Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Flow, aka, "Aaron makes up fluffball"

So, in Psychology class today we discussed a guy named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced "cheeks-SENT-me-high"). He is a modern psychologist who studies happiness. One of his most noteworthy findings shows that people find themselves most happy when they are fully engaged in meaningful, challenging task. It is known as the Psychology of Optimal Experience. To help explain, he uses a chart in the shape of a square cut into four sections (there are other, more complex, visuals but this one suffices for us. Also, this could get deep, but it's worth it). The top left box is low skill, low challenge, and in it we find the label apathetic. We are apathetic because the task is pointless and we're no good at it anyway. The box immediately beside it is labeled frustration because it's challenging, and we can't make the cut because our skill is low, so we become frustrated. Now, on the bottom row we have high skill to perform the task and the box on the left is full of boredom because the task it represents holds no challenge for us. This box is like hitting tennis balls into an outfield: very low challenge that just about anyone has the skill for. Beside it we come to the money box: high challenge, high skill. This is where we should camp out, clear some land and build a cabin. This box is marked FLOW. This is where the "optimal experience" comes in.
So maybe at first it's giddy fun to knock a few tennis balls out of the park, (high skill, low challenge) but once that feeling of newness wears off we realize we've been hitting yellow fluffy balls instead of the hard-laced baseballs we are meant to be hitting. We get bored, and we want more. Our state of Flow occurs when we're caught up in something, when we lose our sense of self and time, and we're creating the thing we're meant to create. Whether it's art or justice or nurture, our best sense of well being comes when we're in the flow.
While this is a pretty basic concept- seems kinda like common sense- I think there is some very interesting truth hidden within this idea: In order to find ourselves we must first lose ourselves in something bigger. Sounds like something Jesus once said doesn't it? While I'm sure Mihaly didn't intend to do research on Matthew 10:39, the correlation is really outstanding. Jesus tells us to "get lost" in Him, and then we will find both ourselves (the part of ourselves that we've been missing) and Him.
How does this practically apply to our lives? Easy. Money, success, notoriety, status, sex and anything else we like to pacify ourselves with, they're all tennis balls. That's why we get bored with them and we end up needing more or different pacifiers. They make us feel good for a while but there's no flow, no purpose being lived out, and we never find that thing we've been missing. Ignore these things. Focus on worshipping God instead. Get lost in Him. Go in deep over your head, totally swimming in a river of heavenly "flow". That means literally in worship but also figuratively, by worshipping with every aspect of your life. We should be continually asking ourselves "Is this a challenge, or am I just playing fluffball?" "Am I being worshipful with this, or just trying to make quota?"
So swing that bat, pick up that pen, start that business. Get in up to your elbows, give the glory to God and find yourself...smack dab in the middle of Him. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

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