Flow and Peak Experiences

May 05, 2016

Flow and Peak Experiences

We celebrate life in the moment. Ok, this probably sounds trite on the surface. What does that even mean, and why is it important? From Snapchat to Netflix, we are presented with countless options to put our attention somewhere other than where we actually are. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy the luxury of entertainment—we do. But there is an opportunity that passes us by when we choose to create a lifestyle out of distraction. We miss a chance to fully exist in the present, to actually experience a moment rather than mentally digest it as content. And if we aren’t fully existing, what are we doing? Our motive is rooted in two similar-yet-separate psychological perspectives with one common agreement between them: By focusing our attention on the present, we can experience more powerful moments, resulting in a higher quality of life. Flow psychology by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi “Flow psychology” was developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (say that name ten times fast). Flow is a mind-state we enter when we become totally absorbed in our actions. It is the runner’s high or the buzz felt during a good wave. It happens when we lose ourselves and become the activity itself. Csikszentmihalyi explains: “Imagine that you are skiing down a slope and your full attention is focused on the movements of your body, the position of the skis, the air whistling past your face, and the snow-shrouded trees running by. There is no room in your awareness for conflicts or contradictions; you know that a distracting thought or emotion might get you buried face down in the snow. The run is so perfect that you want it to last forever.” Flowfold_MomentofFlow What can be gained from the Flow experience? Csikszentmihalyi posits that while the feeling of happiness is attainable from simple pleasures like the company of friends, true satisfaction originates from an internal experience. In his words: “The happiness that follows flow is of our own making, and it leads to increasing complexity and growth in consciousness.” Sounds good to us! Peak Experiences by Abraham Maslow Our second major psychological inspiration is the concept of “Peak Experiences,” put forth by Abraham Maslow. Maslow is best known for contributing the hierarchy of needs, which outlines a progression of our human priorities as they relate to survival, happiness, and feelings of completeness. Maslow also identified Peak Experiences, or transcendental moments that occur during day-to-day life. Originally interested in historical religious epiphanies, Maslow realized that many non-religious persons described moments of elation and fulfillment in their lives the same way that some had described moments of spiritual enlightenment. It was his belief that in the presence of intrinsic beauty and quality, ordinary people can have powerful and extraordinary experiences. The idea is this: If we make ourselves available to fully experience an event like watching a meteor shower, hearing an impressive piece of music, or eating amazing food, we are likely to feel much more than just happiness. We can become fulfilled in an ultimate sense, even if only for a moment. PeakExperience You’ve had this experience. That one part of the hike when you paused to take a look. You just can’t forget it: the light, temperature, and scenery were in perfect harmony. It's an internal appreciation for everything all at once. Did you feel like you were part of something bigger? If we are present and aware rather than distracted, we are available to meet the moment and reach this state of higher qualitative experience. Resolving the difference  It’s easy to confuse these two concepts, but there is a major defining factor that separates them. Flow is an internal state that is achieved through total mental investment in your actions. Peak Experiences can occur to a passive spectator. Here's an example of each: Someone might enter a state of Flow while woodworking or cooking. A Peak Experience could be felt by a person observing a sunrise over a dramatic landscape. Make sense? We believe both are central to the full experience of life, and the common denominator is the trait of being present. What do you think?

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