What The Great British Bake Off Can Teach Us About Flow

What The Great British Bake Off Can Teach Us About Flow

If you are a fan of The Great British Bake Off, you have most likely noticed an all-encompassing sense of calm that pervades the program and soothes the viewer. Unlike other cooking shows, the contestants aren’t “here to win”, they’re here to bake, and maybe even make friends.

Photo by Johnn.

According to Quartz, the pacifying nature of the show can be attributed to a concept that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow”, which is described as the “ecstatic state of deep concentration that occurs when we are truly and deeply engaged by a task”. You’re most likely to experience this completely-focused, serene feeling when you’re deeply engrossed in something that challenges you a bit, such as fixing the sink, practising an instrument, or learning a new craft (I see it in my father whenever he attempts to tie a new type of fuzzy fishing bug).

Proficiency, as it turns out, is actually detrimental to flow, which may explain why the amateurs on The Great British Bake Off seem so much more zen than the professional cupcake slingers on Cupcake Apocalypse or whatever. It also explains why people who “do what they love” for a living end up feeling like they have ruined their once-beloved hobby by turning it into a career. (As someone who turned her hobby into a profession, I feel this at moments.)

This makes sense. When something becomes your “job”, you have to become more proficient at it. This makes the activity less challenging, which means you are less likely to lose yourself in it. Luckily, you don’t have to find a new hobby or quit your job in order to love your hobby again, you just need to get outside your comfort zone a bit. Let’s say you’re — I don’t know, I’m just spit-balling here — a food writer who turned her blogging hobby into a job that she is very grateful to have, but now has a hard losing herself in the process of writing. You might find it helpful to try a different genre of writing, such as fiction, to stretch your brain and reignite your passion for the act of putting words on the page. You can also take on bigger, slightly scarier projects to get outside your comfort zone at work, which — while it may seem more stressful at first — will give you more satisfaction in the long run.

Alternatively, you could just embrace your amateur status and never try to turn your passion into a career, keeping the flow levels high and the romance alive. If I’ve learned anything from watching the GBBO, it’s that amateur bakers are the happiest bakers (and that Paul Hollywood’s piercing, husky-blue eyes miss nothing.)

The Great British Bake Off guide to being a happier, calmer human being [Quartz]

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