The experience of flow = joy

I just saw an interesting video on why your workplace is probably the worst place to actually get any work done – because it’s structured for interruptions.  Phone calls, emails, co-workers stopping by and meetings continually interrupt the day so you end up not getting much accomplished, but more so, never enter a place of sustained attention in any one thing.  That’s why I often put my phone on “do not disturb” or retreat to a back room at church to write a sermon – I need uninterrupted space and time to get good work done.  You can check the video out here: http://bigthink.com/ideas/18522#ooid=03NG42MTqVnn6kOnuDv8k_iDC2HEGniT

On the flip side, have you ever been working where you are so involved that you lose track of time?  You get into a groove, you find “the zone” and you are productive and creative; work just flows out of you naturally (and its not just work – I watch Owen play Lego this way, completely intense and involved.  You can be in the same room calling out his name but he’s not hearing you because he’s in another world – and the Lego creations he comes up with are fabulous).

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (I dare you to try and pronounce that name) studied this and developed the concept of “flow.”  It’s that state of mind and being where all of you is fully involved in some activity.  And the intensity and full absorption is not draining but actually energizing.  Csikszentmihalyi says that people are happiest when they find flow in their lives.  A hallmark of flow is spontaneous joy, some even call it a feeling of rapture.

Flow is about more than work, but imagine that – your job as a place of joy, even rapture!  How about it, though – wouldn’t that be a transforming thing, to find great joy in your job, to be glad to head off to work each day.  Because if you’re going to live joy all the time, well, you really can’t leave your work out of the picture.  Some of the more miserable people I know have never learned to enjoy work.

Finding flow and living in joy are pretty close cousins, if not immediate family.  And it seems that an important part of both is simply getting outside of myself, beyond my ego and self-focus, being caught up in something bigger than me.  It seems like flow, and experiencing joy, is a form of being present, being fully aware of what is in front of my nose and having the brains to see the gift of it.

And maybe a simple practice for helping me to live in joy is reducing the interruptions.  Now to find some way to tell that to my kids.

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  1. #1 by Jenny on July 21, 2010 - 7:51 am

    Reminds me of Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living.
    I think kids are divine flow and I try to flow vicariously through them.

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