Sometimes, I catch myself in the moment of rushing.
The moment when the pressure is not even totally real – it is me creating it with my thinking – and I just fall into this habit of doing things in a super speedy way, even when I don’t really need to.
Usually, this moment will come after an intense or busy period or a big project.
Kind of similar to that feeling when you just get off a busy highway into a crowded slow city street, and you just can’t get used to how slow things are moving.
But sometimes I will build it up simply because I like to keep active, do a lot of things, and be energetic – and that is a slippery slope towards falling into that hyper/rushed/stressed mode.
Has that ever happened to you?
Or perhaps your style is the opposite – if you don’t keep motivating yourself enough, you easily slip into “slow mode”, without much energy or desire to do things?
Life feels boring, but you don’t feel the energy and willpower to do something about it?
Most of our negative moods tend to go in one of the two directions: or we are too activated, or under-activated.
Too activated means we get into a bit of “survival mode”: high energy but one that is on the edge with alertness.
Too driven, too speedy, rushed, feeling in an action mode but in a stressful way.
It often comes with a light (or not so light) feeling of anxiety.
Also, can easily turn towards anger or frustration.
Under-activated means we are on the “low energy side” – perhaps we feel a bit sad or depressed, or tired.
It could also be that we feel relaxed or in control, and for a short while, it can be an enjoyable state.
But stay in it for too long – and it will easily slip into boredom.
It can also lead to a lack of sense of meaning. Or straight to apathy.
Slipping a bit towards too activated, or under-activated doesn’t have to necessarily be negative. They can also come with a positive flavor.
A moment to rest and recharge – or a moment to push harder to catch up with a big yet meaningful challenge.
But stay in either of them for a longer period of time – and they will inevitably turn into stress or boredom.
We humans are wired to thrive when we are active (not too active! but active).
We are at our best when we are actively engaged in meaningful things we are trying to create, build, learn, or communicate.
Here is how that looks like in practice:
it comes with a subtle balance of having a challenging goal that we are trying to achieve, while also feeling skillful and confident that (with the right amount of effort and time) we can indeed achieve that goal.
That is the space where the state of flow happens.
Misbalance between the challenge ahead of us and the skill that we have for dealing with that challenge takes us into one of the two “suboptimal places” – while striking that balance takes us towards a life of flow.
You might have seen this chart before.
But flow is not (just) about understanding the chart.
It is about using it as a tool, every day.
About putting it in practice in our life, and truly building a life of flow.
It is about getting in a habit of asking ourselves: “Where am I on that chart?”
How am I doing? and
How can I move closer towards flow?
And having the practical tools and right habits to do that shift, when you notices you slide away.
It is constant dance… you get bored, you raise challenge a bit and it kicks you to a bit too alert state.. then when you learn to handle that new challenge, you get to flow.
But as your skill is growing, you keep slipping towards that place of calm control… and eventually, if you don’t look into keep on making things interesting and challenging for yourself, it will lead you to boredom.
That subtle dance is something that requires a bit of practice. A real-life experience, not just theoretical ideas.
It requires you to understand the state of flow and learn the tools to build more of it – but, more than anything, it requires you to understand yourself, your tendencies and personal traps, and learn how to play against them.
To build a life of flow is not about knowledge – it is about skill. One that takes a lifetime to build and to keep on developing.
P.S. Would you like to build more of flow into your life? Join us at Happiness Academy for Deep Dive into Flow online course.
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