Creativity, Happiness and an Interesting Life – Being in Flow

Waterfall Trumansburg NY

I’m having a block this week. Nothing flows. Not shoe making, or creating, or writing or making anything of any kind (including my bed). There are only jumbled thoughts in my head and I feel a bit stuck…so what am I doing to get ‘unstuck’? 

First, I attacked the creative block through thinking, but it didn’t work. So I sat and thought some more, but that didn’t work either. And then I remembered a book I read some time ago titled “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. And I could truly use an optimal experience right now.

Csikszentmihalyi is a professor at Claremont Graduate University and researches ‘Positive Psychology’, a recent branch of the field. He’s a well respected scholar, noted for his work studying happiness, experience and creativity and how they’re related. If he ever asks for volunteers, you’ll find me at the head of the line.

It’s hard to summarize the book in a short post without boring you to tears. It is psychology after all. But here are two wonderful quotes from the book which resonated with me and reflects his thinking:

“There are two main strategies we can adopt to improve the quality of life. The first is to try making external conditions match our goals. The second is to change how we experience external conditions to make them fit our goals better.”

“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.”

If you are interested:
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Amazon has a preview)
# ISBN-10: 0060920432
# ISBN-13: 978-0060920432

I should read that book again. Life can’t always be happy, but it can always be interesting.

Now I’m curious: what do you do when you get stuck?

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14 Responses to “Creativity, Happiness and an Interesting Life – Being in Flow”

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  1. Lucy in the Sky says:

    Nur ganz schnell, weil ich gleich weg muss: Ich höre auf und gehe an dem Tag nach Hause. Am nächsten Tag ist es fast garantiert besser. Wenn nicht, dann mache ich zwei drei Tage gar nichts, danach ergibt sich oft ein Entwicklungssprung. Allerdings ist das eine nur teilweise kreative Arbeit, wobei ich mit "einfach irgendwas runterschreiben" auch nicht weiterkommen würde.

  2. Sue says:

    Interesting to read a little more from this intriguing book. It really does sound like (another) one to add to my list. Thank you for your comment on my post yesterday, and all good wishes for a more positive creative experience today :-)

  3. Kampinga says:

    I walk. And then walk a bit more, and then some more. Works for me, always..
    It stops me from thinking – almost always a good thing :-)..

  4. Ruthiep says:

    Der Blick auf Taughannock Falls ist genug um meinen Tag zu verbessern. Ich bin auch inzwischen bei dem Alter angelangt, in dem man sich ueber jeden Tag freut, und es nicht fuer selbstverstaendlich nimmt, dass man da ist.
    PS Uebrigens freu ich mich aufs Wochenende, wo ich den Wasserfall wiedersehen werde…

  5. Mary says:

    Like Kampinga, I also walk. The longer the better. But for me walking makes me think about all sorts of things. It's like opening the flood gates on a dam!

  6. Anairam says:

    I very much agree with that quote! The controlling of inner experience is also the goal of (my) meditation practice. In addition I think there is in Western life a (sometimes unhealthy) preoccupation with happiness as a goal, so that we constantly weigh up every moment against our expectations of what happiness should be, and so we are forever telling ourselves that we are unhappy. Much better to let life flow and recognise the good and happy moments when they occur. PS About the hat – yes, it is the same hat taken at different angles. I also thought it peculiar that the two pictures made the same hat look so different! The size of the "side" is something inbetween what you see in the two pics. The crown rests on my head, and the rest comes down over my ears. I have to turn the brim, otherwise I can't see. Wore it for the first time today to the beach – it wore great! Not so sure what it looked like though, but ay least no-one burst out laughing …

  7. Sharon says:

    i agree with anairam about being preoccupied with being happy….well said. as to being stuck, i find that it works BEST for me to leave my project for a while…i don't always do that, which usually leads to frustration…if the creativity is missing, it's missing, and sometimes just a change of project will re-ignite the juices flowing. then, sometimes i just run the vacuum cleaner…the white noise and repetitive action clears the head…not to mention the floor. hope you get your creative groove back soon!

  8. boatx2 says:

    hear, hear!

  9. MissKoolAid says:

    When I'm stuck (which is more often than my blog readers realize), I just push through the block, through the funk and start creating something. Anything. Sometimes it's just putting paint to paper or cutting pieces of fabric for a project. As long as I DO something, I can usually get unstuck.

  10. Jessica says:

    Really interesting read, considering I've been having trouble myself the past few days. :) Thank you.

  11. suschna says:

    Gar nichts machen ist dann gut, würde ich auch sagen. Wenn die Begeisterung weg ist, ist sie weg. Den Flow kann man (ich) nicht erzwingen. Oder man begeistert sich für etwas ganz anderes, z.B. für ein Buch, das ist dann ja auch so eine Art Flow.

  12. art(y)pilgrim says:

    I watch a TED talk. If you get lucky by making a "good" choice [this is always relative, of course, depending on what you connect with], you could potentially be unstuck in just under 20 minutes.
    In fact, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's TED talk is a good example. Other talks that have helped me get unstuck: Elizabeth Gilbert, Sherwin Nuland, Jose Abreu, Alain de Botton, Lewis Pugh (the North Pole swim is my fave), and many more.

  13. katie bee says:

    I always pick up a novel when I need inspiration. I look for something odd or out of the way, a new author, or something of the like to wake up my creativity. Books make me see with a new perspective and start a nice mental domino effect that typically ends with a surprising idea I wouldn't have thought of without the influence of the unique perspective of an author, narrator, or character.

  14. alex t says:

    I've read Flow and it is good to be reminded of his work. Recently, I listened to Elizabeth's Gilbert talk on TED – and whether you like her as an author or not, her talk has stayed in my mind. The basic premise…keep showing up. Everyday.

    What showing up means is up to you – it could mean giving yourself a break to do whatever you choose, until the flow comes back. And it always does.

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