Last posted on: 6/1/2015
"Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act." – Mihaly Csikszenthmihalyi
Understanding the concept of flow state is very crucial when it comes to learning anything. The book Flow by Mihaly Csikszenthmihalyi definitely had a great impact not only on myself when it comes to learning anything; it also helped me a lot in my tutoring as well.
For today, I’d like to write about the concept of flow and how it can be applied. It’s a surprisingly easy concept but very often overlooked. It can be applied immediately when it comes to strategizing the process of learning and enjoying it.
Flow, also known as being in the zone, is a mental state of operation characterized by intense immersion and concentration, resulting in deep enjoyment, massive improvement and a lost of sense in time. Have you ever played a sport, had so much fun, felt you’ve gotten a lot better, and before you know it a few hours have passed that seemed like minutes? That is being in the flow state.
The question is, how do we get into flow state? To achieve flow state, it is actually very easy. There are a few conditions to be met:
To enjoy learning and making progress, you have to remain in the Flow Channel where your skill level (represented by the horizontal axis) are well-matched to the challenge level of the tasks (represented by the vertical axis).
Above the Flow Channel is the Anxiety region, is where you find the challenges you try to overcome is way beyond your skill. Below the Flow Channel is the Boredom region, where the challenges are way below your skill.
So when it comes to studying, the key is consistently staying in the flow state. Unfortunately this is easier said than done. Two very crucial skills need to be cultivated; the first is goal setting, which I have covered in my previous post.
The second is calibrating the difficulty of the task you give yourself in order to match your skill level. In studying and tutoring, I have to do this constantly.
If I find myself struggling a lot and getting really confused all the time, I’ll have to take a few steps back and do something easier.
If I find the studying becomes too easy, I will push on and do something more challenging; like learning a new concept, or tackle a more difficult problem that will wreck my brains.
The key here is calibrating. Usually I find myself in the Anxiety region too much as I have a tendency to push too fast and get all confused, so a lot of time I have to consciously take a few steps back.
Very often students find themselves in the Anxiety region; lagging behind schoolwork, can’t understand the concept, struggle a lot, getting really stressed out etc. They think that having a low skill level means they’re stupid, which is not the case. Just lower the difficulty and work your way up.
Conversely there are students that get stuck in the boredom region. Reason being is they dare not raise the challenge of the work they give themselves. As being in flow state involves wrecking your brains and getting confused, which at first can seem painful and daunting, but you can definitely learn how to enjoy that aspect too! (Check out my post on enjoying confusion)
Getting into flow state consistently definitely takes practice and it’s a skill worth cultivating. The key is having a clear set of goals and calibrating the difficulty of the task if you give yourself.
If you find yourself struggling a lot, there’s no need to worry, just take a few steps back. And if you find yourself stuck on stuck on doing the easy problems and getting bored of it, push on and do something harder!
That’s all for today! It’s getting late, and I’ve been really busy on something interesting, but more on that later!