Today is the first day of the year 2020.
The dawn of a new day, a new year, a new decade, and my new life.
Like fresh snow on a sunny, cloudless day, the first day of a new year is pristine and perfect, full of potential and promise.
Many people set goals and resolutions as a means to achieve happiness. They believe that once ... I lose weight, get over this emotional situation, make more money or get a better position, learn how to, get rid of ... then, I'll be happy.
It took decades for me to realize that goals and resolutions are not as important as the means to achieve them. It's not so much about reaching the peak but the experience of getting there. Like enjoying the view.
There's a German wisdom: "Der Weg ist das Ziel." The journey is all one really needs. There's research behind this.
The Hungarian-American psychologist and former head of psychology of the University of Chicago, Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, published his results in a best selling book Flow - the Psychology of the Optimal Experience in 1990, over thirty years ago.(*4) It's recommended reading for New Years :-)
In his book, Csíkszentmihályi outlines his theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow—a state of concentration characterized by complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. When in the flow state, the person is so fully immersed in what they are doing that nothing else seems to matter. The ego falls away and time flies.(*1)
Csikszentmihályi identified nine components required to achieve a flow state: (*2)
- There are clear goals every step of the way.
- There is immediate feedback to one’s actions.
- There is a balance between challenges and skills.
- Action and awareness are merged.
- Distractions are excluded from consciousness.
- There is no worry of failure.
- Self-consciousness disappears.
- The sense of time becomes distorted.
- The activity becomes an end in itself.
Basically, the flow state can only be achieved when performing a task which requires certain skills and there must be a balance between both skill level and challenge level. If the task is too easy or too difficult, flow cannot occur.
When I am capturing images, I am often completely in the Flow state. In fact, when I took these pictures I didn't notice the cold. Unfortunately, I also completely forgot that my husband was also there, freezing, because he could only stand around while waiting for me to finish. Bless his heart and thank you darling.
The 365 challenge helped me improve my photography and writing skills to a point where I can achieve the flow state when doing both. It makes me happy.
In my blog Farewell for Awhile I wrote about how I wanted to find my focus for my new life phase. How ironic. It was there the whole time. I couldn't see the tree because of the forest. "Everything you were looking for was right there with you all along."(*3)