Search for Freedom
Recently I’ve watched the movie The Search for Freedom. On the surface, the movie was about the lives of extreme sportsmen and sportswomen. It features everyone from half-pipe snowboard champions to skating legends. The message below the surface is one of freedom. All of the athletes said that they found freedom through their sports. They were able to live in the moment and escape the real world.
I can identify with the message, albeit on a more constrained level. I’ve never participated in sports challenges on a professional level. I did experience this freedom on ski trips. When you are going down a hill you are just qualified for, your whole focus is in the now. You forget everything else. I always look back at ski trips with great pleasure and I can’t wait to go on another one.
In the Flow
My question is if this experience of freedom can only be experienced during extreme sports. I think not. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has written a great book about this topic, Flow. In the book, he describes the concept flow, also described as optimal experiences. Here are the seven components to such an experience:
An activity has to have 1) a clear goal, 2) which can be completed, 3) that we can focus on completely, 4) which provides immediate feedback, 5) to which you are engaged, 6) is under control, and 7) makes you less self-conscious. This entails activities in which you become one with the activity you are doing.
Freedom at Home
Do you need extreme sports for this kind of experience, I think not. Someone who is doing yoga, playing chess or when you do fulfilling work can also have the experiences. I do believe that extreme sports are excellent examples (and they make for great movies), but optimal experiences can be experienced everywhere.
The two things you can do to have more optimal experiences are 1) have a clear goal, many people don’t set goals in work or in their personal lives, and 2) get immediate feedback, only if you know how you are doing you can learn to progress.
I believe that if you work on it, you will be able to have optimal experiences in your daily life.