Recently I visited an old friend, and as we visited, I sensed she had a little dissatisfaction in her life. We ran out of privacy to talk before I had to leave but her struggles weighed on my heart. So, I decided to write her a letter. Without revealing the identity of my friend, I would like to share with you today the letter I sent her. Maybe you will find it helpful to you as well.
Hello my dear friend,
It was really good to see you and your family, even just for a quick overnight. And, I love your new little doggie. He's so cute!
Please excuse the seeming-impersonal typing. My handwriting is quite terrible so I usually type longer notes and letters. I wanted to send a note because I wish we would have had more time to visit one-on-one. My heart was a bit heavy reflecting on your comment that you sometimes get a little depressed, now that you are retired. I recently heard a lecture about finding happiness and I wanted to share with you a little of what I learned. It might sound strange, but the speaker used a diagram to illustrate how to evaluate our level of happiness. I am including the diagram in this letter. And, I'll explain the gist of the meaning of the diagram. The vertical side of the diagram is used to chart how much of a "challenge" we find a given activity to be. The horizontal side of the diagram is used to chart our "skill level" as it pertains to an activity. For instance, if we are doing something really challenging, but we don't feel very skilled at it, we will have anxiety or stress. (For instance, me and sewing. It causes me great anxiety because I find it to be a very challenging activity, and one in which I am not skilled.) If the challenge level is low, but our skill level is high, then that will probably be relaxing. For me that might be watching football - it is not a challenge because I am not actually participating in the game, and my knowledge of the game is high, which equates to skill level, therefore watching football is a relaxing activity to me. The speaker (who is a psychologist from Hungary) suggests that the quadrant in which we will find our happiest state of being is that one labeled "Flow", where the challenge is high, AND our skill level is also high.
I found the concept to be quite interesting, and probably there is a lot of truth to his idea. I just wanted to share this with you. Maybe as you ponder things that fill your days, this will help you discern what types of things might contribute to a higher level of satisfaction more often.
I hope you don't mind me sharing this. I know you didn't ask for my thoughts and I don't normally share my thoughts unless someone asks. But, since we never had another opportunity for me to inquire further, I decided to just write anyway.
Thanks again for the visit. It is always good to see you.
Mihaly Csikszentmihaly's diagram on FLOW