The classic work on how to achieve happiness
How to increase your day to day happiness, and find more meaning I life, by focusing your activities to be in flow.
Flow! The classic work on how to achieve happiness, and is the father of many happiness books. The first edition was written in 1990 by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and has been released in a newer edition in 1997,2002, and 2008.
The cornerstone for a happier and more complete life is repeated experiences of flow in everyday life, this can be experienced through physical activity such as climbing, running, playing squash, or through senses, where you listen to music, play chess, or develop your own website.
What is flow
Flow is a highly complex theme, but my interpretation of flow is when you face a challenge where all your relevant skills are needed to deal with the challenges of the situation, and your attention is fully absorbed in the activity and all your focus is on this task. You transport your conscious to another world, a bobble where it is just your conscious and the challenges at hand, your concentration is so intense that the tyranny of all other problems like bills, fights you had with your girlfriend, trouble at work, family crisis, just disappear because no attention is left. Your skills are challenged and will be stretched to the limit and push you to higher levels of performance, what might feel like a minute is actually severely hours.
After an enjoyable flow event we know that we have changed, that ourselves has grown, in some respect, we have become more complex. We have strengthened our self, become more confident, stronger, ready for a bigger challenge. develop character.
How to achieve flow
First of all, in my experience, the ultimate flow killer in today’s world is social media, and especially the cellphone, it’s impossible to experience flow if constantly having the phone around, one notification from Facebook, snap or Instagram is just ripping you away from the world of flow. Turn off your phone and put it away. Out of sight out mind.
When the phone is gone, select your activity, set a major goal, and side goals, what do you want to achieve? Then focus your attention on your activity. The activity should be challenging and balance between boredom and anxiety(see figure below), by that I mean, your skills should not be much lower than the activity, like someone new wants to learn climbing, don’t start at El Capitan, you will feel a lot of anxiety, or a climber with 10 years’ experience climbing at the McDonalds climbing tower, he will feel boredom. It should lay in-between and perfectly balanced, and when it does flow will appear.
What activities produce flow
Flow can be achieved in several activities. Like reading, playing chess, being with other people, creating a website or a new excel sheet, climbing, running, lifting weights, or playing a game of squash. If playing a game of squash, the skills must be matched, if not, the better player will feel boredom and the lesser player will feel anxiety.
Flow can be achieved everywhere, alone, like lifting weights in the gym, where you have a clear goal, and its just you and the iron or training for a marathon, or with friends, like playing squash or boardgames.
Work and love
“Work and love” Is the answer Sigmund Freud gave when asked for his recipe for happiness. So short and so accurate.
In the last parts of the book, work and relations to other people are discussed, and if we find flow I these activities one is well on the way toward improving the quality of life as a whole.
My impression is, that when graduate and get a job, people tend to relax, they are satisfied cause they have learned the bare minimum of tricks to survive, and from then on, they are on autopilot, and little flow is accomplished. They wake up, go to work, go home, play videogames and maybe drink beers with friends on Saturday, reminisce back to the good old days of university’s days( the last time they felt challenged and got huge doses of flow on a daily basis), in contrast to a friendship that challenges each other to grow and step out of the safe comforts zone that so many people live in, and share one most secrets feelings and thoughts.
At the end of the day, you have watched another television show of a bunch of spoiled kids get drunk, fuck each other or athletes compete in big stadiums with millions of spectators, you then go to bed and hope that tomorrow, perhaps, something good will happen.
How I achieve flow
I work as a civil engineer, so a lot of time is spent in front of a PC, and it is easy to find oneself in an autopilot scenario, with some of the tasks. But I do try to set goals, like one of my tasks was to do a lot of calculations on tree beams, columns, and connections. I did the calculations in software but needed to do hand calculations for a double-check.
My goal; make an excel sheet, the excel sheet is going to be simple and very easy to use, with a slightly improved design compared to my concrete excel sheets, and with at least 1 new feature, that I haven’t done before. The day just flew by in a flow state.
Another flow experience is when I have friends over, to play board games, like Risk Europa, Pandemic, Brass Birmingham, or War Of The Ring. My clear goal is to crush my opponent’s soul and wipe them off the board and be crowned the winner. A game that lasts 7-8 hours feels like 30 minutes, I am completely lost in the game, strategies where my next move will be, try to understand the rules, figuring out where my opponents planning to attack, etc. I have a blast, I do believe my friends is having a blast. Everyone is having a blast.