Discover more from Head in the Clouds by daydreamers
The secret behind 'flow' isn't what you think
Hint: it has to do with...actually enjoying yourself
DD HQ here. What were you doing the last time you got in the flow?
Now, hold that thought for a moment. Before we give you the secret keys to what ‘flow’ actually means, let’s level-set about what it’s not.
TLDR; we know that flow as a term is trendy nowadays. Elusive, even. It’s been co-opted by everything from productivity apps to goal-setting notebooks. It’s been used to market products that continue to make us spin on our achievement-driven, productivity-obsessed hamster wheel.
To some, the opposite of distractions = flow. And, in a society that struggles to do much for 5 minutes without checking their phone - it makes sense why we’d crave that.
But, let us guess - your ideal moment of flow was not in the midst of answering a ton of emails. Or even locking yourself out of the endless scroll to get more work done 🤓🤖🤯.
If you’ve been part of the DD crew for a while, you that this is one of our favorite topics - but we still can’t get over that from a scientific POV, flow doesn’t have much to do with productivity.
And even more, if Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the ‘father of flow,’ knew that modern companies were trying to turn flow into a tool that makes us humans more efficient, he’d be in awe 😵💫.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi had nearly the opposite intention when he first began researching what later became “flow.” As a clinical psychology researcher, he set out to answer the (very casual) question: What makes life worth living? What makes it meaningful?
And so, he began looking for the moments where our human superpower rose to the top. He called these euphoric, enjoyable moments in life ‘optimal experiences’ and set out to see what they had in common.
What he discovered was flow.
In the scientific literature, flow is defined as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.” It’s when time falls away and every moment flows from one to the next.
And, most importantly, it’s considered an autotelic experience. This means that in order to get in flow, we must do it for its own sake, rather than to achieve some later, external goal. It’s intrinsically-motivated and curiosity-driven.
For us modern folks (in non-scientific jargon), flow is what happens when we do it for the love. It’s that creating, that doing, that [fill in the blank]-ing because we want to. Because we don’t care about the end goal. Because we’re enjoying it for what it is.
You’ve felt that before, right?
We all have - flow can take many different shapes. Those optimal life experiences happen when we’re dancing, playing music, deep in conversation with friends or even imagining in your own head. But, in a world that obsesses over doing more all the time, and monetizes every enjoyable experience we can get our hands on, it feels like a lost practice.
At Daydreamers, getting back to our core nature, and collectively prioritizing ‘doing it for the love’ (just as much as we ‘do it for the efficiency 🤖’) is core to our entire ethos.
But, in order to reconnect with the core element of flow - enjoyment - we have to realize that it won’t always be fun. There’s a difference between enjoyment and pleasure. Think of pleasure as a hit of dopamine; a Tiktok scroll or an indulgent snack after a hard day.
Enjoyment, optimal experiences, flow - requires a bit of ‘hard work.’ It’s that mix of challenge and skill. It’s high quality leisure. It’s the stuff you show up for, even when you’re not excited to begin.
Because suddenly, time slips away, every moment flows from one to the next, and you remember what it’s like to be human again. And that’s actually the secret behind flow - since it requires more voluntary effort than quick-hits of pleasure, it has a generative and long-lasting impact on our health.
Want to remember what it feels like to be human > robot with us? We’re here for it, too 🛸
Katina + Dupi
and the entire team @ DD HQ
reconnect with the lost practice of doing it for the love - and see why it’s deeply powerful for your well-being, too. spots to DD Early Access are open again (finally).
An idea to noodle on 💭
Flow happens when you create for the love.
THINK ON THIS: Flow isn’t solely a productivity tool. While performing at your ‘best’ is an outcome of flow since it quiets your pre-frontal cortex, in order to get into it, you have to be intrinsically motivated. Research shows that ppl who are motivated by internal curiosity > external goals get into the flow more easily. Experiment with that reframing + see what shifts!
…MAYBE NOT THAT: Not every moment in flow is going to feel amazing. The ‘flow formula’ = finding the right balance between challenge and your ‘skill’ level. Plus, our friend Mihaly argues that “enjoyment [i.e. flow] gives you a sense of effort, forward movement, and accomplishment.” Effort is core to the formula.
Inside our brains at DD HQ 🧠
Being human > robot isn’t just a Daydreamers thing, it’s backed up by history. Read this poem ab ‘productivity anxiety.’ Why are we not surprised that BIPOC and women creators earn less. Did you know archeology is still …a thing? Procrastination doesn’t = more creativity; here’s why small steps each day is important for your brain. How do you know when to quit?
Ideas from the DD Crew 🛸
something sick is dropping in the DD universe 🌌
we’ve been hard at work building + creating the DD ecosystem to be something we can all enjoy. and, we’re launching a *very* cool feature that we can’t wait give our Early Access crew first dibs on soon. make sure you’re part of what we’re building »