The Dark Night Part III: Flow

The reason, in case you’re wondering, why this is all relevant to this project is simple. So many elements of habit formation are inextricably linked to this identity crisis.

I cannot relax because everything I do hinges on fulfilling future goals. Becoming good at a task because I enjoy it is a goal that gets further and further away because I CAN”T enjoy that which is a step to a future goal. It’s in the way, and that’s really how I have viewed it. It’s almost a definitional construction. 

Habit formation emerged as a way out of this. If I just *do* a task than it builds on its own. The problem comes with regimentation and mastery - to master a task you have to be able to improve in the moment by improving. You can’t shirk away from it and procrastinate. Similarly you can’t shirk at doing a task in a day, and leaving it when it’s done.

So the main question becomes - how do you fall in love with the process, and focus on the aiming a la THESE previous posts on Zanshin.

Of course mindfulness, as Shinzen Young and Daniel Ingram suggest, is important. But for me I also believe one key point is Flow. I talk a bit about that in THIS post. What interests me are the conditions that are theorized to bring about such states:

1. One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task.[15]

2. The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows them to adjust their performance to maintain the flow state.[15]

3. One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and their own perceived skills. One must have confidence in one’s ability to complete the task at hand.[15]

Getting into such states seem to simultaneously satisfy meditative requirements, process orientation, and pushing a habit towards skill mastery.

Another set of conditions include:

Knowing what to do
Knowing how to do it
Knowing how well you are doing
Knowing where to go (if navigation is involved)
High perceived challenges
High perceived skills
Freedom from distractions[22]

What’s also interesting is that there are, as far as I understand, several flow state scales to determine whether or not you are in it and to what degree. Which could prove useful if this is a skill I should learn to better “grip” the present moment, particularly skill acquisition.