The State of Flow


I was sitting down watching my daughter last night before bedtime.  As she readied for bed, she picked up a set of Legos to play with.  And within seconds, it was like she got lost.  Totally lost in a state of flow of problem solving and figuring out what to do next.  She could have done this for hours.  The outside world was dead to her.

And I fear that we lose this as we get older.  We forget what it’s like to be lost in something for hours.  We forget that we can still cultivate this state of flow.

We become so encumbered by thoughts and worries of the modern day world and being an adult that we have a hard time releasing ourselves from it.  And we never allow ourselves to just play.

And we are missing out.  This is the joy we are longing for.  This is the dopamine hit we should be chasing.

Surfing facebook doesn’t put us in this state of flow.  Mindlessly watching TV doesn’t do it either.  Because being in a sort of flow isn’t passive.  It doesn’t come from consuming.

It comes from engagement.  It comes with approaching something with a playful attitude.  It comes with accepting failure as part of the process.  It comes with restless curiosity for what might be discovered.

Until I was watching my daughter last night, I just didn’t realize how much we need that state of flow and how much we are missing out.  To see the joy in her eyes from something seemingly so challenging.

And I think what’s so striking is that many of us avoid it.  We go for the shallow.  We push for the easy work, and we avoid anything that challenges us or pushes us to our limits.

And we are making the wrong choice.  The difficult is what brings fulfillment.  Solving interesting problems with much deliberation brings satisfaction.

The look in her eyes will stick with me.  We all need to do a better job of cultivating this state of flow.

It starts with choosing the challenging task.  And it starts with a more playful attitude.

When was the last time you got lost in a state of flow?


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