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October 2019

flow

How often do you experience Flow?

How often do you experience Flow?23512126Manolis Stratakis

The state of Flow

We have all been involved in activities where we have intense concentration and total commitment. During these activities we feel that we are very competent. We have complete control of the situation. Our skills operate to the fullest. The sense of time, as well as any negative emotions disappear. We are overwhelmed by a wonderful sense of transcendence. Whenever we have experience this situation, we are in a state of flow.

The phenomenon of flow, was first referenced by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1990. He describes it as follows:

“the mental state of flow is being completely absorbed in an activity, for the activity itself and only. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought inevitably follows the preceding, as if playing Jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost”.

Our Growth, Stagnation and Flow zones

Stagnation zone

We all have to deal with various daily activities. Some of them are simple and easy. We have repeated them over many times, so they have become automatic. They do not pose any difficulty for us, so they often result in a loss of interest. Dealing with them may be comfortable, but we will soon find them boring. When we stay for long in our comfort zone, it will sooner or later transform into a stagnation zone.

Growth zone

There are some other tasks which are new to us, therefore unknown, or they may be familiar but tough. These tasks take us out of our comfort zone. Usually, they can cause discomfort, anxiety or fear. However, these are the ones that help us develop and grow. That’s where our growth zone is.

Flow zone

Finally, there are those tasks whose difficulty is almost matching our level of skill. When we are in this kind of activities, we are in heaven. We engage completely. Time disappears. We feel we are in absolute control. We can continue those activities for hours, without feeling hungry or thirsty.

Flow, therefore, is the mental state we experience, when we perform an activity, in which we are completely absorbed with a sense of active concentration and complete immersion, while enjoying the whole process.

Note that, it is not simply the balance between task difficulty and skill level which causes flow, but the balance in higher levels of difficulty and skill. In lower levels even when balance exists, we may be in a state of apathy or lack of interest.

Flow: the optimal experience

The Optimal experienceas Csikszentmihalyi named this mental state – usually occurs when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits, in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

“Optimal experience, when flow is realized, is thus something we make happen”.

Flow’s eight mental states

The flow model recognizes eight emotional mental states:

  1. Apathy – there is no interest, we are apathetic
  2. Boredom – we are bored and maybe run-down
  3. Relaxation – we have a feeling of calmness, but also lack of excitement
  4. Worry – if our focus is on worry, our problems grow and become harder
  5. Control – we have a feeling of dominance. Our activity is hard, but we are in command of the situation
  6. Anxiety – if we are anxious, we may freeze or shut down
  7. Arousal – in this state we approach our surroundings more attentively
  8. Flow – we focus completely on the task or activity, leading to the most successful results

Generally, people who masterwork life, art, sports or a hobby, all have flow experiences. From the outside, it may seem like they are doing the task with great ease. However, if you look at it from within, they have completely devoted themselves to what they are doing in order to achieve this level of mastery.

The Order of Mind

The best state of our inner experience happens when there is order in our minds. For this to happen, we must have realistic goals and our skill level has to match the challenge. The pursuit of a goal brings order to a person’s consciousness, as they have to concentrate on the task at hand and forget about everything else. The times when we struggle to overcome various challenges are the happiest of our life. Thus, the persons investing in consciously chosen goals can only grow into higher beings.

Characteristics of Flow

We all had flow experiences, therefore it is not difficult to recognize some of their characteristics:

  1. We have clear, specific, demanding but feasible goals
  2. Our concentration is in the present moment and in the actual activity, with no room in mind for any other information
  3. The activity is intrinsically rewarding
  4. There is a sense of tranquility
  5. Usually time passes much faster than expected
  6. We have immediate feedback on the progress
  7. We feel a balance between the task difficulty and our skill level. There is a feeling of assertiveness and self-confidence
  8. There is a sense of control over the activity, with no worries about failure
  9. We lose awareness of our physical needs

Theoretically, athletes and artists are more likely to experience flow. However, flow can be hiding in simple everyday activities, like housekeeping or reading a good book.

Electronic games are probably the most characteristic example, as they lead to flow by design. This is the main reason they cause strong addiction to teenagers and adults.

The following skills can help us achieve a state of flow:

  • curiosity
  • interest in life
  • persistence
  • low ego

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Read also the article: Step out of your comfort zone to pursue personal growth and development

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What are your Personal Core Values and how aligned are with your life?

What are your Personal Core Values and how aligned are with your life?150150Manolis Stratakis

What is the difference between our principles and our values?

Our personal values are hidden deep in our mind. Spending some time to discover them, allows us to see which aspects of our life are aligned with them and which are in some kind of conflict!

Principles

Our principles are pushed to us by others, from the outside world. They are taught to us. They help us conform to the norms of society. Principles are the musts of our life.

Values

Values ​​come from within us. They are all those things we consider important. Values are the wants of our life. They highlight what we stand for. They ​​guide us in life, especially in difficult times. So, our values largely determine our behaviors, decisions, and actions.

When our plain logic does not seem enough to help us make critical decisions, we mobilize our “heart”. The heart always takes decisions that are based on our values. In other words, when our decisions or activities are in line with our values, an internal motivation is created. Everything seems to roll smoothly. We feel joy and pleasure. We are fulfilled.

On the other hand, when we are forced to deal with something that questions values, we get a vague feeling that something is wrong. We might have a sense of internal tension, anxiety or guilt. As a result, procrastination may fire in as well as other unwanted behaviors.

Most common personal values

Our values ​​- like the instruments of an airplane – guide us through the storms. They define what is important to us and what we give priority to. They determine the decisions we make. Each of us has a different mix of values ​​that makes us special. Life flows smoothly when we live according to our values. But when, for any reason, we are forced to live in a way that is against them, then we get that elusive feeling that something is wrong. We can have a bad mood and low energy.

The moment we begin to think, speak and behave in a way which is aligned with our highest ideals and most important values, our self-image improves, our self-esteem rises and for the first time we feel real freedom. We feel much happier, we breathe, walk and move with a radically different confidence.

The list below shows some of the most important human values. First, think thoroughly and then note which ones resonate with you. Of course, you can always add one you might not see in the list.

Aesthetics
Optimism
Integrity
Change
Solidarity
Altruism
Recognition by others
Tolerance
Independence
Simplicity
Effectiveness
Avoid pressure or conflict
Determination
Security
Authenticity
Autonomy
Self-discipline
Self confidence
Generosity
Creativity
Dialogue
Justice
Action and variety
Power
Ability to express
Volunteering
Sincerity
Peace
Freedom
Free time
Confidence
Inspiration
Honesty
Development and growth
Professionalism
Communication
Persistence
Success
Courtesy
Inventiveness
Leadership
Balance
Equality
Cleanliness
Duty
Cultivation
Kindness
Understanding
Sociability
Prestige
Education
Family
Ecology
Teamwork
Beauty
Vision
Spiritual stimuli
Variety
Challenge
Offer to others
Initiative
Originality
Risk taking
Respect
Wisdom
Stability
Compassion
Cooperation
Prudence
Continuous learning
Travel
Art
Responsibility
Patience
Reputation
Friendship

Exercise: Find your own personal values

Don’t wait any longer to make the most valuable investment in yourself. Find those values that are at the core of your existence. Those that motivate you and make you stand out. Once you get to know them, you’ve already taken a big step in your personal development. And that’s only the beginning!

Think and write down your ten most important personal values (try to list them in an order of importance to you):

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

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Read also the article: An introduction to the wheel of emotions

 

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