Flow and Wellbeing?


Q : What is optimal adjustment in the Lifetrack model and what does this have to do with what positive psychology calls flow?

Flow and Wellbeing?

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a founding father of Positive Psychology and of the concept “Flow.”

Lifetrack is not born of the Positive Psychology movement, but admires Csikszentmihalyi for his work and hopes that modern psychiatry will follow.

FAQ to Lifetrack on similarities of flow and wellbeing:

Q : What is optimal adjustment in the Lifetrack model and what does this have to do with what positive psychology calls flow?

A : Often our definition of optimal adjustment comes from without; we think of the works of genius as visible accomplishments of inner creativity, optimal adjustment or brilliance. Sometimes that is the case, and optimal adjustment or genius is acknowledged by our society, at other times it may not.

In the Lifetrack model, one can experience optimal adjustment or be a genius in one sphere of one’s life (self, intimacy or achievement) and not in another. To experience optimal adjustment in all spheres one has to push oneself beyond a previous best level of experience self, intimacy and achievement and balance the three psychological spheres of existence at a much higher level than previously experienced.

As people achieve or surpass a previous best in any one sphere, some may feel increased energy (what positive psychology calls flow).

Flow can be experienced in the context of growing achievement, self or intimacy.  The experience of flow or a higher state of consciousness (living in the present as I understand it) much like happiness cannot be sought directly. Flow has to be experienced by pushing ourselves beyond a previous best level in our sense of self (in touch, at peace, in control), intimacy (close relationships) and achievement (relationship to the world).

Can a sharpshooter experience Flow?

Flow can be experienced in any context of full mind focus.  Hypothetically, if one is a masterful sharp shooter, then flow can be experienced on a battlefield should one become one with the task.  Similarly, in the Lifetrack model, certain elements of well-being could also be experienced through sharpshooting if the individual experienced a sense of mastery from accomplishing the task.

However, the term well-being as defined by Lifetrack positive mental health may be broader a term than flow.  It encompasses mastery, but also peace, friendliness, physical wellbeing, and happiness.  Of course, the sharpshooter could feel a sense of mastery from his task, or even ‘happiness’ for being at one’s physical peak during the mission.  Yet, the sharpshooter is unlikely to experience both peace and friendliness as he or she kills another human being — even for a presumed ‘good’ such as the defense of his or her unit, the nation-state or an ideology.

If the individual did experience both peace and friendliness as he or she killed, in the Lifetrack model he or she would be “out of touch” with the Self or not fully conscious. Killing another life–even in self-defense–gives neither a sense of peace nor friendliness. That is not to argue that self-defense is not legitimate, but that acts of violence even for some presumed good do not provide a full experience of inner wellbeing.

Positive Psychology : Flow an Ultimate Good?

Because flow could be hypothetically achieved from a large variety of activities, including one’s work as a sharpshooter, positive psychology does not define flow as an ultimate good.  Instead the end goal is the capacity to go beyond oneself and engage in the world. In other words, flow in itself will not change the world necessarily for the better.  It is the spheres of life in which we experience flow that changes life and gives meaning.

Similarly, in the Lifetrack model, what is important is not just the experience of well-being but optimal adjustment and growth in all three spheres of psychological existence (self, intimacy and achievement).  Given each person’s capacity and limitations, growth may give rise to occasional peaks of well-being as one builds self, intimacy and achievement.

Over one’s life one will re-define one’s self, intimacy and achievement spheres.  Through this growth, the circles expand and grow larger to encompass a closer relationship with an important other person such as a spouse, with others and with the world.  As the spheres expand, the definition of self, intimacy and achievement may expand to encompass more of the world.  Some may become engaged in helping a larger cause than oneself, and one’s family.  In this manner, we engage more with others and with the world defining our three spheres in a broader sense.

There is no frontier, no end point in our capacity for optimal adjustment– to be well or to love.   There is only our capacity to push ourselves a little further than where we have been before.  As we grow and our definition of self, intimacy and achievement expands; we chose to encompass the world within our spheres and a sense of  life purpose and joy arises.

Copyright © 2010 Lifetrack Corporation

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The Future of Positive Psychology
Flow, the future of positive psychology applied to three psychological aspirations.


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Our movement for health and going beyond our best began in Japan after March 11, 2011 and involves individuals across disciplines and nations eager to innovate and elevate.  We extend an understanding of the mind at its best to explore with you the body, mind and spirit recognizing similar mechanisms exist in all three.

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