Addicted to Flow

I have a problem. I’m addicted to “flow.” I am someone whom others would describe as lucky, for I’ve known for almost all my life what I’ve wanted to do. I’ve had goals from the time I was 5 or 6, and I spent the next 45 years or so “working” towards them. Actually, I should say “flowing” towards them…

I have a problem. I’m addicted to “flow.” I am someone whom others would describe as lucky, for I’ve known for almost all my life what I’ve wanted to do. I’ve had goals from the time I was 5 or 6, and I spent the next 45 years or so “working” towards them. Actually, I should say “flowing” towards them.

Flow In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as that state where you are doing something – anything, any activity – without consciously thinking about it. You are totally into this activity, and enjoying it moment by moment – you are “lost in the activity.”

Have you ever experienced this state? I’ll bet you have. My problem is that I’ve experienced it too often – in racing, playing sports, and doing business.

Csikszentmihalyi believes flow is at the core of happiness, and that for most people, they are most happy when they are in the flow.

That certainly is the case for me. To me, there is nothing better than being lost in an activity. Unfortunately, when I’m not in the flow, I’m not completely happy.

I wonder how many other people are like me?

Like any “addiction,” the more I’ve been in the flow, the more I want it again. As I’ve been racing cars less over the past few years, my overall level of happiness has reduced. I need a fix of flow. Fortunately, I’ve been able to find it in areas other than racing.

What activities readily trigger flow for me? Well, driving, of course. Coaching, writing, certain business activities, figuring out problems, times with my family, learning, reading, and presenting workshops.

This past weekend I conducted an 8-hour workshop. Presenting to a group of 30-plus people, and making sure the energy level stayed up and the participants were learning for 8 hours can be a challenge. I was able to stay in the flow for at least 6 of those 8 hours. Every now and then I’d find myself slipping out of it – often when I recognized I was in the flow, I’d pop out of it. That’s the way it works – the second you realize you’re in the flow, you begin to think with your conscious mind, and that kicks you out of the flow. But then I’d relax and just trust myself to do what I do best in that situation, and I’d be back again. What fun!

It’s in those moments of flow where it seems I could keep going and going forever. That happens when I’m really into a fun work project – I could work non-stop, for days on end without coming up for air! I’ve been accused of being a workaholic, but I just think of it as doing what I love, and getting lost in the flow of my work.

I wonder if the definition of a workaholic should be “someone who gets in the flow when working”? Maybe we could look at workaholics (check out Workaholics Anonymous) differently – in a more positive light?

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One Response to “Addicted to Flow”

  1. […] in “flow”. Yes, I’m Scott Whitlock and I’m addicted to flow. (I’m not the only one.) If you have one of those lucky days where you spend a full 8 hours without […]