“Flow states turn the drudgery of practice into an autotelic activity-that is, one that can be enjoyed for its own sake, rather than as a means to an end or for attaining some external reward.”
It bothers me that I cannot accurately place the quote above. It came from an article or blog post, which apparently I can no longer find. What I do know is that the original article referenced the book, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, but I couldn’t tell from the article whether the quote was from the book or the writer of the article. I actually own the book, but I can’t flip through the pages in an effort to find one particular sentence just to properly state the origin of a quote! That didn’t stop me from trying though. There are many highlighted segments in my book, so I thought I might get lucky…but no. Anyway…
I read that article a couple of weeks ago and jotted down the quote, because that’s what I do and the quote resonated within me. It still does. As I flipped through Flow just a few minutes ago, I could feel my soul begin to hum from the excitement of reading powerful words. I think I need to read the entire book again. But again, I digress.
My point in sharing this quote stems from my having read Flow maybe a year ago, reading the quote quite recently and realizing that I know exactly what that flow state is from personal experience.
When I started going to the gym and working with a personal trainer, I did so reluctantly but with a definite end result or external reward in mind. I wanted to lose weight. I believed that I hated the gym. I could never see myself working with a personal trainer or lifting weights. My husband pushed. I resisted. He kept pushing. I caved. I didn’t expect much, but I hoped to get results and nothing more. At that point in time, even before I stepped foot in the gym, I viewed the act of training in a gym as drudgery of practice. It was something to be suffer through, to do despite not enjoying it. It was a means to an end.
I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but somewhere along the way something changed. Everything changed. What once I would have considered drudgery to be endured for a specific outcome has become something that I enjoy simply in my ability to do it. Even if I could no longer do powerlifting, I’d still want to lift heavy things. I cannot imagine every not training now, even if I no specific outcome to work for. I just love it, even when the weight is heavy or the reps get tough. Even when my coach wants me to do rear laterals. Even when my left arm disobeys a direct command to finish a press. I love it despite scrapes and bruises on my shins and calluses on my hands. At the gym, I am in a state of flow, and that is a wonderful place to be.