We are truly in the thick of it up here in Wisconsin, USA.
A very cold snap -20°F, has been followed with what feels like a very mild 10-20°F. Living in this part of the country has taught me a new type of patience – to learn to live with things I cannot control has been a good thing. Also, when it is terribly cold I can take time to focus inward and that is what I have been doing. Of course, to be honest, I also left and spent some time in San Diego, CA and a couple days of warm, sunshine go a long way toward making winter manageable. Now that I am back, I notice that this freezing cold world can be very beautiful and serene; it therefore has some benefits.
With my focus currently inward I have been thinking about what the previous year brought me in terms of thinking and learning.
Here are the things that stand out for me:
I revisited the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his study of creativity, happiness and flow. In the past I did not find his work all that compelling but this year in discussion with grad students I came to see his idea of flow as very helpful. Rather than my trying to paraphrase his ideas, it may be worth watching this video:
I think what is most interesting to me about his idea of creative flow is the fact that I have felt that groove before when everything was “clicking into gear” for me and where I lost track of myself within something. My rediscovery of this concept has resulted in my seeking to pursue spending more time on things where I feel that flow happening. This has been very fulfilling.
In addition, this year I read Daniel Goleman’s book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, which contains some content that relates well to Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of flow (in fact Goleman mentions Csikszentmihalyi). My reading of the work of these two men this year was a bit of serendipity and very helpful. It has me seeking that flow/focus where/when possible.
As noted here previously, this year I seem to have developed a renewed interest in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and read the book The Women: A Novel by T.C. Boyle. I’m a fan of Boyle and thoroughly enjoyed reading the book after visiting Taliesin.
Another book that I enjoyed was Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. As usual Kingsolver’s writing is exquisite –mind blowing to me at times. Some have found the book a bit simplistic and preachy but I enjoyed it and it led me to seek more information about monarch butterflies and threats to their survival.
This is just a partial list of things I have been thinking about during these cold months as I turn my focus inward. The year brought many other new things to me, I have been reading more, and focusing a bit more on my own creative work and this has been very fulfilling. As I wrap up the old year and think about the new, I see it as a bit of a welcome rediscovery of many things –and that is good.