We often look to comfort and convenience as a path to happiness and harmony. Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced "chick-sent-me-high-ee"), renowned for his investigation on well-being and happiness, has found we feel best when we are in a state he calls "Flow."
We have all experienced Flow in some form or another. This has been the object of Csikszentmihalyi's research for several decades. For some, Flow occurs several times a day; for others, it is more elusive. We achieve Flow when we are so involved in an activity we become totally engaged and immersed in it. It's common when we are in this state to lose concept of time and of our basic necessities like hunger, sleep, and even sexual desire. Achieving this state, according to Csikszentmihalyi, is the surest road to well-being and happiness.
These findings go against what we often believe to be true regarding our perception of happiness. Let's look at an example. Right now each of us has a list of "to do's." If your list is anything like mine, it seems endless!
We mistakenly believe if we could just finish or somehow get rid of each item on our list we would magically find happiness. This isn't the case for several reasons. When we are about to finish the last item on our list, several more items magically appear. Even the day we die we will have a list of things to do. The list never ends; nor should we want it to end because that will truly be the day we meet our own end!
"Finishing" our list does not lead us to happiness because we are generally happier moving towards a goal or an objective. Facundo Cabral has a wonderful way of stating this idea:
"The journey is more exciting than the destination, if it's possible to get anywhere at all..."
This journey implies overcoming challenges to guide us towards what we most desire. This truth coincides with Csikszentmihalyi's work, which indicates we are happiest when we strike a balance between the difficulty of a task and our ability to perform it. This is precisely when we enter Flow.
It's common to think relaxing in front of the television in the comfort of our home will bring happiness. While it may bring temporary relief to help us recharge our batteries, Csikszentmihalyi's research, which included hundreds of thousands of people, shows it is not in this state when we are happiest!
So then, what can we do to be happier? When we are directors of our own fate we are more content. We can take action today to write words, sentences and pages which encompass our own book of life. We can reach beyond our grasp and establish goals and objectives which require we stretch beyond our comfort zone.
With few exceptions, what we all want in some way, shape or form is to be happy. All we do and all we say is directed to enhance our own happiness or to affect the happiness of another, though we may not always affect them in a positive way! I know of no one who wakes up in the morning and says, "I want to be a miserable good-for-nothing failure full of anguish and pain." I have, however, met many whose actions lead them to this end. In his eloquent voice Dr. Martin Luther King said:
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort
and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
"Flowing through Challenge" implies welcoming change as well as the trials and tribulations we face daily. Life is not a problem to be resolved; rather, it is a challenge to be embraced. It is often difficult to see challenge as something outstanding, marvelous and splendid which drives us to our desire. Challenge should never be perceived as something horrendous, horrible and hateful which hinders our progress.
As we mature and age, it is unlikely we will recall endless hours spent in front of the television relaxing. Nor will we likely remember what we achieved with little or no effort. What will stand out as a magnificent monument to our life, and will likely become the stories we tell our children and grandchildren, are those challenging, uncomfortable situations we were able to overcome with courage and dignity.
Life is a collection of moments, intervals in time which give meaning and form to our existence in this wonderful world. It is the simple things which most often give sensational significance to our experience. When we "Flow through Challenge" we take a flying leap towards directing a life full of moments which give sense, significance, and substance to each instant.