There’s a question we’ve all sought out to answer for thousands of years, and still to this day there is no definite answer.
Why am I not happy? How can I become happy?How do we control such a pleasurable, and desired state?
I don’t believe that there will ever be a formula, technique, or even specific method towards happiness. This leaves us with many possibilities, all relative to your own experience.
Newly found research suggests that happiness is not something that just happens, but instead rather something that we can control. The study concluded that happiness is found when we are in control of our inner experience.
So the question begs, how can we control this “inner experience”? The study has found that choosing to focus on challenging, goal-directed activities allows you to be more immersed within yourself, thereby controlling your inner experience.
The study found that when we challenge ourselves, and work towards goal-oriented tasks we transition into a certain state called flow.
I’ve realized in my own life that I was happiest when I was fully immersed in yourself, and engaged with the task. (Being present)
Since the difficulty in goal-oriented tasks vary, the rule of thumb is, the following task doesn’t have to be too difficult, nor too simple – rather a balance in-between the two. This is just a general rule, please feel encouraged to challenge yourself if that is part of your lifestyle.
The purpose of this rule is to ensure that the task will your full attention and allow you to actively engage with the environment, the task, and be immersed. Otherwise, if it is too simple, it will require very little attention and awareness on your behalf.
Research has discovered that these were the 8 elements commonly found in people most happy.
The study group described either 1 element, 2 elements, up to a total of all 8 elements. These were the 8 common elements, when they defined their experiences as most optimal.
Here are the 8 elements commonly found when their experience was most optimal
- The task has clear goals. When the goal(s) of the task is clearly defined, one can receive, and interact with the feedback that is given. This allows for a strong sense of achievement and interaction throughout the task.
- The task provides immediate feedback. What makes this immediate feedback valuable, is the ability to see your progression, and ultimately know if you have been successful at completing your goal.
- You must be able to concentrate on what you are doing when involved in your task. When one is actively concentrating on their task, all the distasteful parts of their life cannot enter their awareness, therefore allowing only allowing selective information to enter as necessary .
- The task you choose must have a chance of completion. Being able to complete the task allows you to take on other tasks in your life as well as reflecting on your performance. This can be used as a tool for personal improvement in all areas, related to the task.
- There is effortless involvement that removes from your awareness: frustration or worries of everyday life. Being immersed with the task reduces any information that isn’t related to the task, such as: gloomy, stressful, or anxious, from entering your consciousness.
- Concern of the self, disappears, but, the sense of self emerges stronger after the experience/task is over. When the experience/task is over, you have a sense of emerging back to your identity. The loss of the self happens when the Information about your identity slows down; allowing you to become more engaged and effective at your task.
- The duration of time, or sense of time, feels altered. During the task, time seems to almost stop. This is because there is complete immersion between yourself and the task, making time a less important factor. After the task is complete, or the goal is achieved, the sense of time begins to start again.
- One exercises a sense of control, or awareness, over their actions. This element allows you to be engaged in your task, allowing you to exert control, and perform quick decisions that require your attention and awareness.
What are you willing to do for your happiness?
The research conducted has offered insight into the characteristics that people associate when they were most happy, and found their experience to be most favorable.
From knowing the characteristics, elements, and qualities to look for, we can make informed decisions about our daily, and future goals/commitments.
My struggles lead to a breakthrough
The study suggests that we try something that isn’t too difficult, nor too simple. As long as you don’t over commit, and extend yourself too far, you won’t have problems. Don’t try to do so much all at once, take it from me.
Even though the tasks I was getting involved in weren’t too challenging, I decided to take on too many at once. And after multiple failures it became challenging just to start.
I’ve found this problem stems back to our daily habits. Most of us get into a daily routine, and from that point on we begin to form habits (consciously or unconsciously), bad or good. And, because of this ingrained behavior, external influence, our environment(s), social settings, and personal influence; breaking out of your daily rituals can be challenging, sometimes even near impossible.
But don’t give up, and welcome any failure you come across, it’s worth it in the end.
I over-challenged myself, and extended beyond my reach. My results were constant – failure after failure, followed by more failure. That’s when I knew it was time for a different approach – that’s when I had my breakthrough.
So I’ve decided to break up my challenges, or tasks into much smaller bite sized tasks. This way I was able to regain my confidence, and no longer had to worry about any sort of failure.
My takeaway was this, after multiple failures.
The key is to try minimize the task into parts so small, that it’s makes it impossible to fail.
Your action plan
So what does immersed mean?
Immersion can be taken out of context, so let’s imagine a scenario in order to get a better sense of what it means, and there can be a better understanding of it.
Imagine you are performing an extremely difficult surgery on someone who’s life is in your hands. Any failure would mean death.
Would that not require your full awareness? How many of the 8 elements would apply to performing surgery? All 8 elements would apply when performing a difficult task.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t know how to perform surgery, nor want to, so luckily there are other options available.
We are born with different capabilities, skills, and assets, so defining what is challenging to you is the first step in finding out what will work for you.
Here are some examples of challenging tasks:
- Reading a great novel
- Working out
- Rock Climbing
- Actively engaged in social situations
- Playing with a dog
Now, it doesn’t have to be an extreme sport, or an anything extreme for that matter.
For myself, playing basketball allows me to be completely immersed; but for you it may not.
No matter what you choose to do, as long as one of the elements can be found in your tasks, you’re on the right path.
Ultimately, it takes some experimenting, and finding out your own rhythm.
I invite you to find out what works for you, and give it a chance.
You won’t regret it.
Over to you: What tasks/challenges/activities have you found that work best for you, allow you to become fully immersed, and have given you the most optimal experience?
- For more on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience