Being happy and staying happy. Being in a flow
We all seek happiness. Every one of us. Here is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi had to say.
“What he “discovered” was that happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy or power command. It does not depend on outside events, but, rather, on how we interpret them. Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person. People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.”
Here is my own take based on my experience.
Here I was living my life doing what I am supposed to do: go to work, make sure there was food on the table, roof over our head and other comforts in life for the family. Happiness was there sometimes and sometimes not, but I thought that was life. I thought happiness was about me controlling external events. Of course, the pleasures filled the gaps in between worktime such as travelling, buying material things, and meeting and socializing with people. I went on like this thinking this is what life is.
As you know, the mind lacks order or predictability. This daily life’s activities gave the mind something to do but it had ample amount of time to be thinking of problems which kept me unhappy every now and then. To fix this unhappiness, the mind would carry out destructing activities like partying, drinking or enjoying more of worldly pleasure. The mind created this unhappiness and yet it is trying to fix it with more problem. What a crazy suicidal cycle. The full time job I had, did not seem to keep me happy as well. I was still going to work because I told myself i had to do it anyway, as i had no choice. So everyday I might have found something to do but it was completely useless for the long term happiness and personal growth.
The key was carrying out activities which added order to my mind. One thing that did that was my gym workouts which I got involved in my workplace. I started gym in 1.5 years ago and I noted I had to focus on what I was eating, during the workouts I was doing and also following schedules of my workout. Planning all this ordered my mind. Same as with routines I had. Every morning what I had, at what time I took supplements and what time and how long I slept. Putting my mind into an ordered set of activities, put my psychic energy into focus. That made me happy. The side effect of this: I was achieving a better health by hitting the gym.
Going to the gym is a good example of an activity which puts the mind into order and provides you little time to think about bad stuff or negative thoughts or bad thoughts. This then generates the happiness you need. I then quit my job knowing there was nothing engaging to my mind which would make me happy. I like engaging with customers and presenting and running workshop. My manager at the time failed to realize my potential and shoved me into preparing PowerPoint slides, which I hated.
I then started reading a lot and that also required a lot of focus to understand what I was reading. I added writing as another activity. Both of this kept my mind ordered. Both of this activity required attention from my mind. That means happiness.
Another key activity I found provided the mind with order is motoracing because of the intense focus the activity required. I remember getting out of a race car in Oct 2016 after a race which I won and I could not remember any thoughts I might have had during that one hour. My mind was quiet as I put in 100% focus in driving the race car to win. All I can remember is racing driving. I was a happiest one hour for me. I was in a state of ecstasy during the drive. I forgot how hot it was in the race suit in the hot weather. I forgot I was thirsty. I forgot my physical body. All my physical actions were just automatic.
Putting the mind into order by carrying out actions, which had feedback (immediate or short term or long term), which requires actions and which requires taking action, is called a Flow activity. Remember that “flow” activities are not interchangeable with “leisure” activities. For example, visiting with a friend is a healthy leisure activity, but does not induce flow. That’s because a flow activity:
- Is useful and challenging, which makes it intrinsically rewarding
- Helps you progress toward a goal
- Provides feedback to help gauge the effectiveness of your efforts
Of course gym and the related activities don’t take most of the day. For the rest of the day my mind wants to carry out psychic entropy. So finding more activities which were ordering the mind provided the mind little time to be on a destructive entropy trail. Remember that the mind can only focus on certain amount of data input in any given instance. It is the reason why you can’t listen 100% to two people talking to you at the same time. The key is to find activities which take that amount of focus, puts the mind into order and little resources left of the mind to think of bad thoughts or entropy activities or create problems and then trying to solve them. When I say bad thoughts the mind is trying to create a problem which it will then try to solve. Hence it is trying to keep busy. This is a also a destructive process.
For a lot of people, the worst of this mind entropy happens when they are in solitude. Yet it is the best time for you to finally put your mind into an order. It is not easy but it needs to be done to find happiness in everyday life. Imagine living in the wilderness alone in Alaska for months without seeing a single soul. Without an ordered mind with a set of activities, you will go crazy very quickly and be dead. Remember how solitary confinement is considered a punishment for a person ? Do you remember the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks staring? He created an activity with the basketball by giving the ball a name and a face. That kept him sane.