Commenting on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s & Seligman’s talk on Flow at this time seems to be apt. Having just come off finals, his ideas regarding flow and also the link between that and happiness certainly have a ring of truth, in my limited experience at least. It reminded me the truth of Seligman’s statement that the pleasurable life is indeed ephemeral and not a reliable source of happiness. My 2 years in Australia, living a comfortable life full of time and freedom but lacking in creative purpose and engaging work is a good example of that. Having left a fulfilling career to move to a new country with my husband and unable to find anything that engaged me in quite the same way, all the other things ceased to matter pretty quickly. A beautiful home, a vibrant social life, even after a while an immenself fulfilling relationship could not make up for the void that was my work and purpose. Coming to ITP gave that back to me and here once again, I experienced from time to time that same sense of engagement that is Seligman’s second kind of happiness or Eudaemonia as he puts it. But although there were times when I was so absorbed that the world did disappear, that time did stop, and hunger and thirst became non-existent, those moments were few and far in between, and this was because as they both point out in their talks, a certain amount of mastery is needed to experience flow. While the frustration of not knowing something well is good and pushes us to keep learning, the inability to be great at one thing is also detrimental. It made me wonder how this coming world will function. If people start to change careers and learn new skills every few years, when do they get the chance to truly master something? While there will always be athletes, musicians, artists who will only ever do their one craft, what about so many of us who constantly shift and move on to new things? How will we experience flow if we’re not doing one thing and perfecting it for 10,000 hours?
I also strongly agree with the idea of meaning as happiness. Contribution and feeling like you belong to something that is bigger than you seem to be vital to a holistic experience of happiness. And going beyond examples like Mother Teresa’s oft thought of contributions, just the idea that whatever small thing you choose to do that may leave the world slightly better than when you found it, might fit the bill.