In Part 1 of this series, I listed two reasons (money, time) so many of us don’t do what we love to do. In this article, we’ll look at other challenges we face.
You’ve got the money figured out and you’ve got the time to do what you love. What next?
Your passion speaks to you with urgency. Do this now, it says. Dust off your trombone, your drum set, your ballet slippers. Drag your bicycle out from behind the boxes in the garage. Buy a new set of acrylics and an easel. Just DO IT…(sorry Nike you don’t own that).
First, because you’ve put it off for so long. And second, because you long for a more meaningful life. Do this thing–whatever it is for you–and you’ll feel more enriched, satisfied, content, happy. Your life will have more LIFE.
But wait a second.
Do you know what you love?
Let’s back up a paragraph or two. I apologize. I assume that you know what you love to do. Maybe you don’t.
It’s not always obvious and not always easy to decide what you love to do unless you do it. It’s kind of Catch-22. You might try an activity and discover that you don’t like it at all. Or you try it and you like it. Or you try it and you get that click feeling.
Difficult to describe, you know it when you feel it. The two of you are hand-in-glove, two-peas-in-a-pod, a good match. No explanations necessary. Like falling in love, but better because the click goes beyond feeling, beyond thinking, beyond words.
So, you might begin by revisiting the activities you enjoyed and the dreams you had as a child. What did you do that made your awareness of time and space fade into the background?
Doing what you love doesn’t mean the activity is always easy or pleasant. You know it’s not. Tapping a keyboard might be fun and exciting in itself for a while or for a percussionist, but this activity called writing goes beyond the physical motion and into a space I can’t describe. Somewhere inside of you, when you do the activity you click with, you know it. It feels right. You enter an almost out-of-body experience. You FLOW in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s terms.
Csikszentmihalyi (chik zen mee hi) is a Positive Psychologist who wrote Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (2008). The book is based on his study of optimal experiences or …deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life…
Don’t want to read a whole book now? Watch Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s TED talk. These optimal experiences are what Abraham Maslow termed Self-Actualization. After all the lower needs–Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem are met–he hypothesized, we reach a state of self-actualization, authentic self, or flow.
According to Csikszentmihalyi:
an activity you love + 100% of your attention + skill = FLOW
If you’ve ever experienced flow, you will remember it. Some people describe it as an altered state. A composer in the TED Talk said he felt as if notes flowed from his hand; his self, his ego had nothing to do with the music he wrote.
All you’re aware of is the activity. Everything else drops away. Body sensations fade into the background. Taking care of self and others, grooming, housekeeping, bill paying, all unimportant. Rock climbing, playing music, running, writing, cooking…the activity takes every bit of your attention. Csikszentmihalyi refers to the state as ecstasy.
Sounds great! Sign me up! I want more ecstasy.
So what’s the hold up? You have the time, you have the money, you have or are searching for the activity you love.
100% of Your Attention
Ah! There’s one of the rubs. That long to-do list I mentioned in Part 1 of this series? Refuses to subside. The ambient noise, motion, and other external and internal stimuli we are inundated with every day? In the foreground of your mind. The ordinary activities we have to do to keep up a human existence? Calling you. The unexpected demands on our time and attention? All distractions.
As an example, I pay my health insurance premiums every month…on time. But because there is a glitch in the way BS processes payments, I spent two hours investigating who, what, where, when, and how mine were paid for the past six months. Thankfully, my agent cleared up the confusion quickly. But you know what I’m talking about. My attention went from here writing to there defending myself against health insurance cutoff with no human on their end to answer my questions by email or phone.
So this life, the way we live, we have that sort of thing to deal with. And we have another sort of thing to deal with, too. Me and everyone else who thinks they have something important to say want your eyeballs. Maybe this article inspires you; maybe it doesn’t. I hope it does.
My intentions are pure. I earn no money from your reading my articles. Other intentions are less so. Web sites want your clicks, your eyeballs, your attention. Buy our fabulous products, you need one of these or four of those, you can’t live without this unbelievably once-in-a-lifetime, now or never offer. Look at what this celebrity did or how that person aged or beat age or made it rich. Or now and for the next several months…send money or take time to volunteer for your favored presidential candidate so you don’t have to move to Canada in January.
Whew. I wear myself out writing about this complicated life we live. So let’s make a cup of tea, take a break. How are you? How much time are you spending on the activity that you love? How is your concentration and attention?
Skill and mastery
According to Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success (2008 was a very good year for books), it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi it takes 10 years.
Highly controversial, this concept is challenged when we see videos on Facebook of four- and six-year-olds painting masterpieces or dancing, tumbling, singing, playing violin, whatever the activity, as if they had practiced for decades.
Reincarnation could explain prodigy. But more likely, whatever time is spent practicing or doing, innate talent plays a role too. I could practice the guitar for 10,000 hours but will never play like Eric Clapton or Duane Allman, right? Does it matter?
No, it does not matter if you are or are not talented. Unless of course, you also want to be the best in the world or famous. What does matter is that you love whatever it is you’re doing and how often you immerse yourself in it. I could be wrong, but happiness and celebrity are not mutually dependent, the two of which may even be negatively correlated.
Have I made my point? Discover your authentic self and the activities you love, then FLOW. Life is one big experiment.
Just Do It. 🙂
Oh, one last thought. Self worth. You deserve to feel ecstasy, flow, an altered state, concentration, good, happy, excited, fulfilled, satisfied. You deserve a more meaningful life. Till next time…