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Blog introduction

Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away.

–Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

I moved from the west coast to the east coast to complete residency training as an internal medicine physician. Adjusting to the cold, buzz, and concrete has been different from the beaches and trees I saw regularly before I moved. Although the hours spent in the hospital or on my computer preparing patient care have been meaningful, I am left with a feeling that I am not in my element, I am not in flow. This blog aims to reconcile the parts of myself that refuse to be split between the whimsical young lady who stands barefoot on the beach, giggling as I close my eyes with my face turned upwards to take in the sun and the doctor who stands at the hospital bedside, reassuring a patient in critical condition as I glance down at the blood on my sneakers at the end of a 30 hour shift. In highlighting journeys of the flow state, this blog features the path to achieve unification of our whole selves with what we do. I write anonymously as my opinions are my own and do not reflect on the institutions I am professionally part of that have given me the opportunities to learn and grow into the flow state.

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When being in love feels like the true flow state

Now that I’ve moved from the west coast, it’s turned into a long distance relationship for me and my boyfriend. Transitioning from living with him and seeing him all. the. time. to every now and then and on video chat has made me realize that when we are together I feel like what I want flow state in other aspects of my life to feel like — I’m completely absorbed in the time I have with him and feel so happy and complete. I know I have to make a living and make meaningful contributions etc. but sometimes I just feel like if my job were to love him, I would be really good at it! Maybe it’s just where I am at this point in my career, but I don’t get into the flow just by going to work. The euphoria of flow state is instant when I’m home snuggling and dreaming up creative ideas with my partner. A week ago, we made new years resolutions (one in each category: personal, professional, relationship). As you can guess, this was my idea. My professional resolution was to look forward to going to work. Sure, it might just be the hours or the new challenge and responsibility of caring for human lives, but the sinking feeling in my stomach about going to work usually is there. Once I’m at the hospital or clinic, I settle into the routine and time does pass quickly sometimes. There are the rushed moments filled with adrenaline and intense emotional moments with families as they get good news or heartbreak. Throughout out it all, the limiting factor to flow state is possibly that often I don’t feel like I am in my most creative, productive state. When I am though, it feels like I’m crushing it. Putting together a constellation of symptoms and deciding on an early intervention and seeing a patient go from critical to stable is extremely satisfying on multiple levels. The fear in all of it is being a budding clinician who has to pretend to be more formal or authoritative than I personally wish to be. Imagine if I could show up to work in my comfy leggings and an oversize sweater and talk to people as if they were my family friends while still being able to deliver advice as a young doctor without needing the efficacy of my DOCTOR name badge and titled introduction, my stiff clothes, and the rushed intimacy in conversation to get to deeply personal details of someone’s life for the sake of their medical care. My boyfriend’s uniform is a tee shirt and “pajama shorts” as his sister calls them. He wears these all the time and gets away with it in his warm environment and self-directed days coding and dreaming up new innovations. He stays up and forgets to eat as he gets into the weeds of his code. I have to ask him if he can take a break and watch a movie with me sometimes. His ability to get in the flow state and be self sufficient in getting his work done with just a computer, his mind, and energy drinks is enviable. I’m definitely a different personality and have a lot more social drive in me, so I could never find flow in full days spent like that. At least for now on my one day off from clinical duties this week, I can be in my pajamas with my computer and caffeine and be completely happy, just me enjoying the chance to figure out what life could be like if I get to be really good at finding flow in more ways.

What “flow” means in some more words…

“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. 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 that we
make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last blockon a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”
― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi