Coming from an electronic engineering background, a solutions development background and a technical pre-sales background I wouldn’t have had much time for woolly headed theories of happiness. Until I found one that was repeatable and actually worked.
It was less about discovering something new and more about discovering what I had experienced.
With 80 Billion plus people having lived on this planet until this moment there really isn’t that much left to discover about the human condition. We tend to rediscover things and pass them off as new. Junk comes and goes but if you live long enough you’ll see the good ideas which fell out of fashion come around on the wheel again.
An idea I like and a personal philosophy I have adopted is flow. Flow is that feeling you get when you are in the zone. You are operating at your peak mental and physical condition. Things are challenging and enjoyable. Time flies by and your concentration is laser focused on the task at hand.
Flow wasn’t invented or discovered by anyone but it was mapped Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi at the University of Chicago. The Chicago team set out to discover what happiness was and what they found was that the most satisfying experiences in people’s lives were those where the challenge they faced was slightly higher than the skills they had available to meet that challenge.The people in the studies stretched. Their mental or physical capabilities extended just enough that they rose to the challenge at hand.
Those taking part in the study recorded these events as times that they were at their happiest.
If things were too tough the experience was miserable, too easy and it was boring. The flow experience is an active experience, you have to be involved and when in flow you will be so involved you’ll find you are unusally satisfied.
If you’re looking for flow in your leisure time make sure the leisure is active. No one finds flow in front of the TV watching someone else do something, but you might find it while doing a crossword puzzle, in a good book, while playing an instrument, playing a sport or painting a picture. Flow is in the stretch. The improvement. Always look for the opportunity to rise to a challenge just beyond your grasp, you’ll feel great during the flow experience and afterwards.
Not every part of your job is going to allow for flow. The challenges of your job may not match or stretch your abilities, but you do have a level of control over your job. There are challenges out there. Go find your flow experiences.