This week, Kottke introduced me to the concept of Flow (and provided some of the content of this post). The author of Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, introduces the concept as “a state of intrinsic motivation in which a person is fully immersed in what she or he is doing for the sake of the activity itself.”
The book Flow is hardly new (paperback 2008) and Csikszentmihalyi introduced his concepts as peer-reviewed published papers much earlier than that. I missed it because I was either a) living under a rock or b) having babies (oh, those lovely brain-eating small things). But I have been introduced to it now and it is resonating.
Though not directly related to Flow — watch this video. It’s kind of awesome:
Could you see yourself failing (commercially, at least) for over a decade and not not only continuing but actually expanding and growing and learning all that time? It’s kind of mind-blowing.
Csikszentmihalyi also introduces the concept of the “Autotelic” which, as far as I can make out is someone incredibly intrinsically motivated. For an insightful article on Autotelic and Education, see this.
You’ll notice that in the article above regarding encouraging Flow in the classroom, most of the action items suggested are fundamental principles of Montessori. From the Wikipedia article on Flow:
“Around 2000, it came to the attention of Csíkszentmihályi that the principles and practices of the Montessori Method of education seemed to purposefully set up continuous flow opportunities and experiences for students. Csíkszentmihályi and psychologist Kevin Rathunde embarked on a multi-year study of student experiences in Montessori settings and traditional educational settings. The research supported observations that students achieved flow experiences more frequently in Montessori settings.”
While we may not want to be (or, particularly, our children to be) tortured geniuses like Van Gogh, it turns out that Flow is a critical piece of optimal experience (aka happiness). Food for thought…