“The secret to a happy life is to learn to be engaged in as many things we do every day as possible. If work and life become autotelic, then there is nothing wasted in life, and everything we do is worth doing for its own sake.” – Mihály Csíkszentmihályi
It’s easy to think that if we work harder, earn more money, and spend more time with loved ones – we will find meaning and joy. But this is not always true. More work, money and social engagement will only enhance our current state – be that anxiety, control, worry, boredom, or – as Csíkszentmihályi coined it – flow.
Renowned Hungarian psychologist, Professor Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, found that the secret to optimal performance lies in our ability to enter this state of flow.
In his years of research with people who were deemed successful in a wide range of professions, he noted that they would describe feeling a sense of competence and control, a loss of self-consciousness, and such intense absorption in the task at hand that they would lose track of time (Csíkszentmihályi, 1990).
Flow is an intense mental state of focused attention where we are profoundly engaged in a deep level of task absorption and concentration that we feel at one with the activity. Essentially, as he put it, the flow state is an intersection of optimal being and doing.
His research also shows us that we can’t be in a state of flow all the time. The cycle of this optimal human experience has four phases that initially require that we step out of our comfort zone and challenge our sense of self.
- Struggle Phase (Beta brain waves, Cortisol, Norepinephrine) does not feel good as we experience tension, frustration, stress, and anxiety. Still, it is an integral element of the flow cycle.
- Release Phase (Alpha brain waves) is when we accept the challenge by stepping away from the problem and activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Flow Phase (Theta and Gamma brain waves, Dopamine, Endorphins, Anandamide) comes after release and shifts us from conscious to subconscious processing.
- Recovery Phase (Delta brain waves, Serotonin, Oxytocin) is the final stage when our brain rewires and stores the experience of flow. It is crucial to re-build and re-balance effectively if we are to retain the newly acquired skills and knowledge during this memory consolidation phase (Kotler, 2014).
At WellsFaber, we’ve always believed that money is a tool to help us create and live in our wealthspace, but money itself is never the goal. Being wealthy is about happy, fulfilling and joy-filled living, and we recognise just how intricate and different this is for everyone.
Understanding a little more about flow is helpful to keep us focussed on the elements of our lives that matter, and that we want to choose to keep or release. This is crucial when integrating our finances with our work, relationships and mental well-being.