Flow

I touched on the topic of ‘flow’ a little bit in my last post. However, I thought I’d go into a little more detail on this topic. Flow is described as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter, the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it’ by writer Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It is those moments when you are completely absorbed by a task and ‘in the zone.’

There are many ways to generate flow, art being one of them. However flow is universal and occurs in many forms of work. It is often associated with the creative arts such as in acting, writing, dance, painting but can also be found in other things such as writing an essay and in sport like tennis or swimming. The flow state can actually be entered while performing any activity although it is more likely to occur when the task or activity is wholeheartedly engaged for intrinsic purposes.

How to achieve flow? Well, let’s first start off by saying that there should be little to no distractions surrounding you, specifically your phone. It is about the balance between the level of skill and the size of the challenge. When a challenge is bigger than your skill, you become anxious and stressed however when the level of skill exceeds the size of the challenge you become bored and apathetic. Balance is essential in getting the mix between the two just right, seen in the graph below:

Achieving flow varies from person to person. When it comes to acting, for me it requires going down a ‘ramp’ to get myself ‘in the zone’. This ramp includes meditation, repeating the lines numerous times, saying an internal monologue, listening to music, doing a dance that I think my character would do. I try all different types of things to get myself into that space where I feel fully focused and in control of the work I’m about to launch into. It changes for each character, each script, each production. The point is, is that I know I need my ‘ramp’ to get there. I can’t just leap into a character and achieve flow without it.

You are not always going to achieve and need flow. It’s not essential to achieve flow to produce great work. The point of flow is that it generates a level of happiness in your work that makes it easier and much more enjoyable to engage in. Flow is the secret to happiness. It gives your work meaning and creative purpose. I’ll leave you with one final quote by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist. I have experienced this time and again. My hands seem devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching it in a state of awe and wonderment. And the (music) just flows out of itself.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

I hope this post leaves you creatively inspired and motivated.

-Jess

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