Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Struggling with Life Choices? 'Flow' Your Way to Happy Choices!

When Michael Jordan played basketball, do you think he was distracted?  No!  He was entirely consumed and energized by what he was doing.  He was in flow.

If you think of any great artist who is in the middle of producing a masterpiece and cannot bear to be disturbed, that person is in flow.

We all have that special activity that consumes us and we really enjoy it! In those moments we are in our own flow.

This is so important!  The activities we undertake in which we experience flow, and the general flow of life contribute to our sustainable happiness. 

The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced chick-SENT-me-high), one of positive psychology’s founding fathers, calls the feeling of flow a complete and energized focus on an activity, accompanied by a high level of enjoyment and fulfillment (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). It involves being “optimally challenged by experience.”  

Now I know that may not seem fun to some of you, but put yourself back in a time where you felt like you were totally engaged on a mental and physical level… that is what Csikszentmialyi means by optimally challenged by experience. When one is in flow, “… the demands of a situation match the individual’s abilities, and the individual is engaged fully in the act of doing.  In flow, the person loses self-consciousness and a sense of the passing time and enters a different level of experience. Flow is enjoyable…”  

Utilizing flow in our daily activities is beneficial for our sustainable happiness for sure. Now let us broaden our perspective a bit more to take a look at our life as a whole.  Imagine being in flow all of time! 

Barbara Gaughen-Muller taught me the greatest lesson when it comes to flow.  Barbara is the host of a radio show called Inspiring Conversation that is broadcast worldwide. This woman is so wonderful that she won a “Glorious Being” award!  She and her husband, former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Dr. Robert Muller, operate the website Good Morning World which focuses on the positive news in the world rather than the negative and violent news that is typically featured in the media. Together the Mullers believe that no dream is too big, and they dedicate their lives to making a better, peaceful world.

During my Doctoral studies, I had the good fortune of working with Barbara and Robert Muller. One of the greatest lessons, Barbara taught me was when she said, “Aymee, you know where to go when there is flow!”  I never have forgotten this teaching and have used it quite frequently to guide me in my life decisions.  If I find myself banging my head against the wall, so to speak, I can recognize there is no flow.  On the other hand, if doors are opening, I am meeting wonderful people, I am helping others, and I am feeling good, I can recognize that there is flow! 

So remember, your sustainable happiness not only depends on the activities in which you feel flow, but also the flow you feel in your general life. Get your life into the flow of happiness!

Put the concept of flow in the back of your mind to later bring out whenever you are at a decision-making point in your life.  Ask yourself, “Is there flow here?”  If the answer is yes, you know where to go!  Trust me, it works!

Need more help or inspiration get your life into the flow of happiness?
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Dr. Aymee Coget, a widely-known happiness expert, has more than 15 years of experience in positive psychology. Through the Happiness Makeover™, a program developed by Coget, she teaches people how to achieve happiness and handle life's challenges. She also serves as CEO and founder of the American Happiness Association, a science-backed nonprofit designed to educate individuals and organizations about how to be happier, and was nominated for CNN Hero of the Year in 2011.  

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