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Balanced Lives – Finding our Flow

16 maart 2017

This week, as I watched some students editing a film and some others engaged in a Lego modelling challenge, I was struck by the intensity of their engagement in these activities. Their total immersion in the problems they were trying to solve, individually or collaboratively. 

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Their complete loss of consciousness in everything else going on around them. And subsequently, their joy and happiness when celebrating their success and reflecting on what they had learned and what they would do next.

This being "in the zone" is often referred to as a state of FLOW. I am sure each one of us and our children have experienced this flow; finding yourself so completely immersed in what you’re doing that you lose track of time. All of a sudden you look up and realize that hours have passed; during a yoga class, playing a computer game, reading a book, playing football, building a model…..basically during any activity where you are in a state of complete immersion in an activity– intellectual or physical.

But why is flow important? A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that flow is highly correlated with happiness and that people who experience a lot of flow regularly also develop other positive traits, such as increased concentration, self-esteem, and performance. Flow is also a powerful driver of further learning and skill development. Because the act of achieving flow indicates a substantial mastery of a certain skill, the individual must continually seek new challenges and information in order to maintain this state. This in turn encourages personal growth and time spent in high-challenge, high-skill situations.

So if we want to help our children experience the positive benefits of flow, we need to give them time and space to explore their passions and personal interests. We are lucky when school learning sparks and feeds curiosity, but the timetabled nature of the school day can often narrow the opportunities for children to truly find a state of flow. Likewise, all too often the daily routines of home life can stop children really getting into their flow – it’s tidy up time, homework time, bedtime, just as the child is deep into their exciting problem solving situation. If we want our children to develop the self-motivation, high skill level, perseverance and concentration to engage in high flow activities, we need to consciously support them. We need to allow and encourage them to follow their interests, to challenge them to go deeper and develop their skills, give time and space, and occasionally accept that routines can and should be broken in the pursuit of flow.

This weekend, why don’t you make some time to reflect on when you were last in a state of flow and  create a situation where your child can positively experience flow.

Niki Meehan, Vice Principal