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your depth of understanding, and talent at sharing it amaze me. Speechless… and for your sharing of it.. Thank you… deeply. *sigh, its like coming back into my body through acceptance….. Sherrie on space2live
For the first time in my life I could truly explain, through your words the way in which I experience life and myself. Brenda… It all fell into place. I had found myself and had such a moment of clarity. It felt like such a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Finally I felt like it was ok to be me. I was not the only one. I had found people and a little space where I fit in. … I was at work and crying on the inside. Emotions ran wild inside me. I was ecstatic, sad, confused, motivated, i…
Your words are my lifeline.  I sit down to your posts and as I read I can feel my acceptance of myself and my needs grow.  Your words validate my feelings about my life, motherhood, relationships and it is something I hold onto.  And during the times when I feel like I am not able to be a mother or a wife or a sister or a friend or whatever someone needs me to be, I go back to your words and find some peace…I send your posts to my husband when I need him to understand that I love him but I need …
You’re so honest in your writing. It’s bold. It’s frank. It’s wonderful. I could definitely see the work you are doing here as a useful book. It could save/make a lot of relationships! — Jimmi Langemo
Jimmi Langemo
Your site has saved my sanity and my life. Maybe even my marriage. I work part time and have two young boys at home, my husband is supportive of me but until recently I thought I was going crazy. … Reading your writing not only inspires me to pick up the pen again, but gives me nourishment in the deepest places. I will fight for balance. Everything you write is spot on… And wellness is so incredibly multifaceted.  I was ready to give up hope, but understanding myself through your words is bring…
Brenda has truly opened up a space for introverted types on the ‘net, and her self-revelations are always inspiring. Her voice is one I always look forward to. She is one of the writers that actually played a part in my return to writing.  — S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
During one of the harder times in my life I found Brenda’s website
and reached out to her. To say the least it has been one of the best
decisions I have made. Being an extrovert I never quite understood
what it meant to romantically involved with an introvert. Brenda does
an incredible job listening, giving in the moment feedback, and helped
me understand the how an introvert functions. She helped explain to me
that I am introspective extrovert, and this gave something to identify
with and allowed me t…
Evan H.
I think I want to print out your articles and hand them out as a sort of relationship waiver form. “You want to be my friend?….You are interesting in going out? Here read this first. Sign here to acknowledge that you have read and understand the enclosed material. Thank you.” Seriously. I think it would work. — Guerin Moorman
Guerin Moorman
Thank you for all the words. You’ve created the magic drug I’ve been looking for all my life. Your blog has transformed my life, and I feel like I am on the brink of a most satisfying fulfilling journey…You’ve made me see everything in a new light. I now feel calmer, able to care better for my toddler, less hateful of people around, and hopeful for my future. I am not so afraid for our marriage anymore. — Shilpa CB
Shilpa CB

“I was struggling with my daughter (16 at the time) and our constant fighting. You said something to me that changed my life! You were speaking about your own situation and you said to me “my child could not handle my emotions”. This was a HUGE “lightbulb moment” for me and it forever changed the way I dealt with my emotions when I was around my daughter!

I am happy to say that things have never been better between my soon to be 18 year old daughter and myself! I honestly never thought we would…

Mom M

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Figuring Out Your Triggers for a Rich Life: How the Flow State Sparks Intrinsic Motivation

Journey Frontiers cover

Journey Frontiers album

Journey’s Frontiers album plays as I lie on my bed upstairs in my corner bedroom. It’s the summer before my freshman year in high school and I recently experienced my first real kiss. As Steve Perry sings “Send Her My Love”, my mind recreates the scene at Lumberjack Park inside the small Plymouth Horizon.

We’re in the front seat while my friend is in the back with her current love interest. Brent puts his hand on my leg as we talk. He smells like Off! bug spray, which I find surprisingly appealing. He leans in and kisses me with soft lips and just enough tongue. He tastes like Mountain Dew… 

Then, suddenly, my sister is in my room yelling something about taking her sweater. She rummages through my closet, grabs what she wants and leaves.

Reverie smashed. 

Flow states make life worth living

I’m taking a six-week online workshop on the flow state. I’ve had a fascination with the delicious dreamy creative state of being since I was a child.  I believe the steady presence of flow experiences in my life is the reason for my overall contentedness and satisfaction. Jamie Wheal of The Flow Genome Project, says flow is the source code for intrinsic motivation. In my opinion, intrinsic motivation and curiosity keep life engaging and interesting and therefore fulfilling.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Mee-high Chick-sent-me-high-ee) is known as the father of flow theory. Noting that levels of happiness did not increase with increased personal income, he set out to find out what does bring happiness and satisfaction. Interviewing creative individuals like scientists and artists, he found many of them frequently experienced feelings of  losing themselves, timelessness, effortlessness and ecstasy. During those periods they felt they were outside of everyday experiences. Time and movement felt fluid. Certain activities brought about a sense of flow.

Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost. — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, description of flow

Do introverts experience flow differently due to stimulation sensitivity? 

Flow states, like Abraham Maslow’s peak experiences, do not happen continuously. Behind the flow feeling is a cascade of brain chemicals produced by the right mix of challenge and skill in our activities. There is a cycle to flow which requires us to go through different phases such as struggle and recovery. We all have different triggers that prompt us to enter the flow cycle.woman alone in lake

As a sensitive introvert, my go-to triggers for flow are mental. I get the feeling of timelessness and spontaneous creativity via deep thinking, solitary, soothing and reflective pursuits. Low stimulation is important. Others may access flow in more adrenaline-fueled highly stimulating activities but times of stillness and repetitive activity allow my mind to wander in a creatively productive and fulfilling way. Reading, writing, meditation and meaningful conversations often set my nervous system at ease and allow flow to enter. This state of mind is addictive and has me seeking quiet time to get the restorative feeling again.

What is the enemy of my flow state?

Interruptions and distractions are the enemy of flow state.

As a young woman in my 20s, I worked as an office manager for a small IT recruiting firm in Chicago. I used to love to do repetitive data entry/accounting work. It allowed my mind to meander through meaningful memories or dance through dinner plans. When my boss entered the office each day, bursting through the door, taking huge strides down the center aisle, delegating work to me as she walked, my mindless work and yummy reflective trance were disrupted like a rock thrown into a tranquil pond.

stone in a pondNow as a 40something trying to work from home, the potential for interruptions is the same. My phone, my children and my own distracted mind pull me away from the contemplative scene necessary for full creative productivity. Writing is the perfect blend of challenge and skill for me. If left alone in stillness I can create sentences I’m proud of. I can slip into the beautiful place where my inner critic is silent and ideas flow.

Flow not limited to solitary mental pursuits

Achieving the flow state is not limited to solitary pursuits for me, although they are the most reliable triggers. I also find myself in an other-worldly state while working with my coaching clients, talking with close friends/family or while making love. Again, there is a prerequisite of calm necessary to bring on the flow feeling. Intuitively guiding my clients and fostering their potential is hugely satisfying. It’s just the right blend of challenge and skill to put me in the zone. Conversing with my friends and family about intimate, expansive topics like personal growth and relationships brings on the good, fulfilling state of fluidity too.

Not only is flow achievable through social versus solitary endeavors, it can also be induced by physical triggers versus mental ones. In the past, dancing was the only physical activity that brought about the flow feeling. I think music was a key reason for that. Music taps into rich brain chemicals for me.

Now, I occasionally have epiphanies, heightened creativity and moments of effortlessness while running. This is what many call a “runner’s high” or “being in the zone”.

I also find intensely focusing on the physical sensations and emotional connection during sex opens up the door to the dream-like, oxytocin and dopamine-laden experience of flow.

In both running and making love I am sufficiently challenged, engaged and motivated, which makes them fulfilling, life enriching endeavors. Which makes me want to do them again.

When did you experience flow as a child? When as an adult? Is calm or quiet a prerequisite for flow for you? How has flow influenced your choices in life? 

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  1. Michael June 30, 2016 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    flow is addictive, once we find it.

    i read ‘Flow’ when it first came out. I understood it, because I have known it for a long time. mostly, it happens when I write. when I put keys on the keyboard, it’s like a ‘turn on’ switch. and words and images and ideas flow, and the more i write, the more comes to me.

    I have long believed that ideas / thoughts / emotions are entities, life forms, beings, of their own. and the more we entertain them — through writing, in my case — the more they come to us. and they come in floods. wanting to be let out, really, into the light of this world. when they realize we are open conduits for them, more and more come to us. it is a staggering and sacred thing.

    if we want to create, then really we need only truly entertain the thoughts and ideas as they come to us, love them, tell them that we love them, play with them, hear them, speak for them, let them guide us. and they come in a flood. it is a beautiful thing.

    we seek the addictive pleasures. creating is one of those for me. sex is a beautiful pleasure, too, a connection, a blending, a becoming one, with another. life itself is a beautiful pleasure, when we see with our hearts, as well as our eyes. beauty surrounds us. i think that when we see with our hearts, then we have a vision that far surpasses what our eyes see. we see people, life itself, ourselves, everything, differently. it’s like a parallel universe, if that’s even the right description. we swim in the infinite. our five senses detect only a fraction of it all.

    flow can be a fairly constant state, or as often as we want, when we find the things that are our passions. writing. photography. creating. walking under blue skies. walking in the rain. getting soaked. making love. having a hot dog at a ball game. seeing a couple in love, or being in love. my gosh, all of that is a flow, because we forget ourselves (well, not exactly, but we’re not into our ego at those times). watching a child laugh. laughing like a child (living from our child self). how beautiful it all is.

    Brenda, thank you for a wonderful note about all this. you touched on some wonderful things. and … you gave the phonetic pronunciation of his name! that was amazing itself! you had to be in a flow state when you did that!!


  2. Samantha March 12, 2016 at 1:50 am - Reply

    From my perhaps skewed remembrance, I feel like I had flow a lot of the time as a child. I wrote stories all the time and felt more creative than I have ever since. In my adult life, it would happen at my first real job. I was also an office manager, as well as a many-hat-wearer/juggler of anything that needed to be done. I’d find flow on the days that everything just sailed, I was able to keep consistently busy but not stressfully so, and was able to stay concentrated on each task that I was working on. It was hard to find those moments because I was in an open-plan, incredibly distracting office with a ringing phone, several people talking and/or laughing, a dog barking, etc. When I could get it among all of the ruckus it was even more satisfying though, but also more exhausting. It’s a great feeling, one I’d like to get back.

    • Brenda Knowles March 12, 2016 at 9:31 am - Reply

      Your office manager job sounds just like mine! Exactly! When you were a child writing stories were you alone in a quiet space? Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope you find more flow moments. They are so rich and satisfying.:)

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