Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Pleasure Of Creativity.

Lately I've been branching out and doing new, daring things. I feel more alive and willing to do the "hard" stuff, then I've ever been before. What is happening to me?

Being willing to work with uncomfortable feelings in a psychiatric group has helped me get used to having moments of being uncomfortable without quitting an activity altogether. I'm accepting the uncomfortable feelings as just part of the process when doing something new.

I strive to explain what I experience, so you all can follow me, or even run ahead of me on this journey of recovery. I'm passing through a new stage of human development. Maybe Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

The chart to the right is from Wikapedia:

While I have a sense that, for the most part, I'm getting closer to the last two stages of this pyramid, it really doesn't reflect what I'm longing to express. In studying this chart, keep in mind, this is more of a general outline, not a hard and fast list of what you have to accomplish before moving to the next level. I believe we'll be working on some of these things until the day we die.

I feel like I'm almost leaving childhood. Perhaps I'm doing some kind of personality sprouting. I have continued searching for an explanation of what I've been experiencing lately.

There is an organization called TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), on the internet. I listened to a presentation by Mihaly Csilszentmihalyi. Below is the lecture discription.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Creativity, fulfillment and flow
Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi asks, "What makes a life worth living?" Money cannot make us happy, he says -- instead, he looks to people who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of "flow." Watch this talk >>

This talk is about creativity, fulfillment and flow. The first chart was showing that income alone doesn't predict happiness. I'm sure I am not alone in learning this painful lesson.

Once basic needs are met and there is enough money to be comfortable, more money no longer contributes to being happy. I was surprised that happy people are only 30% of our population. That number is disturbingly low in my opinion. That means 70% of people are unhappy! Thus 7 out of 10 people you meet aren't finding fulfillment in life. That fact is very sad.

The part of this talk I found so energizing was a chart he showed about "skills" and their relationship to each other in terms of reaching a state of creativity and flow.

What he calls "skills" I think of as emotional states, especially anxiety, arousal and flow. I think of flow as another way of:
"following your bliss", from the work of Joseph Campbell. Flow can also be finding total enjoyment or contentment while doing something.

On the chart, notice the skills directly across from one another:
  • Flow -- Apathy
  • Arousal -- Boredom
  • Control -- Worry
  • Relaxation -- Anxiety
The left-hand list are all positive skills, while their opposites (Apathy, Boredom, worry and Anxiety) are all negative skills, or as I prefer to think of them, emotional states.

It is easier to change from being anxious then it is to pull yourself out of boredom. Boredom is not being interested in or engaged with anything in your environment. At least if I'm anxious I care about something in my life.

When people are really having a good time doing something there is a point where they forget themselves. Sometimes I forget where I am, time seems to stop and the task seems to almost complete itself. My entire being is working on something I am thoroughly enjoying.

Csikszentmihalyi theorizes that we only have so many concentration units, say 100, in our brain. Most of the time we are using around 60 concentration units. This leaves 40 concentration units to notice our bodies. In a boring meeting, it is easy to get distracted with how uncomfortable the chair is, for example. When we are in flow however, all 100 units of concentration are focused on the project. This is why being in flow gives the sense of forgetting yourself. There aren't enough concentration units left in our brain to track yourself, as there are under normal circumstances.

The people in this study were people who were accomplished in some field. Most people feel it takes about ten years to gain enough knowledge and experience with something to get into the flow mode. That place where the story writes itself, or the design pieces just seem to fall into place. This state of mind is not constant, but when one is in flow, time no longer matters and doing the task feels almost effortless. Flow is a place of intense satisfaction.

I got so excited watching this lecture. I can't count the number of times I have been carried away into a state of flow creating a church bulletin, reading a book, or learning something new. I pray we all go out and bring that happiness statistic up, one person at a time.

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