The next intentional activity from The How of Happiness is increasing flow experiences. Recall from my earlier blog that it’s these intentional activities and habits that can account for as much as 40% of our happiness. The first intentional activity was expressing gratitude, the second was deliberate optimism, the third was to stop overthinking and comparing ourselves to others, the fourth was practicing acts of kindness, the fifth was social support, the sixth was coping with stress, and the seventh was learning to forgive.
Flow is the term Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi uses to describe being fully immersed or absorbed in what you are doing. I’ve used this concept in my own published research to elaborate how I think engagement is one indicator of eustress – the positive response to stress.
One thing you can do at work to increase flow is to adopt new values. Be open to new and different experiences, and constantly seek to learn new things (p. 184). There is always something new we can learn at work, and always something about our jobs that can be improved if we will assume responsibility for initiating that behavior in ourselves.
I also think clearly understanding the larger purpose of the work we do is absolutely critical. Do you view work as your opportunity to do something, or is work just something that you do? I know some of you may find this hard to swallow, but I personally believe that purpose can be present in any and all types of work.
For example, interviews with twenty-eight members of a hospital cleaning crew revealed that some of them disliked cleaning, felt that it entailed low-level skills, and did the minimum amount of work required; others, in contrast, transformed the job into something grander and more significant. This second group of hospital cleaners described their work as bettering the daily lives of patients, visitors, and nurses….They set forth challenges for themselves – for example, how to get the job accomplished in a maximally efficient way or how to help patients heal faster by making them more comfortable. They added tasks outside their formal duties, such as rearranging the paintings on the walls or fetching wildflowers. They saw themselves as part of a larger, integrated whole, not just mopping floors and emptying trash cans but serving as part of a system that improved people’s lives. (pp. 188-189).
Look around you – are the people you have been given the privilege to lead behaving purposefully and experiencing some degree of flow at work? Are your employees kicking ass at work, or getting their asses kicked everyday they drag themselves to work?