One of the books I am currently reading is titled Flow-The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It certainly is not a ‘How-To’ book, it literally is about the psychology behind flow, or what one experiences when current action and/or thought is working well for a person. People typically refer to ‘flow’ as ‘being in the groove’, or being ‘totally focused’, or ‘having mojo’. For those who don’t care to read research based psychological findings, this book is not for you. The information is quite clinical, the print is tiny, and there are 300 pages.
I love clinical research, I love tiny print, and I love a lot pages. This is a book for me!
Flow is a state of being that, whether we realize it or not, are all strive to achieve in every activity within our daily lives. We are constantly trying to achieve an equilibrium between Challenge and Comfort for any attempted skill. Too much of one will offset the flow of our experience and we become either frustrated or bored.
What to do when either occurs?…Change our perspective. Easier said than done, however it is not impossible.
While practicing piano this morning, it was certainly a challenge for me to ‘get’ into flow. I was making many mistakes that I didn’t make yesterday, my timing was off, my fingering was off, and I noticed that I was spending a lot of time in areas of my practice that I breezed through yesterday.
This frustrating challenge of not playing as well as I did yesterday did not derail me however. After all, this is what practice is all about. I played through my challenges. It’s a tough thing to do most certainly. As a kid, I would immediately stop playing and allow myself to feel defeated. But was I actually defeated? No. I allowed myself to feel defeat. The ability to overcome frustration and defeat from inner thought is not at all simple. Perseverance is something we typically learn with age and experience.
Time and again an amazing thing I have noticed after having experienced not being in flow during an activity is that I generally experience Flow x 10 the next time I pursue the same activity. This is a pattern that I have noticed. So tomorrow when I again sit down to practice, I won’t preface my practice with a preconception that I will play well. It usually just happens, and it’s a wonderful feeling.