Recently I have been revisiting the concept of flow as discussed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who has described ‘Flow’ as being a ‘state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work’. In the link above he talks about happiness and being absorbed by what we do to the extent that we have not capacity to pay attention to anything else.
A recent blog post for Harvard Business Review by Steven Kottler describes flow as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best,” He quotes in his article, “In all our studies of extreme performance improvement,” says John Hagel, co-founder of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, “the people and organizations who covered the most distance in the shortest time were always the ones who were tapping into passion and finding flow.” He goes on to say “Flow allows you to absorb information, synthesize it, and integrate it. This drives the creative process. So while everyone else is driven to distraction, people in flow are adapting — they’re using the state to take performance to the next level.” So new ideas come out of this process.
For me, to be in a state of flow means that I am totally absorbed by what I am doing to the extent that time is irrelevant. This concept is a strong indicator of what motivates us and our passion. So if I am motivated by completing or taking part in a particular activity it would be strong indicator that this is something I am passionate about and when taking part, I find myself in a state of flow. Passion is something I have written about previously in the context of being one of the 4 Ps enabling creativity in an individual.
All of these are important to the creative process, however if someone is passionate about something then they will be extremely motivated to develop their skills, competence, and knowledge and to work within this area. It is easy to see this demonstrated with sports enthusiasts, however it is equally applicable to work. This also resonates with the work that Teresa Amabile (1996) has done on creating ideal conditions for creativity at work, in which she asserts that in order to encourage creativity, it is important to have expertise, creative thinking skills and intrinsic motivation. When these three conditions exist then creativity can flow. So, to find happiness and creativity, recognise times when you are in flow, acknowledge the passion in what you are doing and look for ways to find more of this to enable a state of flow.