The Continuation from previous blogs:
“Feeling In Flow – Part 1 – The children, Part 1.2 – The Teenager and Part 1.3 – The Young Adult.
This isn’t a blog post about success, wealth or achieving great things, because one can be successful, very wealthy, achieve great things and be sad, unhappy, depressed, and not live in flow.
This blog is about the quality of life. Am I living or just existing? What does it mean to really live?
What is a good life? What is the quality of my life? Am I living in Flow?
To start with, what does does Living In Flow mean? Professor MC, describes a life in flow as a life not controlled by the outside world to serve the purpose of some other agency.
“Biologically programmed instincts will use it to replicate the genetic material we carry, culture will make sure we use it to propagate it’s values and institutions, and other people will try to take as much of our ends position further their own agenda”.
To live in flow, we have to take charge of our lives and channel our energy into doing things that improve the quality of our existence. One of the challenges we face today is allowing emotions and feelings take charge of how we experience our day to day life. This can block us from viewing situations objectively.
Professor MC says, “the actual quality of life ( what we do and how we feel doing it) will be determined by our thoughts, emotions, by the interpretation we give to chemical, biological and social processes”.
The author believes that upbringing, environment, cultural background, economic status, random chance, does not determine what makes an excellent life. That, those who believe in personal initiative and choice, despite whatever privileges or disadvantages the aforementioned conditions bring can steer the course of their lives.
I can recall 5 difficult moments/periods over 4 decades.
The story below is the 5th..
I started a business in 2004, I had dreams of building, expanding and eventually passing the business on to my children. Everything came crashing down in 2008 and I feel into a dark place. I felt like a failure, I felt ashamed, I felt guilty. We were almost bankrupted. The thousands and thousand and thousands of pounds poured into the business, all down the drain – my husbands hard earned sweat used to support his wife’s dreams. I felt useless and I became depressed and my marriage almost ended because I could not see past my “failur”. I blocked everything out and just existed day to day. My body was functioning but my mind was locked in a prison. It look a couple of years to finally find the courage to start to think of what went wrong and why the business failed. I was too cowardly to attempt to think about it. I didn’t want to go through the pain of self analysis. I did a bit of travelling just to get away from it all. Unfortunately, one can’t run away from ones self.
I disliked my good life. I disliked having to ferry my children from karate, to swimming, to tennis or whatever activity they were doing. I disliked having to do the school run. One part of me wanted to keep an eye on my children to make sure they developed well and another part of me wanted to do other things and wished I didn’t have to do all that I was doing. My thoughts and emotions were always contradicting each other. It’s as if I didn’t really know what I wanted.
I also didn’t want to talk about it with or listen to my husband’s advice. I would listen to him but not listen – too much mind chatter. How could he possibly understand? He enjoyed his job and didn’t have to ferry children up and down daily.
Happiness is a choice. There are those who might not agree with that statement but I believe it to be true. In those years ( I call them my mid life crises years even though at 38yrs old, I was not officially in midlife), I simply chose to be unhappy. I chose to lack initiative, I chose to block everything out, I chose to take my frustrations out on my husband and I chose to be sick of being a wife and mother, not to grow as a person, simply by letting my feelings and emotions control me.
My husband has often quoted Margaret Thatcher, “Do you know that one of the great problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas.”
The fact is, when we allow emotions to get in the way of sensible reasoning we become stuck, make the wrong decisions, hold ourselves back and do not make progress.
Years ago, as I was driving my daughter home from school (she was about 6 years old), I heard the voice of God say, “Kehinde, enjoy this time, enjoy these years, use them wisely, they will not last forever.” That was the day I released myself from my self imposed prison. I guess I simply decided to think instead of feeling. I decided to think of what I could do in that time instead of spending it feeling sick of it. I then started talking to her about life on the way to and fro from school with the hope that she will grown up sensible, fearless, responsible and not make the same mistakes I did. Abi is 16 years old now. The school run stopped when she started secondary school. What can I say other than I’m grateful we had those years.
Okay so, I decided to wake up from my slumber, break free from my paralysed state, take responsibility for my actions and life, reluctantly do self analysis, figure out the things I did wrong (yikes that was painful), learn from them and start a journey of self discovery. I decided to start using my brain again. I also looked at the connection between my personality and mindset. I have also looked at genetics and the connection between my genes and the choices I’ve made in life. I learned that making the connection is the first step in overcoming my tendencies.
Genetics does not determine our destiny, it helps us understand our tendencies and only then can we do what we need to do to get our desired results. This is by no means an easy thing to do..
There will be a lot of resistance. Author Steven Pressfield describes resistance as that thing that is invisible, internal, insidious, implacable, never sleeps, fuelled by fear and manifests through procrastination. The journey is a continuous one. The battle with resistance never ends.
What has come out of it all is an improved state of mind and quality of life. Today, my life is a constant journey of discovery, learning, expanding my mind, using my brain. I want my brain to stay alive as I age. To maintain sharpness and alertness.
I have my husband in part to thank for that. He’s a huge source of encouragement with regards the material I read. He’s encouraged me to read more fact based material, to watch documentaries about the planet, nature, history, science, research, culture etc. I will not say I didn’t resist. Of course I did, but in my still quite moments, I gradually let his advice sink in.
What do I spend my leisure time doing? I keep fit, read, study, train, socialise, watch movies and documentaries.
I’m striving to be a nice balanced Autotelic and Exotelic personality mix. The former is a personality type that is able to do things and enjoy the things they do for the experience. They don’t need rewards or threats to motivate them – a personality type that is independent and not manipulated or influenced by the outside. A personality type that seeks to enjoy experiences. This personality type enjoys even the most mundane activities because they give everything they do full attention and as a result experience flow in all areas of their life – work, family, interactions, leisure activities and when alone. Autotelics “need few material possessions, little entertainment, comfort, power, fame” because they have the ability to find what is rewarding in all that they do.
An Exotelic personality is motivated when there’s a goal attached and reward to be had.
A few years ago, I started navigating towards a happy place, a place where I can say my daily activities are flow experiences. I now look to do activities that are challenging, need concentration, motivate me and keep me feeling in flow. That saying, the fact that I say I’m in a happy place does not mean I’m always happy.
I’ll use physical activity to describe my flow:
“When I’m working out, it takes about 20-25 minutes for me to get into the zone. The zone is that place whereby my body is warmed up, my heart rate elevated, I’m concentrating, my mind is connected to the exercise I’m doing or muscle I’m working and that challenge meets my skill level – it’s not too easy or too hard. The exercise is challenging but doable and all I’m thinking about is the activity.”
“Flow tends to occur when a person’s skill is fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just above manageable.”
A good life is a life of continuous growth, a life that experiences through thinking, feeling, doing.
Approaching my 50th Birthday, I’d like to keep improving the quality of my life, travel more, experience new environments, different cultures, keep blogging, take up new hobbies. Though, to be honest, I don’t know if I can fit new hobbies in at the moment. Between my current photography and design hobby, marketing and content hobby, creative writing hobby, where is the time to pick up another hobby? Well….. I will search, that’s all I can say.
Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
And the man who gains understanding;
For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver,
And her gain than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies,
And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
Length of days is in her right hand,
In her left hand riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
And all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who retain her
Read other posts in the Feeling In Flow series:
All quotes (with the exception of the quotes by Me (my fitness quote), Margaret Thatcher and Author Steven Pressfield – The War of Art), can be found in the book Finding Flow by Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.