“….[T]he best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times…The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile….”~Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi
It happened again yesterday.
I was chatting with a new friend about a service project we are collaborating on. The conversation had been going well enough–an interesting, thoughtful exchange of ideas.
When my friend mentioned in passing a new project she is pursuing, I asked her to elaborate. That’s when the pleasant conversation exploded into a dazzling feast of images, inspiration, aspirations, depth, meaning. As my friend painted a picture of her vision, something she has been dreaming of for many years, something that has been derailed by tragedy and other obstacles, her whole being lit up, charging the air with excitement.
Her electricity drew me in–I was now leaning forward, toward her light and her animated gestures. Her inspiration was infectious, spurring me to come up with a spate of ideas and leading us into brainstorming exciting collaborations.
Make no mistake: What my friend proposes to do is risky, difficult, and not a certain success. And yet, as researcher, author, guru Csikszentmihalyi describes optimal experience or the flow state above, undertakings that are deeply meaningful and challenging offer pinnacles in our lives. True transcendence.
Through these journeys, we “….learn to become more than what we were. When we choose a goal and invest ourselves in it to the limits of our concentration, whatever we do will be enjoyable. And once we have tasted this joy, we will redouble our efforts to taste it again. This is the way the self grows….” and incidentally “… allows us to…. make significant contributions to humankind.” (emphasis added)
While I’ve written several times about optimal experience and Csikszentmihalyi’s groundbreaking book “FLOW: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” including here and here, it’s been awhile since I’ve thought consciously about the flow state. Yet, writing this, I realize that I’ve been cultivating optimal experience on a nearly constant basis pursuing my dance passion–that wondrous, challenging, sometimes transcendent practice.
My friend illustrated vividly–physically, emotionally, energetically–how vital it is to pursue our passions and dreams. Vital as in important and vital as in vitality.
In so doing, we not only light up our lives, but also the lives and the world around us.
Photos Top, Third, Bottom: Courtesy of Nikki Carrara © 2016, 2017; Sculpture: Gil Boro