"Oh my, where did the time go?!?" Have you ever exclaimed that after looking up from doing something and realizing that several hours had slipped by? That has happened to me when working with stained glass, sewing a quilt, and at times when writing. Losing track of time is part of the experience of being in flow. We know that one of the ways people experience more fulfilling lives in retirement is to find a passion or challenge that allows you to experience flow with some regularity.
So what is flow exactly?
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (MC going forward), Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University, is known for his study of happiness and creativity and credited with naming the concept of flow.
MC posits that our ability to get in flow in our lives connects to our ability to experience happiness more fully. He would say that flow is part of what we need to continue to make life worth living. He also contends that the ability to experience flow must be cultivated and practiced. If you are looking for greater happiness and fulfillment in this stage of your life, seeking flow opportunities can be a great goal.
Flow is defined as experiencing these seven aspects during an activity:
The Benefits of Flow in our Lives
If you are able to get in flow regularly, you will experience several benefits to your well-being. MC found the following benefits in his research:
Getting Into Flow
According to MC, in order to access flow, we need to have some sense of being aroused by the challenge involved and some sense of channeling our skills to meet the challenge. Flow isn't easily or typically accessed from a state of anxiety, worry or apathy, according to MC. Most of the time when we are watching TV, he believes we are in apathy. So if you are in search of flow, getting away from the TV could be a start.
Edward Phillips wrote an article in the Harvard Health Blog about ways to move toward flow in our lives. Here are some of his ideas, which also happen to be great ideas for retirement.
Activities that will help us access flow, by definition, need to present a challenge to us and require us to use a higher level of our skills. We know that those kinds of activities also help keep our brain active and are used to help prevent decline later in life. All the more reason to go with the flow!
Questions for Your Reflection
I'd love it if you would leave a comment about what you do to get in flow, something you've experienced as a result, or what you are doing to find and cultivate flow in your life. Leave your comments below. If you would like to explore more ways of having flow in your life or how to prepare for or live in retirement or unretirement, email me.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 1st ed.
Phillips, E. Go with the Flow: Engagement and Concentration are Key. Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Publishing, October 29, 2015
Ruth Tongen helps people plan and live meaningful, fun and healthier retirements.