Flow - The Ultimate Reward?

A state of ecstasy. Of happiness.

This is flow - found in activities of creation. Most musicians will probably recognise this place - getting lost in pure concentration, of time standing still yet passing so quickly that it seems to disappear, of satisfaction and achievement. Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi has spent his career understanding this state of being, and how it contributes to our happiness. His research - found in his book and on this brilliant classic Ted talk - points out that despite our material culture, wealth alone cannot give us fulfillment. His interviews with artists, musicians, poets, athletes, and CEOs revealed that those who can enter flow find meaning and happiness.

Czikszentmihalyi attributes several qualitative states to flow. One of them has always stood out for me:

"A sense of serenity - no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the ego."

To me, this is flow. Where the world simply melts away, and all that matters is the act of creation.

It strikes me now how contradictory this is to commerical music. What happens when we leave the state of flow, and come back into the material world - how is it that the ego returns so quickly, and suddenly demands that vast sums of money be immediately forced from the hands of our listeners into our pockets as a just reward for what we have created?

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