The Hidden Way We Block Our Happiness

September 16, 2021

Going with the flow is essential to our happiness. Flow refers to a mental state that’s linked to enjoyment, energy and engagement–stuff we all want more of. Unfortunately, many of us have made a habit of overpreparing and overthinking and that actually blocks the experience of flow in our lives.

How and why does this happen?

Our attention and focus are components required for a flow experience. Our mind can’t be wandering. We must become absorbed in an activity in a way where our attention feels fluid and we stop being aware of ourselves.

Yet so many of us have an automatic, underlying habit of constant self-scrutiny. Our inner critic has control over our internal state and our attention becomes rigid and tight because we’re worrying: am I doing this right?

This comes from a good place. When you care deeply about how you show up in the world it follows that you become hyper aware of how others see you. Then whether you are aware of it or not, you end up monitoring yourself for shortcomings and trying to dodge any potential for error or criticism.

Our need to overprepare is driven by a desire to be excellent but it often comes at the expense of authenticity and spontaneity. It’s not relaxed. Being overly fixated on details undermines our attention and focus. All that internal pressure blocks us from flow because the energy of our attention is distracted and wrapped up in self.

To have flow we need fluid attention and to have fluid attention we need self-trust. This is a real challenge for many of us because we have limited trust of ourselves. Applying a growth mindset helps here: when faced with a challenge we must see it as an opportunity to engage deeply and get better—it’s not about doing it perfectly. This is how we can get out of our own way so that we can experience more flow in all areas of our lives.