Environment and Flow

Published on Oct 18, 2020

I’m looking out on a Southern California beach. I see the great blue ocean, dotted with sailboats. I see clusters of surfers. I see people relaxing and enjoying themselves on the beach. I see people, young and old, walking and jogging along the beach. I see so much possibility. Possibilities of exploration, challenging sports, or just walking or relaxing on the beach.

Life seems rich with potential, with possibility, from this seaside perch. I find myself broadening my view of life. Should I try surfing? Maybe it’d be nice to jog by the beach. Or maybe I should spend more time just immersing myself in relaxing environments like the beach. I am looking at possibilities arrayed in front of me. This rich environment pulls me out of myself, out of self-conscious, neurotic thinking, and towards interesting activities, activities that foster flow.

From the Wikipedia page on flow:

In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized[by whom?] by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time.

In the classic book Flow, the author shows how some can create flow states for themselves in almost any circumstances, even while imprisoned. While others can manage to be bored and unhappy in paradise. But surely, rich, engaging environments make it easier to get into flow states. Maybe that can be a good way to get a jump start on fostering flow in your life. To take a trip to a new environment and try some different activities.

Last year, I vacationed in the Brazilian state of Ceará, in the tropical north of the country. My friend recommended I try kitesurfing while I was there, which I had never even thought about doing before. I took lessons, and it was an interesting, challenging experience. I found that my days were better when I started with a challenging, immersive activity like learning kitesurfing.

That trip vaulted me out of my comfort zone. It helped me see the possibility of and the importance of regularly doing immersive, challenging activities. A year later, I am on a trip to Southern California, and I’m experiencing the same renewed sense of possibility, of engaging experiences all around me. I plan to take that idea with me back into my normal, everyday life. And my normal, everyday life may be a little richer for it.