Think about the last time you did something you loved; that once emerged in this particular task you lost all sense of time and space and just surrendered into it.
If you cannot think of an example for yourself, think about your children or grand children. Have you ever noticed how young kids play. They are engrossed, engulfed and often completely enveloped in their make believe. They create elaborate stories to go along with their towers of lego or plates of toy food to support and enhance their creative process. Do you ever see children multi-tasking while playing? Absolutely not, for this would take away from the essence of their genius.
Whether it be children or adults we can tap into this state, what is now termed ‘flow’. Flow state, first coined by psychologist Csikszentmihalyi is defined as a “state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation…a state where the individual is so involved in the activity at hand that nothing else seems to matter.” Those with an autotelic personality, that is, those that are driven by an internal reward system are more likely to be capable of finding ‘flow’. Those with an autotelic personality are more likely to display traits of curiosity, persistence and humility.
Therefore, if we think of ‘flow’ as a contributor to happiness, we can say that those who are intrinsically motivated have a much higher likelihood of leading more fulfilled lives. A remarkable example of this is Colin O’Brady, world record holder, elite athlete and first individual to ever cross Antartica, unsupported and unaided in 54 days. Colin speaks about this very concept, flow, in his recent podcast with School of Greatness created Lewis Howes and how tapping into this state gave him peace and strength on his solo journey across the Antarctic (https://lewishowes.com/podcast/become-superhuman-with-your-potential-with-colin-obrady/). His remarkable Ted Talk entitled “Change your Mindset, Achieve Anything” can be viewed at his website, https://www.colinobrady.com/speaking.
As mothers and parents, there are many things we can learn from our children, but one of the most important I feel is being in flow. To children, this state is simply instinctual; however as the years pass, this freedom and space has been replaced by worry, distractions and multi-tasking.
Out of the seven elements of flow, one of them is that the task has a high level of perceived challenge and requires a high perceived skill. Although rolling play-dough or zooming around cars might not be rated high on the intellectual scale of activities, we cannot forget as parents the skill it requires engage in pure, uninterrupted play. It requires us to turn off the hundreds of tasks that keep popping up like whack-a-moles at a carnival and quiet them just long enough to fully be present with our children.
Brene Brown (https://brenebrown.com) talks about the use of ‘permission slips’ as adults; that is, giving ourselves permission to do those things we have lost touch with. We must give ourselves to permission to not just provide all day but also to play because it is entering this state, even for just a few moments, that can generate the energy and bolster our hearts, as mothers, fathers and nurturers of all things.