Positivity Practice #4: Interest

Welcome to Positivity Practice #4! This week we’re talking about Interest. If you are just joining us, we are almost halfway through our practices based on the top 10 positive emotions from Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s book Positivity: Top Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life.

If you recall, each week we are going to learn ways to “broaden and build” upon positive emotions, Dr. Fredrickson’s bedrock philosophy. However, she cautions that positive emotions can be fragile and fleeting, so it’s important not to over analyze them. The most important thing is to be open to them and to savor them.

Interest: the state of wanting to know or learn about something or someone; the quality of exciting curiosity or holding the attention; an activity or subject which one enjoys doing or studying.

Synonyms: absorb, enthrall, enwrap, fascinate, grip, immerse, engage, intrigue, involve

Each week I get so excited to write about the next practice, and this week is no exception. In fact, this week’s topic falls under the third pillar of the bend burn breathe (b3) philosophy. “Breathe” is all about doing the things that you love to do to ignite your passion and creativity. I love to talk about this!

Being interested in something can be the spark that sets your pants on fire. Having an interest can easily turn a boring life into a fulfilling life. Curiosity most certainly did not kill the cat. It made the cat more interesting and happier. The aim of this blog post is to help you discover new passions and/or uncover hidden curiosities.

71VNmJueavLIn 2008, my view of the universe changed when I happened to come across an article in the ACE FITNNESS IDEA journal about flow. The concept of “flow” was coined by esteemed psychologist Mihlay Csikszentmihalyi. It’s the state where one becomes completely immersed in an activity where self-consciousness and time seem to disappear. In relation to the fitness industry journal article I read, it’s this state of “being in the the zone.”  Dr. Csikszentmihalyi took this out of the sports arena and into everyday living (he’s written extensively on the topic. Check out a quick summary HERE of his book Finding Flow: the Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life). Flow is the sweet spot where skill meets challenge. To much challenge and not enough skill results in anxiety. To much skill and not enough challenge results in boredom. The best part about the concept of flow, is that the more we practice the skill the better we get at achieving a flow state.

What does this have to do with interest? Everything! I’ve witnessed this for half a decade with my partner Tim. He is the shining example of having interests and reaping the rewards of following them. Tim is a master guitarist, seasoned gamer, lifelong athlete, expert coder, and amateur wildlife photographer. I can tell you with absolute surety, he is never bored. He has nurtured and cultivated these interests over decades. They are woven into the fabric of his life and give him a deep level of life satisfaction. What is his secret ingredient? It’s a potent mix of curiosity, tenacity, and patience.

I can easily look to my family for more examples and inspiration. My cousin Kassy sews her own beautiful clothes and crochets intricately designed table wear, sweaters, hats, etc…My brother Rob is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan and gets great pleasure listening to his music and lyrics and seeing him in concert. He is also somewhat of a gourmand, and you can usually find him in the kitchen on the weekends preparing a gourmet meals from scratch. My cousin Yee Wa always seems to have a diverse array of interests. Most recently, she took up kung fu and her passion has led her all the way to China! I also had great role models growing up. Both of my parents had individual and collective interests they never stopped pursuing from politics, theater going, and photography, to cooking (I mean seriously top notch extraordinary cooking), entertaining, and antiquing!

So how do you get there? More importantly, what’s stopping you? To start, turn off the television and shut off your phone, period. Now that you’ve achieved this milestone without actually dying, take a deep breath and find a piece of paper and a pen. Once you read the directions below, turn off the computer too!

Now, write down all the things that you are curious about, that you love to do. Include the things that give you great joy or a sense of fulfillment. It doesn’t matter if you are doing it now (just take note of how long you have had the interest). Include the things that you are super curious about but haven’t done yet. Just make the list.

My working list includes yoga, weightlifting, indoor cycling, researching and writing about positive psychology, behavior change, and creativity, creating and performing original performance art and butoh dance, taking macro nature photos, cooking, and musical improv class (my absolute favorite thing I currently do Monday nights at the Magnet Theatre school).  I do my best to fit these into my everyday life. Other things on my list that I want to experience include laughter yoga and a sound bath.

I digress. Back to your list. What I DON’T want you to do is to limit your list based on prior experience, time constraints, fear, money, etc…There are multiple ways to overcome obstacles. Just get your list on paper.  Be fearless. Surprise yourself. Nothing is off the table (unless it’s self-destructive to you or others).

What stood out for you? What got you both nervous and excited at the same time? What makes you smile with joy just thinking about it? Circle the ones that gave you the biggest reaction. Now choose one of those and mark it with a star and as Joseph Campbell famously said, “follow your bliss.” Take one action this week that will take head you in the right direction. Write that action down and say it out loud. Send it to me, comment below. Share it on social media with your friends and family. If appropriate, bring them along for the ride!

My dad taught me that nothing is impossible and I try my best every day to follow this sage advice. Emulate the most interesting person that you know and soon enough you will reap the rewards of following a curious mind.

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