Achieving A Flow State In Healthcare: Can We Do It?

While attending grad school in Colorado, the locals were quick to indoctrinate me into the yearly ritual of welcoming ski and snowboarding season by attending the Denver release of Warren Miller’s annual epic ski/snowboard film. As an athlete, traveler, and former sport psychology student studying behavior change, including Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of Flow, the images Miller captured were intoxicating–then and now. Today, Miller’s team continues to exceed expectations, each effort better than the previous year, as he finds athletes who push beyond the physical and mental limits of what skiers and snowboarders do with, on, and in, snow. The location scouts for his films are genius too, with remote and picturesque mountain peaks around the world serving as heliports for the athletes and production crew to begin their descent, capturing indigenous wildlife along the way while the overwhelming power of mountains, snow and sky inspires athletic improvisation by those on skis and boards. The music chosen to accompany the silence of fresh tracks down a pristine Asian mountainside, or rock through the festive streets of Park City, UT is something to look forward to as well (click here for soundtrack).

The concept of flow is defined by Csikszentmihalyi as achieving a state of mind, or being, where time stands still and an individual is so in tune with the moment, and so engrossed in the activity that all awareness of self or self-consciousness is overtaken by the activity at hand, and a feeling of well-being is experienced. Warren Miller’s movies have always been visual examples of flow to me–the athletes themselves, able to transcend what appears to be average human physical limits with pure joy and love for what they are doing. This year’s film is appropriately titled, “Flow State”, and the trailer follows–please comment, or better yet, try to see the film still playing out west:

In his writing, Csikszentmihalyi speaks of flow experienced by athletes, surgeons, chess players, talented teens and more. When Dr. Lucian Leape speaks of finding joy and meaning in work within healthcare, I immediately translate that to finding flow within the delivery of healthcare. If everyone in healthcare experienced flow, or joy and meaning in their work, would we be talking about having to lay the ground work for a just culture? Wouldn’t that already exist? The good news is that flow states can intentionally be achieved with practice. More information on how that is accomplished will be shared here on ETY in the days to follow. For now, as good luck will have it, I will be in Denver on Saturday night at the same time the Warren Miller Entertainment crew makes a stop at the Paramount Theater. I promise to give a full review on the film next week, as we continue a series on Flow in Healthcare in the days ahead.

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