just that, a chore, a way to pay the bills. Even jobs with their flow-like elements may have considerable downsides, especially in organizations with unhealthy workplace cultures.
In the absence of that great job, where else can we pursue a state of flow? I have long championed the roles of meaningful, immersive avocations and hobbies. In good times, they can be the delicious icings on life’s cake. In hard times, they can be lifesavers, literally or figuratively.
So what brings that sense of flow into your life? In lieu of a flow chart (sorry), I’ll simply offer a few questions to ponder:
- What activities bring you into that elusive mode of in-the-moment engagement?
- When do you “lose yourself” in your work, avocations, or hobbies?
- How can you create a greater state of flow in your life?
Most people may not spend much time pondering such things, but the answers may yield important directions for our lives and careers. I invite you to do so now.
Quoted materials in the first paragraph are from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life (1997), pages 28-29. (And by the way, his last name is pronounced “chick-SENT-me-high,” as the back cover of the book helpfully instructs.)
Jennie Bricker wrote about avocations in a 2015 piece for the Oregon State Bar Bulletin, “Poets, Tramps and Lawyers,” citing pieces in this blog.
This post was revised in July 2017.