Why we need to put ourselves out there in ways we’re not used to…
Do you have a hobby, creative outlet, or other means of self-expression? What activities do you do that help you let off steam, create value in your life, or enable you to be more present? How ready and willing are you to learn new things?
If you take tango dance classes or stills photos, do crossword puzzles or build sandcastles on the beach, craft quilts or poetry … or do any of a myriad of other challenging yet enjoyable activities out there … then you may know what I’m referring to.
These types of activities enable our mind to become absorbed in the moment, so that we lose ourselves in what we’re doing (in a good way). This phenomenon is also known as “peak experience” or “flow state”.
There is a degree of challenge involved, but these flow states are a good way to find happiness in our present. And the good news is we can totally make them happen.
“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. Optimal experience is thus something we make happen.”
~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi from “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” (1990)
To achieve a flow state, psychologists suggest that we need a few ingredients:
1) Know where you are headed and what you need to do to get there, by having a clear set of goals and ways to mark progress.
2) Clear, regular feedback while you are doing the task, helps you to adjust your performance as you work, to maintain your flow.
3) Have a good understanding of what challenges may be involved whilst accomplishing a task. PLUS the confidence that you’re able to complete it, despite those challenges.
My 15 seconds of fame, and why this is relevant…
I’ve experienced flow states before – whilst sewing, learning and writing, walking, cycling and practising yoga. Perhaps my most enjoyable “being in the moment” moments are building Lego with my nephew.
I’m also fond of experiments.
So, I wanted to develop my video editing skills, as I plan to create short explainer videos for my website. (More on this in coming weeks and months). And I came across this Instagram competition being held by a creative think tank called Be Open Future. They were calling for people to submit a short video. The topic was about how design and nature interact. It was a weekend and the deadline was 2 days away.
It felt like a big challenge, but I decided to enter the competition anyway. I’m an avid nature snapper and appreciator of design. The tight deadline would enable me to practice developing these skills in a focused way. And I decided to be brave in putting myself out there in front of a design-based audience. Who didn’t know me from Martha. And I’m not technically “a designer”.
Yet, with a motto like “What if I can?” I had to give it a go.
So, on that Sunday morning, I set about gathering my photos and putting together a story to accompany them. Turned out I had a lot of material, and four central themes started to emerge. Rather than just creating one video, I ended up making four. Learning as I went, using YouTube’s free video edit platform.
The ideas and work of compiling and editing kept me so focused in the present, that before I knew it a whole day had passed.
My activity had fulfilled all of the ingredients to achieve a flow state.
Although the quality of the videos wasn’t great, I felt pretty chuffed with myself for having given it a go. It was the introduction I needed to get to grips with a new skill. Something I could build on in future. So, I promptly submitted my entries before I lost any courage.
A month passed and life carried on.
Until I received unexpected news at the end of January …
I was selected as one of five finalists, from over 100 entries.
And there’s more… (press play)
The win was certainly a huge confidence boost for me and the prize is an unexpected bonus.
However, the win wasn’t a planned outcome. It’s not why I entered.
The competition served as a catalyst for taking action and expressing myself in a new way. It has led to a host of new thoughts around what I can do with video for my business. I never would have contemplated these ideas, had I not done this little exercise.
So, this is an example of why we need to put ourselves out there in ways we aren’t used to.
Do it for the process, not the outcome.
Get out of your comfort zone. Stretch yourself by trying new things. Find different ways to express yourself. Whether that’s creatively on a blank canvas, trying a new type of exercise, or learning a new language.
Practice being at one with a new experience.
- There is happiness and magic to be found in the unexpected.
- Being present and going with the flow are good for our minds, our bodies and our overall wellbeing.
- And, any additional reward can be appreciated as an unexpected rather than anticipated outcome.
So, what are you holding back on? If I can do this, then so can you.
Here’s my selection of videos submitted for the competition: