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Flow, baby

Being "in the zone" isn't just limited to sports. Artists, authors, musicians, engineers, composers, all enter the paradox where time seems to stand still...and yet it seems to be over in an instant...there's a sense of relaxation but it's also intense...you have a sense of time but lose track fully immersed in deep and meaningful "work."


Although flow experiences have been around for thousands of years, it was in the 1970s and 1980s that Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied and helped popularize the modern concept of flow as a highly focused mental state conducive to productivity. In these years of academic study, he was fascinated with creatives who were completely engaged in "optimal experience." But what drew him to his work originally was growing up in post-war years observing people who appeared "happy" but who had lost virtually everything that would usually be perceived as security and peace of mind.


He explored how the addition of material resources contributed to happiness, or NOT...and, in particular, was able to substantiate through his research that after a certain basic point, beyond the minimum poverty level, increases in income or material resources don't necessarily relate to happiness. In other words, money doesn't make you happy. Nor does more money make you more happy. His findings were remarkable, and have so permeated our society today that this concept seems commonplace.


Csikszentmihalyi proposed:


"A person can make himself happy, or miserable, regardless of what is actually happening "outside," just by changing the contents of consciousness."


What Csikszentmihalyi wanted to understand was where, in everyday life, do we feel really happy.


He wanted to look at what made creative people feel it was worth spending their lives doing things that many of them did not expect fame or fortune for, but were engaged in because the work made them happy.


Those he studied mentioned a state of esctasy, where they are able to harness a stream of consciousness...where existence is temporarily suspended...where the creative activity overtakes a sense of self...and time. Hours may pass, and it feels like only minutes have gone by.