I read the obituary for Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi this morning and recalled how influential his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience was for me when I read it in the early 90s. The Times article linked to his 2004 TED talk which I also watched today. It reminded me that a good part of my recent career transition has been filled with flow and how happy that makes me.
The author likens flow to a form of ecstasy, which comes from Latin roots meaning to stand to the side of something; stepping into an alternative reality. It is the one form of ecstasy I willingly and frequently partake in.
I spent a good part of the morning getting ready for a video shoot in my workspace tomorrow. A friend who lives in Hells Kitchen is doing me a favor by coming to my place near the tip of Manhattan. He’s taking a busman’s holiday–he works in video for a living– to record me on my iPhone for about an hour talking about different aspects of my new art business. I want to be sure to use his time respectfully and to squeeze content into every moment.
My apartment is only 827 square feet, but on video no one will know that. I have cleaned up and staged 5 different areas (3 shown here) for us to shoot in. I’ve selected different tops and necklaces or scarves to wear so it’s not obvious that these were all shot on the same day. Shhhhh. You’re sworn to keep this our secret.
As I was dancing around my apartment setting up the room arrangements, straightening the shelves, neatening the piles, time flew by. I had set the timer, but when it went off, I simply continued. I was in flow. I was also ecstatic. Engaged at all levels in my actions.
According to Csikszentmihalyi flow is the “effortless, spontaneous feeling you get when you enter this ecstatic state.”
Further, Csikszentmihalyi notes that when you’re in flow you feel completely involved in what you’re doing. You have a sense of clarity and serenity, plus a feeling of ecstasy.
Using the term “flow” is more acceptable than telling someone that my work puts me in an ecstatic state. But it does. Fortunately, it’s more easily replicable than its synthetic namesake.