No flow, no glory
- Digital Flow
I want some flow. According to the theory proposed by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, flow is the result of completely focused motivation. You become immersed in an experience. The emotions are positive, energized and aligned with the task at hand. There is supposedly a feeling of “spontaneous joy” while performing the task. Another way of saying it is that there’s a deep focus on nothing but the activity….. I want some of that! I am seldom immersed in an activity. I’m always listening for the phone or poked by random thoughts, or nudged by physical needs. No matter how much I enjoy an activity, I’m never unselfconsciously caught up in it.
Mr. C says that you can’t force yourself to enter a state of flow, nor can you even predict when you might enter flow. You just have to be whole-heartedly performing the task, any task. Sometimes when I play Scrabble on my IPod I get caught up in the quest for the most expensive word. Does that count? When I used to play tennis there was sometimes a moment before the sweat began to blind me and after I had actually hit the ball when I’d get some sort of “zoney” feeling. Does that count? Sometimes when I write poetry I have a moment or two when I’m not distracted. I think that counts.
Csikszentimihalyi says flow happens when the following conditions are present: goals are clear; feedback is immediate; a balance exists between opportunity and capacity; concentration deepens; the present is what matters; control is no problem; the sense of time is altered; there is a loss of ego.
At 60 + I’m not very optimistic that some day I’ll discover an activity in which I will become wholly and utterly absorbed. But it is possible that under the influence of flow, I might compose a brilliant poem, master a sport, have a spiritual epiphany, or come up with a new invention. Until then, however, I’ll pursue my life in the same interrupted, half-hearted, unabsorbed way I always have.