Pillar of Well-Being #2: Engagement (and Flow), Part II


Posted on : November 15, 2012

Last week, I introduced the concept of engagement, a state where you are fully absorbed in an activity  and that Shangra-La space of being “in flow.”  (See last week’s post for more.)  But you have to understand this: you can’t force yourself into a flow state.  The question this week is: how can I make it more likely that I can turn an activity that is just interesting into that magic state of flow?  Here are some tips:

  • Focus on your sense of doing the activity, not the outcome. Flow comes most readily when the activities you are doing have an intrinsic purpose — that you enjoy the activity for the activity’s sake.
  • Be your own laboratory.  When have you experienced flow?  What were you doing?  What were the skills and experiences that were challenged?  Pay attention to when you are in flow, and what triggers or conditions caused it.  How can you recreate that environment regularly?
  • Do ONE THING at a time.  A constantly beeping email or news alert is the surest way to stay out of a state of flow.  Turn off your distractions as much as you can during periods of focused work and/or play.  Engagement and flow require you to be paying attention to the task at hand, not to 5 other things. BTW, limiting distractions is also a great way to improve your productivity overall.
  • See challenges rather than hurdles.  Things rarely go according to plan.  You can view these detours as obstacles/failures or as a way to challenge your skills and expertise.  Each time you can change that perspective, you significantly increase your ability to engage with the activity.  You NEED challenge to tap into this path towards well-being.
  • Set goals and look for immediate feedback.  Activities that allow you to know if you are on track in real time allows you to negotiate any changing demands and adjust your performance in real time to help maintain that flow state.

My Experience

Flow doesn’t happen automatically.  We all have “flow-killers.”  Some of mine (many of which are universal — but you should pay attention to your own triggers!) are:

  • Whenever I focus on getting something from the activity.  For example, when I’m speaking, if I am seeking praise or signups for my email list or sample coaching sessions, I simply don’t go into flow.
  • When I’m feeling judged
  • When I’m trying to perform for others
  • When I’m grasping for that feeling of flow, it rarely arrives.

In my work, I find flow comes more often when I’m focused primarily on offering an experience or some knowledge as a gift.  That gets me out of the expectation mode and opens the door to flow.

Take Home Message

Engagement can be a powerful way to add to your own sense of well-being.  It can make you feel alive and like you are contributing to the world in your own special way.  You can tap into this by seeking out activities that challenge you and push your skills to new levels.  Play with these ideas in your life and see what happens.

Eric Karpinski
The Happiness Coach
 
 
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