Flow & living as an art

A couple years ago, when I first started to think about optimism I considered the phrase, living is an art.

It seemed like a pretentious notion, perfectly mated to new age sensibilities. As time went on I began to think that even if it did seem pretentious it might very well be true.

The word flow triggers the same response. This article defines flow and describes its eight ingredients:

1 The experience occurs usually when we are involved in tasks that we have a good chance of completing.

2 We are able to concentrate fully on the activity.

3 The task has clear goals.

4 The task is such that it gives us immediate feedback on how well we are doing.

5 Our involvement is “deep but effortless” and this “removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life.”

6 There is a sense of exercising control over our actions.

7 Concern for the self disappears but paradoxically our “sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over.”

8 We lose our normal sense of time “we can feel either that it has speeded up (and passed quickly) or slowed down.”

Just to show how challenging flow can be when it comes to, oh let’s say, golf and writing consider my take on them respective to those activities:

1 This is a very poor fit. The sense that the task of writing and golf can be completed is completely absent from the experience. There’s always another swing to be made and another word to be chosen.

2 Yes, full concentration on both golf and writing is highly desirable.

3 Yes, the goals are clear (usually).

4 Um, sometimes the task gives immediate feedback and sometimes it doesn’t. I can spend quite a bit of time writing only to realize days later that what I wrote didn’t really work. Similarly, working on golf involves a good bit of sideways and even some backward steps. It’s simply a very hard game and reliable feedback isn’t a constant.

5Effortlessness in golf or writing is both rare and short lived. It does happen, it’s glorious and then it’s gone.

6 Certainly, control over actions is a feature in both golf and writing.

7 The disappearance of the self is a tough one, too.

“Just be the ball.” -Ty Webb in Caddyshack

8 The emergence of the stronger self is true. Success brings confidence. In golf, I can recall certain shots, the way impact felt, the way the ball flew and I can imagine myself doing it again. Good writing, too, breeds an excitement about the next idea, the next event and the next part of a story. Time does speed up when I’m writing, but that’s mostly because I am always putting it between the rock and a hard place of other activities that demand my attention. Golf has an easier time of it; if I’m on the range or the course the nature of time does change.

More flow is a good thing, but it’s not always easy to achieve.

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Flow & living as an art

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