We've all experienced that magic state of being completely immersed in something or being blissfully “in the zone”. Everything clicks and you are running on all cylinders. Time seems to fade away, you forget to eat, and your focus is razor-sharp. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this feeling flow.
Flow occurs when we are totally present in the moment and feel energized and focused. Perhaps it happens in the shower when the solution to that nagging design problem pops into your head. Or you wake up at 2 AM and know exactly how you are going to present your latest proposal to your boss.
When we live creatively, boredom is banished and every moment holds the promise of fresh discovery.
Personal Creativity and Flow
The feeling of flow is elusive at times, and cannot be forced. You can, however, nurture certain conditions or the perfect “growing medium” to help it along. For instance, personal creativity and flow are more likely to happen when:
- We feel challenged to come up with something brand-new, but it is not an impossible or hopeless idea, either.
- We are focused and committed to solving the problem or clearing the logjam of creative ideas. Being stuck in a temporary state, and giving up is simply not an option.
- We are self-motivated to create something or flesh out an idea because we have our own reasons for doing so, not because someone else thinks we should.
- We have clear goals in mind but are open to the need for change or adjustments along the way. Reinvention, adaptation, or taking a step back are perfectly acceptable and can sometimes lead to better results.
As Csikszentmihalyi states in his book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, “Even though personal creativity may not lead to fame and fortune, it can do something that from the individual's point of view is even more important: make day-to-day experiences more vivid, more enjoyable, more rewarding. When we live creatively, boredom is banished and every moment holds the promise of fresh discovery.”
That's what I call living.
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