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Life is like a flow
When you watch a child play, you will notice they are focused, with little care for their surroundings. Especially amongst nature. Typically, they are in a state of ‘flow’.
Named after psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, The Flow Theory is described as being ‘in the zone’ – a mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment.
Well, what if we lived our lives in a similar way? Fully ‘in’ it.
Let me share some examples…
One of my favourite things is to watch my youngest daughter play. Spending time at Playcentre has made her and I quite aware of when someone is in the ‘flow’. And we know to leave the person to enjoy their play without interruption. For example, a child is fully focused on painting, an adult walks over totally admiring the act, however, calls “hey Caleb, hold up your painting and smile”, then tries to take a photo of the child and his painting. The adult has good intentions but probably without the awareness of ruining someone’s flow.
I watch my daughter in the flow a lot more than I personally enjoy the flow, which makes me wonder… maybe when we grow up, there are too many excuses and distractions that deviate and disable us from the flow state. It’s not that I don’t try, but almost every time I do there’s a little voice in my head saying, “don’t forget your grocery shopping today” or, “remember you need to take your kid swimming this afternoon”. And that little voice can go on forever. In fact, over the past year, the only time I noticed I was in the ‘flow’, was when I got road rage. But that can’t really be counted.
Looking back on my childhood, the activities I enjoyed the most were the ones that bought me flow. Like treading through the mud, standing in the rain, and flying high on a swing. When we are close to nature, we discover its intelligence and at the same time, we discover our own. It feels like uncovering logic, finding connections, and inventing new things.
This is when I wonder if life is also like a ‘flow’, and instead of watching it from the outside, we should get into it and experience it more.
I have a friend that always leaves tasks to the last minute. Although she has an abundance of time to finish them, she always ends up rushing before the deadline. I asked her “why can’t you plan better to avoid the unnecessary pressure?”, her answer was short – because she cannot find the joy in doing so. And yikes, a lot of things in our lives are like that, unfortunately. But ultimately, we have the choice to let it be full of laughter and glorious moments of victory, or not.
The way I see it, life is more like a flow, not that I am experienced to guide people on what to do, but this is what I have observed and believe. Once again, let’s look at how a child plays with wooden blocks: A 20-month-old baby tried to stack square blocks to make it tall – she put one on top of the other, three in a row without it tumbling. But on the fourth, due to miss-alignment, the whole thing crashed down to the floor. She was surprised by the fall, gave it a look, and did not mind what happened. Moments later, she started from scratch again. This is one of the scenarios that Dr Emmi Pikler described in her practice that she called “free play”. I believe the child’s trial and error reflects what real life is – to be able to celebrate the success and carry on through the difficult times.
There are many ways to live, but the main point is to find your flow. And we all have the choice to do so, despite all the distractions and noise around. An example is Captain Nemo from the book ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea’, he lived a life full of hatred and war, and it was near impossible for him to overcome his anger toward his country’s invaders. So instead, he just chose another way to live, he set sail and traveled around the world. This didn’t mean he eliminated the issue or got over his emotions, but he realised that he had the CHOICE to live life another way.
“Wait and hope (Fac et spera)” – The Count of Monte Cristo
If you can resonate with my theory, or would like to share your perspective on it, feel free to reach out.